The show must go on for Titchfield Festival Theatre as plans unveiled for socially distanced productions

THE show must go on for the region’s theatre lovers who may soon be able to enjoy their favourite productions after Titchfield Festival Theatre announced plans for socially distanced productions from potentially as early as ‘mid-July’.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 1:41 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th June 2020, 3:31 pm

The amateur theatre group, one of the largest in the UK, also revealed plans to stream live performances into people’s living rooms. Key to the plan is the purchase of £50,000 of camera equipment and a new air purification system.

Titchfield’s artistic director, Kevin Fraser, said: ‘It's vital for the industry to get up and running again. Cineworld have announced they hope to get going again in July and so if they can do it then there’s no reason why we can’t.

‘We have been carrying on with our socially distanced rehearsals during lockdown and have a number of productions ready to go.’

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Titchfield Festival Theatre's production of Taming of the Shrew, before social distancing.

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The group has put in place plans for a reduced capacity auditorium, a one-way system and a deep cleaning programme following each performance. Crucial to the theatre’s hopes is a new ozone generator – normally reserved for hospital use.

Kevin said: ‘This is an air purification system which sanitises the air and auditorium surfaces. We plan on leaving it running overnight after each performance. To maintain social distancing we are looking at a capacity of 60 rather than our usual 200.’

The theatre hopes to reopen with a performance of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. However it’s not just the audience who will have to remain two metres apart.

‘All our actors have had to work out how they can move around the stage without coming too close to each other. Fortunately our two main characters are exempt as they live together,’ said Kevin.

For those people having to shield or isolate they can still enjoy live theatre via the group’s own Youtube channel.

Kevin added: ‘It will be a full virtual experience where people will collect their tickets, walk through the bar and take their seat in the auditorium. It was important to invest in this streaming equipment as I feel, along with reduced capacities, this is how theatres will have to operate for the foreseeable future.’

While Kevin said Titchfield is in “good financial shape” despite the pandemic he is worried for the industry as a whole.

‘It’s a concern as to whether some theatres and production companies will survive this,’ he said.

The company has also been rehearsing other classic productions including Sweeney Todd and Merchant of Venice and is hoping to get the green light when the government reviews reopening the leisure and hospitality industry at the start of July.

Kevin said: ‘Although we do not know yet when we can reopen, it is important to plan and to make any necessary changes to ensure social distancing as well as a safe environment.’

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