In light of the recent setbacks in Victoria, which was inevitable given the nature of the beast, Australia sits on the edge of the precipice wondering which alphabetical letter will best illustrate our economic recovery. This begs the ultimate question of how we best rebuild an arts industry, in what many economists predict will endure a continued wave of turmoil.
As the world continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, it is now more important than ever to learn and adapt to initiatives implemented by other nations in order to navigate our way out of this mess. Recently the British parliament announced a £1.57 billion recovery stimulus to save its arts industry from total financial ruin. Oliver Dowden, the British secretary of Culture, shared the news just as theatres across the country were anticipating mounting losses and permanent closures.
Over the weekend the UK resumed outdoor performances, where actors and music lovers can come together whilst simultaneously respecting social distancing guidelines. According to numerous studies infection from coronavirus is increased with prolonged close contact and in places with limited ventilation, therefore making the decision to resume live theatre outdoors is a reasonable first step.
The Australian theatre scene has been put into a deep freeze along with the rest of the world. Whilst the Australian cultural hub of Melbourne has re-introduced another six weeks of lockdown, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the rest of Australia is moving towards stage three of the COVID-19 restrictions easing plan.
What do stage three restrictions look like?
First of all, it is a green light for reopening theatres among other cultural venues to audiences.
Everyone present will have to adhere to strict sanitisation procedures, social distancing and limited audience capacity during every event. Theatres and auditoriums can open and have up to 50% capacity or one person per 4 square metres (whichever is the greater), with a COVID Safe Plan. During this stage, a maximum of 100 people including the performers and the backstage team will be allowed to gather in an indoor or outdoor space. Each member of the audience should have 4 square meters of space, and the performers should maintain 1.5 meters of distance from the audiences.
Outdoor theatres are not a new concept. From the amphitheatres in ancient Greece all the way to the modern day, Australia’s geographic location provides the perfect climate for open air theatrical performances.
With the spring/summer season rapidly approaching, the opportunity for live outdoor theatrical performances presents a great opportunity for production companies to entertain and re-invigorate the Australian arts sector.
In these unpredictable times, nobody can tell for sure what the coming months may hold. However, by supporting local artists we are investing in a better future our industry and are taking the first steps towards welcoming back large scale theatrical productions. Amen to that!