Could this be the key to COVID safe theatre?

Whilst theatres around the world scramble for ideas of how they can bring audiences safely back to live events, Sydney and London-based architectural studio John McAslan + Partners has been hard at work on their latest creation.

Proposed studio setup

Working on a blueprint to help theatres re-open, the idea simply revolves around the humble theatre seat. Originally looking at a design concept for a small community venue in Argyll Scotland, the home town of architect John McAslan, the studio now believes this could be a prototype for countless other venues across the world, from the West End to Broadway, and of course Australia.

What is the concept and how does it work?

Inspired by a 1930s lounge seat, the prototype is slightly wider than an average theatre seat, the rake is increased with each row separated by two steps rather than one. A removable transparent acrylic screen protector wraps around the sides and back of each seat, providing a psychological buffer between members of the audience, and a cough-proof barrier. The design idea is to give a sense of visual connection, but physical separation in order to help people feel comfortable with the idea of sitting side by side with strangers again.

John McAslan + Partners is working with theatre consultants Charcoal Blue, leaders in the field, to ascertain typical costs and timeframe that could be applied to an average theatre. The studio also has an idea for patronage to help cover the cost of the project for venues and is working through schemes for individuals/companies to sponsor their own socially-distanced seat. Highlighting the significance of culture to the economy, the company maintains the value would far outweigh the cost of the project.

Whilst the cost and timeframe are still to be determined; is this the opportunity that arts communities have been waiting for? A chance to pull together to secure an immediate future for their local performance venues?

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

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