British theatre producer Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced his plans to trial a series of safety measures, adapted from the South Korean production of The Phantom of the Opera. The plan involves a system of airlocks, infrared cameras and remote temperature-taking at the London Palladium to set an example to the UK government that theatres can reopen without the need for social distancing.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Lloyd Webber said:
The key thing is that they have is incredibly good hygiene in every single possible way, both backstage for the cast and crew and orchestra, but also for people in the front of the house. The whole point is to make people feel as safe and secure as they possibly can – for example, they have thermal imaging cameras at the stage door and as you come into the theatre that can identify if people have a temperature extremely quickly.
The South Korean production was forced to close when two cast member’s returning from North America tested positive to COVID-19 and the show was closed for a brief period. After a strict period of quarantine and extensive contact tracing, the show reopened with the use of thermal imaging cameras. Mandatory face masks were worn by all audience members and hand sanitiser was enforced.
In an interview with the Stage newspaper last month, LW Theatres’ chief executive Rebecca Kane Burton explained how the system works:
There is an infrared camera at the stage door, your temperature is taken remotely as you walk in, and a great big dashboard flashes up [to indicate] whether you can come in the building or not. As soon as it does, the airlock releases, the door opens and you go in.
Mr Lloyd Webber is planning on testing silver ion door handles which he explained “apparently these are completely effective against pathogens like coronavirus. Everybody going into the theatre is fobbed with the antiviral chemical, and the theatre itself is fobbed after every performance. There’s no social distancing because it’s impossible in the theatre.”