Covid Restrictions Are Back at Some of Europe’s Theaters


Other venues throughout the continent, where the pace of cancellations and restrictions has been accelerating since last month, might not be in such a secure position. Latvia was one of the first countries to impose new restrictions on cultural life, when it ordered performance venues shut from late October as part of a national lockdown. Since then many other countries and regions have imposed new, if varied, restrictions. This month, the Netherlands went into a partial lockdown that let performances continue in front of seated audiences but forced other venues such as bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m. Austria initially introduced a lockdown for unvaccinated people that included barring them from attending cultural events, before announcing a nationwide lockdown days later.

Some venues that remain open in Europe are putting in place extra safety measures, even without government mandates. In Berlin, performance venues are allowed to operate at full capacity, as long as attendees show proof that they are vaccinated, recovered or provide a negative test, and wear a mask. But Sarah Boehler, a spokeswoman for the Sophiensaele, a theater in the city, said her venue would also require a negative test in addition to either proof of vaccination or recovery. The theater expected that city officials would require such a measure “in a week or two anyway,” she said, adding it was better to get ahead of the curve.

There is one place that looks unlikely to see new restrictions on cultural life: Britain, where governing lawmakers have spoken since July of the need to live with the virus. New coronavirus cases have averaged around 40,000 a day for the past month, and one of the government’s leading scientific advisers this week said the country was “almost at herd immunity.”

In England, theater and opera goers are not required to wear masks, or show proof of vaccination. Instead, each venue can decide its own requirements. Many West End theaters ask for proof of vaccination, and most encourage spectators to wear masks, but enforcement varies.

This month, a revival of “Cabaret,” starring Eddie Redmayne at the Playhouse Theater, went further than other London shows by requiring attendees to show a negative test result to gain entry. The Ambassador Theater Group, which owns the venue, said in a statement that “the intimacy of the production” in which the audience sits close to the actors, was behind the decision. But no other theaters have appeared to follow its lead.

The composer and theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber on Tuesday told the BBC he would be happy to mandate masks and proof of vaccination at the six theaters he owns in London. “If that was what was necessary to keep our theaters open without social distancing, I think that’s a very small price to pay,” he said.



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