New guidelines may change the face of theatre in Liverpool – but it will return says Royal Court - The Guide Liverpool

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New guidelines may change the face of theatre in Liverpool – but it will return says Royal Court


Iain Christie from The Royal Court says it’s impossible to say exactly when and how the curtain will rise again in the city.

But he added: “From our point of view we are absolutely determined to be making people laugh again as soon as we can.

“If we can open within restrictions, we will do that; or as soon as restrictions are lifted, we will be back.”

Iain said: “Liverpool has got a great balance of theatres and it will be terrible if any of those were to be lost.

“This is a challenge for the whole city. But I think, I hope, theatre will come through.”

The Royal Court is in a sound place, business-wise, according to Ian, marketing manager for the Roe Street venue.

The theatre had just enjoyed its most successful two years and just started performing Pete Price is Dead before lockdown.

All except box office staff have been furloughed, with the company contributing to take salaries up to 100%.

“When Mr Johnson made the announcement that people should not go to theatres etc., we shut up shop and, as it developed, we shut down the building,” says Iain. “We are lucky that we are an independent and we produce our own shows so costs are within our control, we had come off the back of our most successful period and The Arts Council brought forward support for the year.

“We are currently fine until October. We have moved Pete Price Is Dead to October, and You’ll Never walk Alone and Mamma Mia to next year.

“We are fortunate and we know that. We are involved in different theatre groups nationally and we know of some for whom it’s a real struggle. We’re not saying we can survive indefinitely but through until October we will be fine.”

The tricky thing he says is exactly when the Royal Court will open – and how.

“We won’t know until we get definitive answers from the government in terms of what will be required,” Iain goes on. “For example, social distancing. If you need an audience to be two-metres apart that will effectively reduce our capacity from 1000 to 200 – and we’d have to wait until the rules change.

“If it’s one-metre then that’s a different kettle of fish. If, like airline flights, it requires scanning temperatures as people come in, wearing masks…numbers go up, but the experience would be very different.

“You can argue that to some flight is essential but theatre is slightly different. Plus, theatre is a shared experience, and you have to consider that experience. Plastic screens are not something we are looking at as it would have such an impact.

“I think, like all theatres, we are asking for clarity and guidance. The problem is that for a lot of the questions there are no answers:  When is this going to end? What will we need to do when we open up again?

“At the moment people are offering solutions without knowing what the real question is.

“What we do know is that our audiences have been lovely, accepting refunds or being moved; even giving donations to help us, to help staff – it’s a terrible time but nice things have come out of it.

“And, when we come out of all of this, whenever that is, the Royal Court will be making everyone laugh again – at a time when we’ll need it more than ever.”

Keep up to date by visiting the Royal Court Liverpool website here.

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