Theatre bosses hope to reopen Alnwick Playhouse by winter 2020 thanks to Government pilot scheme

Theatre chiefs say Alnwick Playhouse could reopen as early as November 2020 after the latest Government announcement of a pilot scheme to test social distancing in selected theatres from August 1.

By Katy Wheeler
Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 7:13 am
Alnwick Playhouse
Alnwick Playhouse

The venue was forced to close in March as the coronvirus outbreak worsened in the UK.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the theatre industry, with most of the autumn’s touring dance, theatre and music productions already cancelled or transferred to 2021.

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Alnwick Playhouse

But a Government pilot scheme will enable theatres to plan successful social-distancing measures which have been tried and tested on selected audiences.

However Jo Potts, the Playhouse’s manager, said there is no ‘one size fits all’ in terms of social distancing for a theatre, with a lot depending on the physical layout of buildings, such as how wide and how many entrances, exits, staircases and toilets it has.

“It is good news that the Government is planning to test social-distancing on theatres through pilot projects, we shall learn from the outcomes and welcome this as a move in the right direction,” she said.

“Currently there is a phased reopening of cinemas across the UK and it is evident that social distancing is easier to implement for the larger purpose built, multi-screen cinemas than the smaller independent cinemas.

"The Playhouse has one cinema screen and falls into the category of a small independent cinema tentatively planning a November film programme.”

Cinemas which have reopened their doors in the hope of gaining back customers for the summer saw a huge setback when the film which was the focal point of an industry restart, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, was delayed by Warner Bros.

And Disney’s Mulan has been taken out of the release calendar altogether.

Jo said: “Cinemas need these big titles to gain back audiences but the delays are totally understandable as the safety of audiences must come first. It proves a more cautious approach to opening later in the year is a sensible option and our audiences will not miss out on new titles.”

The Playhouse Gallery moved its exhibition programme online in March. Work can now be browsed through the website.

And on April 1 they launched the Playhouse Gallery’s own Facebook page to help support their network of artists.

Joe said the Online Gallery has been incredibly popular with over 1,200 people viewing the North of England Art Club exhibition, with artist Judith Appleby achieved a sell-out exhibition.

Hundreds more are browsing the first Playhouse Online Summer Open Exhibition. The Summer Open Exhibition will run until August 17, showcasing both professional and amateur artists based in Northumberland.

Part of the new and improved offer of the Playhouse now includes McKenna’s Café on the ground floor. McKenna’s will also re-open when the Playhouse can operate with a cinema and live programme.

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