Theatres won't risk financial loss

The historic Market Theatre
The historic Market Theatre

The announcement that arts and entertainment establishments would reopen for public has been met with trepidation, with most entertainment institutions reluctant of taking chances amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since Gauteng is the epicentre of Covid-19 in the country, with a rapid increase in the number of infections every day, theatre institutions are concerned about the safety of their patrons.

They further point out that running shows for 50 people was not feasible for their business as they could not afford further financial risks.

Minister of sports, arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa published regulations which allows for the reopening of entertainment institutions.

Mthethwa stated that the entertainment institutions can operate provided they comply with measures aimed at preventing and combating the spread of Covid-19 as per 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act 2002 (Act no. 57 of 2002).

Market Theatre in Newtown has made it clear that it was not opening soon.

Artistic director James Ngcobo said: "We are going to continue having virtual shows and discussions. Live shows might happen in December to next year. If we have a show this year, it will be in a smaller scale and staged at one of our small theatres."

CEO and artistic director of the Baxter Theatre Centre in Cape Town, Lara Foot said in a statement: "While we would like to open our doors and welcome back audiences and artists to our spaces, a limit of 50 people or less does not make any financial sense for any theatre. It will, in fact, be financially prohibitive and cost theatres far more without the possibility of recovering the expenses relating to staging a production during this time."

Mthethwa explained thus: "Directions include the limitation of operating hours, as per the amended standard operational procedure. There must be a provision of limited service and limited contact, and a limitation on the number of people visiting a space at any given time. It is important to note that all arts and cultural institutions must submit their plans to the ministry of sports, arts and culture in writing, in accordance with the outlined processes and protocols, within 14 days of the publication of these directions."

Lamees Albertus, general manager and producer at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, said: "Following the publication of conditions in government gazette, our operating position of being closed remains unchanged as opening our doors is still not financially viable. We will continue for now with our The Fugard at Home digital programme."

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