Call for vaccinated patrons to be allowed go to the theatre

Move could mean more open venues and larger audiences, says Gaiety Theatre boss

Kathy Rose O’Brien, a member of the cast of The Dead, An Opera, the production that will, after being closed for 512 days, reopen the Gaiety Theatre to in-person audiences. Photograph: The Irish Times

Kathy Rose O’Brien, a member of the cast of The Dead, An Opera, the production that will, after being closed for 512 days, reopen the Gaiety Theatre to in-person audiences. Photograph: The Irish Times

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Vaccinated people should be allowed to go to the theatre if it means more venues would be able to open their doors to larger audiences, the general manager of Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre has said.

Ahead of the first live audience returning to the theatre this weekend for the staging of The Dead, An Opera – a musical adaptation of James Joyce’s famous short story – Laura McGuigan said the theatre would be open to it. “If it meant we could have more capacity, it would make sense,” she said.

She added that theatres across the country would be well equipped to manage such a system if it gets the go-ahead from the Government. And she anticipated there would be broad support from the industry and theatre goers for any such moves.

She stressed that it was not a call for the industry to make, however, and said the theatre would follow all the guidelines outlined by the Government and public health officials.

This weekend just 50 people will see a staging of The Dead, An Opera in a theatre which can comfortably accommodate more than 1,000 theatre goers in the best of times.

Ms McGuigan said that while it was a small start, she was “thrilled to be back” and said that at least the industry “is in the starting blocks now”.

She highlighted all the public health measures put in place including sanitisation stations, strict social distancing, enhanced ventilation and mask wearing.

The show’s producer Breda Cashe told The Irish Times that she was “delighted” to be back in a theatre after more than 500 days of enforced closure.

She noted that if just 50 tickets were sold for a show in pre-Covid times she “would have locked myself in a room with a bottle of gin but now we can say we have a full house”.

Dress rehearsal

She said watching the dress rehearsal for the show had been “an incredibly emotional experience” made all the sweeter for her as the producer of the last show the Gaiety put on before the first lockdown in March of last year.

“It was heartbreaking to have to close and we were all in shock for the first month or so and then in a fog for months after that. Getting back to work is an emotional experience for us all. Theatre people are entertainers and while the industry is still in complete turmoil it is lovely to put on a show.”

The production has been funded by the Government’s €25 million Live Performance Support scheme. Ms McGuigan said large-scale productions are commercially impossible under current restrictions.

“After this performance finishes, the theatre goes dark again until a time when the Government can allow us to open with commercially viable numbers,” she said. – Additional reporting PA

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