(Ronan McGreevy’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 12/2: Photo: Abbey Theatre directors Graham McLaren (left) and Neil Murray: Calling on the Government to “look again at the reopening of theatres both in light of our readiness and for the mental health and wellbeing of theatre-goers”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.)

Reopening of cinemas but not theatres described as ‘inconsistent and illogical’

The Irish theatre community has called on the Government to reconsider its plans to keep theatres closed, with the decision to keep them shut being described as “inconsistent and illogical”.

Theatres, along with wet pubs, are among the few sectors that are not permitted to reopen following the lifting of restrictions on Tuesday.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Arts said it was “not possible at this time to allow for live entertainment, including live theatre performances, to return other than in very limited circumstances outdoors”.

The department stopped short of an explanation for that decision, and many people in the theatrical community are angered by comments made by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

He said at a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing on Monday that the body had not given “consideration from a Nphet point of view to distinguishing between the risk that applies” in theatres in comparison with cinemas, which are being allowed to open.

The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, calling on the Government to initiate a pilot project with a view to reopening theatres and arts centres fully in January.

A statement from the NCFA steering committee added: “Every day closed is a loss of precious revenue, every performance cancellation, every activity postponed, lights off and silent stages, all eat into the ability of theatres and arts centres to survive, recover and work their way out of the impacts of the pandemic.

“We are losing unique talent as the days tick by, we cannot afford this as a nation, we have seen and proved the need for accessible arts for all.”

The committee said a “huge amount of work” had gone into getting theatre venues as Covid-proof as possible, to no avail.

 Abbey Theatre directors Graham McLaren and Neil Murray said the facility has the “appropriate measures in place to welcome small, socially-distanced audiences back”.

The two called on the Government to “look again at the reopening of theatres both in light of our readiness and for the mental health and wellbeing of theatre-goers”.

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