mama mia theatre

What are London’s theatres really like during a Pandemic?

Curtains are rising on West End theatres as pandemic restrictions are lifted.

SWL writer Laina Claydon joined the audience of Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre with some of her family and reports on the experience of enjoying a show in 2022.

On a Saturday evening in early January, I attended Mamma Mia with my nan, Margaret Peters 78, and mum Lisa Claydon, 53. 

The theatre itself was completely packed, when we first arrived there was a queue which went all the way around the building.

This queue went down quickly though, one lady went down the queue to check for covid vaccination passports, then once as you approached the front of the theatre the next man scanned your tickets as usual.

One thing I found useful is the theatre emailed me a few days prior to tell me what entrance I should use, meaning each section has a different entrance helping social distancing rules as you enter the theatre, I am unsure as to why they don’t stick to this on the way out.

As it’s not long after shows have reopened due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic I wanted to get an older person’s perspective on how she felt during the show and if there is anything else theatres can do differently to improve the experience. 

the family in the theatre
In the theatre

Margaret Peters MBE, a 78-year-old former police officer, from Willesden, said: “It  was fantastic, what an amazing show, we had such a lovely time.

“My granddaughter booked it in November for my daughter’s birthday.

“At the time covid was looking up and wasn’t a worry. When Covid dipped again in December we were worried it could get cancelled but delighted when it didn’t!

“Just like when they hold a sign in the theatre for no photograph or mobile phones, they had one saying to wear your mask.

“We were instructed to keep masks on during the performance however I suppose they can’t be too strict with this when they are selling food and drink in the venue.

“I suppose the whole point in a theatre is a full audience full of cheers, no one wants to see a socially distanced crowd do they? If you wanted your own space I suppose the only option is to book a box.”

Margaret’s daughter Lisa Claydon, 52, a teaching assistant from Hertford, Herts, had little fears of Covid.

She said: “It’s always in the back of your head, however it’s nice to see the world moving on a bit, a bit of normality.

“Something I thought was lovely was at the end when all the performers come out you can see the emotion in how much it means to them that theatres are back on. It’s so great to see.”

It’s not forgotten how much these performers were affected by the pandemic and how sad that was to see, to see how happy they are to be back on that stage was emotional and fantastic. 

I’m so glad they can go back to doing what they love and I look forward to my next theatre visit.

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