The great big get-out: theatres plot open-air comeback for summer

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From a derelict urban site to the depths of the woods, theatre-makers are planning new stages for outdoor shows when lockdown is lifted

On 15 March last year, the Arcola in east London was one of the first major theatres to suspend all public performances in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. With its two indoor stages closed, and both of them too small to enable viable socially distanced performances, executive director Ben Todd and his team began searching for a more Covid-friendly solution to resuming business. The answer? The great outdoors. In October, plans were unveiled for Arcola Outside, an open-air structure, including a stage and bar, seating about 80 people.

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“That need to move outside was a way of saying, ‘Let’s do something proactive towards taking some control of our destiny,’” says Todd, “rather than sitting there praying for Covid to improve, [or] the government to allow us, and to hope that we can then suddenly move back indoors.”

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