Inside the only theatre performance going ahead in Cardiff

Last week, the Sherman Theatre announced that it would remain open after Christmas despite the introduction of the new Alert Level 2 restrictions.

On Wednesday 22 December, the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, announced new measures from 6am on Boxing Day to help keep Wales safe.

The rule of 6 and 2m distancing had seen a number of theatres close their productions early. The Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff’s New Theatre were among those to cancel all of their remaining performances for the year. However, the Sherman Theatre has been quite innovative in how it has dealt with the new rules and its production of A Christmas Carol has been able to go ahead.

In an email sent to customers last week, the Sherman Theatre said:

“As you may be aware, the First Minister has announced, in response to spread of the Omicron variant, that from 26 December social distancing will come into force once again in theatres. Having looked at the situation, we can confirm that you will be able to see A Christmas Carol and look forward to welcoming you to a performance.”

However, they may adjust where customers are seated to allow for additional distancing between groups.

This includes:

  • Reallocating seats across the auditorium with customers warned that they will likely be moved to new seats
  • As the rule of 6 now applies, the Sherman may need to split larger parties into two and they will be in touch with customers by phone if they need to do this
  • In a few limited cases they may need to move your booking to another performance (to ensure social distancing is achieved)

So, what is it like in Cardiff only theatre production at Alert Level 2?

Despite having our tickets to other performances cancelled, our Christmas wasn’t totally ruined as our tickets for Wednesday’s night (29 December) performance remained intact. In the days leading up to the event, we were issued with new tickets. Originally, we had booked for Row A seats, but were moved to Row B, which wasn’t a problem.

Upon arrival, our covid passes were checked as they have been in the past. There was a lot more hand sanitiser stations dotted around the venue, with noticeably increased safety measures including a one way system. The atmosphere was very sombre, I think in part because of the reduced number of people in attendance and also the feeling that we were all very lucky to be there.

Sherman Theatre Cardiff. Credit: Rhys Gregory / Wales247

In advance, we were able to use the Sherman Theatre’s booking app to preorder arrival drinks and ice creams for the interval. The venue was offering table service to those who hadn’t done this. When collecting your food and drink items, the theatre had introduced multiple collection points which were separated by the row that you were on.

When entering the auditorium, it was immediately obvious of the changes that the Sherman had introduced.

Sherman Theatre Cardiff. Credit: Rhys Gregory / Wales247

There were now three seats ‘out of use’ between each booking in the rows to allow for extra distancing. Also, every other row was completely out of use, so in reality, our Row B tickets were now the front row. Our understanding that this was only made possible by the fact that the theatre had already made some allowances for social distancing already, as mentioned in our review, but also the fact that they always keep some rows available at the back. Combined with cancellations and no doubt some funding subsidies, the Sherman Theatre was able to pull it off.

A Christmas Carol. Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Having seen the performance already, I can tell that you the quality of the performance was not impaired, nor did we notice any of the original cast missing – we know that other productions elsewhere have been cancelled due to cast illness, but this didn’t seem to be the case with the Sherman.

What it did create was a more intimate setting in a safe and secure environment that had only been made possible by the fantastic team at the Sherman.

Read our review: A Christmas Carol at The Sherman Theatre

The Sherman Theatre has also launched a ticketed streaming of A Christmas Carol, which is available to book here: https://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/event/a-christmas-carol-on-demand/ The stream is available online until 11pm on 8 January 2022.

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