Beds, Herts & Bucks

Roman Theatre in St Albans: Open air plays to resume

Roman Open Air Theatre in St Albans, Hertfordshire Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Roman Theatre at St Albans was built in about AD140

An open air Roman theatre is reopening with socially-distanced seating and no interval to avoid queues for toilets when performances resume.

William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V will be staged at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans, Hertfordshire, next month.

It will only seat 220 people, instead of the usual 275, when shows resume.

The Roman Theatre, built in about AD140, is the only example of its kind, a theatre with a stage, in the UK.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Two of William Shakespeare's plays will be staged in St Albans, Hertfordshire

The government has announced outdoor performances of theatre, opera, dance and music will be able to resume from Saturday, provided social-distancing measures are in place.

However, singing and playing wind and brass instruments have been designated "higher risk" activities in the government's new coronavirus guidance for the arts industry, and performances at indoor theatres are still not permitted.

Adam Nichols, artistic director of the Maltings Theatre which is staging the plays, said: "The fortunate thing about that venue is there are different levels, almost like a conventional playhouse, so it will have what are like stalls down at the bottom, then a dress circle on some grass mounds and then an outer grass bank which will be almost like an upper circle."

Mr Nichols added: "The stage area will be quite large so we can actually get the actors reasonably distant from each other."

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