This Berlin theatre shows what socially-distanced entertainment might look like

Social distancing seating at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm © Moritz Haase

The world is slowly reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people are wondering how entertainment venues will deal with the requirement for social distancing going forward. One theatre in Berlin has removed 500 of its 700 seats, and the images show what we might expect when we attend cultural events in the future.

The Theater am Schiffbauerdamm with many of its seats removed
The theatre has removed 500 of its 700 seats © Berliner Ensemble / Ingo Sawilla

The Berliner Ensemble theatre group is based at Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, which opened in 1893. It was established in East Berlin in 1949 by playwright, poet and theatre director Bertolt Brecht and his wife, actress Helene Weigel. The group removed the seats to examine how social distancing can be achieved when the theatre reopens in September. Every second row has been taken away and the remaining seats have been arranged either individually or in pairs.

Berliner Ensemble 8.jpg
The Berlin theatre is preparing for a socially-distanced future © Moritz Haase

"For me, the new seating is an expression of a longing to return to the stage," says artistic director Oliver Reese, who wants to assure audiences that the ensemble will perform with the same energy for its future audience of 200 as it does for 700 people. "We are currently trying out various measures and are approaching a return step by step, and we want to deal flexibly with new experiences and react quickly to changing conditions."

The Theater am Schiffbauerdamm with many of its seats removed
The seats that have been removed will be renovated © Moritz Haase

Other safety measures include a contactless checking of tickets, a requirement for audiences to wear masks until they reach their seat and the implementation of a crowd management system during entry and exit. An added bonus is that seats that have been removed will be renovated. "And as soon as it is possible and allowed again, we will immediately reinstall the chairs," Reese tweeted. "Completely overhauled and without the familiar, annoying creak - I promise!"

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