Zoning restrictions relaxed for performing arts venues from April 24

Currently, zoning requirements mean that audiences are divided into groups of 50.
Currently, zoning requirements mean that audiences are divided into groups of 50.PHOTO: SINGAPORE LYRIC OPERA

SINGAPORE - The National Arts Council (NAC) has announced that zoning restrictions will be eased for performing venues from April 24, as Singapore relaxes its safe management measures.

This follows an earlier announcement that up to 250 people will be allowed for live performances without pre-event testing, and 750 for live performances with pre-event testing.

The NAC also said in an advisory released on Thursday (April 1) that individuals who have been vaccinated at least two weeks before a performance are exempt from pre-event testing.

"Zoning will no longer be required for live performances as long as all other (safe management measures) are adhered to," it said in the advisory.

These measures include ensuring that all audience members remain seated and masked throughout the live performance and that Trace Together-only Safe Entry is implemented for all.

Currently, zoning requirements mean that audiences are divided into groups of 50, which, in turn, have to be socially distanced in "bubble-wrap" seating configurations.

This puts a severe cap on audience numbers. For example, the Singapore Conference Hall, which can seat 834, can accommodate just 150 at present with zoning restrictions.

Singapore Chinese Orchestra executive director Terence Ho welcomes the unlocking of zones. He said: "There's been overwhelming response for live concerts. We can sell more seats now."

Ms Rachelle Tan, director, venues & planning, for Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay said: "We welcome the revised guidelines which allow for more flexibility in live performances and will be looking into how we can best implement them for our upcoming performances."

The Necessary Stage (TNS) artistic director Alvin Tan said: "This is long overdue, considering cinema audiences can sit and eat."

But for smaller venues, the news brings little relief.

As TNS's general manager Melissa Lim pointed out: "With the same maximum of eight per group retained plus the one-metre distancing, it doesn't change much for smaller venues."

Wild Rice's artistic director Ivan Heng said the company's theatre in Funan mall, which can seat 358, is still limited to between 135 and 140 audience members because of these measures.

"We just have to wait for everyone to get vaccinated," he said.

Singapore Repertory Theatre's KC Arts Centre, which can seat 380, is currently running at 92 seats per show. Managing director Charlotte Nors said: "I think we can increase 20 seats in the stalls. It all helps."

Theatregoers such as Singapore Institute of Management head librarian Sadie-Jane Nunis, 39, have faith in theatre companies' safe management measures.

"Companies like Wild Rice took so many precautions just about the time Covid-19 was starting to worsen," said Dr Nunis. "I am certain that even if the rules relax more for these theatre companies, many of us know how to act and comply accordingly."