Curtain is finally set to rise again at Harborough Theatre after a tough 18 months

The much-loved venue is poised to put the coronavirus drama of the last year and a half behind it – and reopen at the end of September

Harborough Theatre
Harborough Theatre

The curtain is finally set to rise again at Market Harborough’s iconic town centre theatre after the toughest 18 months in its high-flying 74-year history.

There have been “several false starts” at Harborough Theatre in the heart of the town since the first Covid lockdown hit the nation in March 2020.

But now the much-loved venue is poised to put the coronavirus drama of the last year and a half behind it – and reopen at the end of September.

Thrilled theatre chairman John Foreman said: “We are all buzzing.

“We have been ‘dark’ for far too long throughout this Covid pandemic.

“Now we can’t wait to do what we do best – and bring some of the best plays and dramas out there to the people of Market Harborough and beyond.”

The optimistic theatre chief said they have introduced a whole range of new “safety features” as they target a bright new future.

“As you may expect we’ve had to tear up most of our old procedures and incorporate many extra safety features.

“But as a result of these and other improvements we have been awarded an industry-wide ‘See It Safely’ accreditation,” said John.

“That puts us on a par with some of the biggest and most prestigious theatres in the land.

“And it’s not just a piece of window dressing, it covers just about every aspect of running a theatre safely.”

Proudly sitting on Church Square since 1947, members of Market Harborough Drama Society have been working flat out to get their totemic theatre ready to intrigue, entertain and dazzle people once again.

“The theatre is abuzz now with many people doing things that will probably never be noticed to get the show back on the road.

“All of those fantastic people deserve our thanks,” said John.

“They have been brilliant unravelling the sometimes difficult to understand Covid regulations.

“One of our members has advised and overseen the installation of a new ventilation system designed to change the air in both our auditorium and lounge at least twice per performance - before the show and during the interval.

“Another has joined me in giving basic training to members who have offered to be trained in crucial Front of House duties,” added John.

“This is a vital part of what we do.

“We are still waiting for details of those who attended and are volunteering for the coming season.

“A total of about 60 people attended to find out what is involved.

“Let’s hope we get enough volunteers to make things possible for the new season.

“We’re taking things a step at a time and are instigating some temporary changes for the first two plays.

“We’ll see how these work before deciding whether to make these changes permanent.

“The first thing you will notice is that on arrival at the theatre (from 30 minutes before curtain up) you will not have to go into the bar and wait for the auditorium to open,” said John.

“The auditorium will be open immediately for those who are avoiding crowded spaces and wish to go directly to their seats.

“Following Government guidelines, you will need to sign in either by using the NHS App or by signing in leaving a contact telephone number.

“Mask wearing will be on a voluntary basis and we will have a supply of masks available for patrons who wish to wear one but have left theirs at home.

“Hand sanitisers will be available throughout the building,” added John.

“We will be holding a session for Front of House staff before the first play to rehearse our evacuation process but also to see if we can find a practical way of getting people to leave without the inevitable crush at the exit points.

“We must also decide whether to open the bar or not after the show.

“Programmes will be sold from the bar and coffee bar.

“That will release our stewards to concentrate on looking after and helping our customers.

“But, having said that, for the first two plays a supply will be available in the auditorium for people choosing not to go into the bar area.

“So we’ve put a heck of a lot of work and preparation in over the last few months to reopening – and we can’t wait to see our loyal patrons back at Harborough Theatre.”

The award-winning Skylight will be the first production back on stage from Tuesday September 28 to Saturday October 2.

David Hare’s gripping play about power, passion and politics was just two weeks from being performed when the pandemic struck.

You can snap up your ticket for Skylight from Monday September 6.

And then it’s time for something completely different as you can go along to laugh out loud at the “heart-warming and hysterically funny” comedy Fools by Neil Simon.

It’s going to be very much centre stage at Harborough Theatre from Tuesday November 9 to Saturday November 13.