THEATRES are known for their resolve throughout a crisis, with the entertainment industry often helping people through.

Many of us have been singing to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again with Company B as part of VE Day celebrations, but what can we learn from the recovery of theatres and the arts after the Second World War?

In the middle of war, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts was founded. Originally a private venture, it was later taken up by the government and promoted concerts featuring classical music, drama, ballet and opera often to first-time audiences.

The morale-boosting impact live performance has, was shown to help give a much-needed boost to the mental health of those on the homefront and the frontline.

Earlier this week, the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre announced that nearly 20 per cent of adults are now watching theatre, dance or music performances digitally during this period of lockdown.

Many theatre companies on the Island have been entertaining local audiences with live concerts, workshops and performances, but there are concerns as to when theatres are likely to return.

The IW Theatre Facebook page (the hub for all things local amateur theatre), has hosted a Big Theatre Quiz which featured celebrity question masters including Britain’s Got Talent star La Voix, Any Dream Will Do runner up Keith Jack and local performer Brad Barnley, who had recently been starring in Phantom of the Opera on tour.

The night also included performances from local theatre groups, filmed during lockdown, including a song from the Wight Strollers and Spotlight’s take on Bohemian Rhapsody.

They all came together to celebrate the Isle of Wight theatre community and compete to win £50 of theatre tokens. A virtual theatre concert this weekend will help shine a light on the incredibly talented local performers.

Ventnor Theatre Group have been making quarantine videos of songs from their production of Chicago, which should have taken place last weekend. Their video of All That Jazz has had hundreds of views on social media. The group also screened their 2010 production of I’ll Be Seeing You on social media.

Although a current date for Chicago is pencilled in at the start of September, chair of Ventnor Theatre Group, James Fothergill, shared his concerns about the reopening of theatres.

“We want to ensure the highest quality production without jeopardising the financial viability of the group to be able to stage future performances. The feasibility of doing this sufficiently if a venue is at perhaps 25 per cent capacity simply isn’t possible, as ticket prices couldn’t raise enough to compensate.”

A socially distanced theatre with audiences positioned 2m apart could mean a 300-seat auditorium would have a capacity of just 56. Ticket income would be reduced by more than 80 per cent and so much of the audience ‘experience’ would be lost in this oddly isolated auditorium.

The performers I have spoken to are desperate to return to the stage but they all have concerns. Many of those involved in the amateur theatre scene are also key workers, who spend their days at the hospital, in schools and the care sector, who have seen first hand the impact this pandemic has had.

Katharine Burton, who is currently studying at Morea Performing Arts and has performed for many companies on the Island, said: “How can we stay safe? Do Romeo and Juliet follow social distancing rules on stage?

"With 20 cast members crammed into a dressing room or waiting in the wings backstage, I would want to know we are safe on stage and our audiences are safe before we reopen.”

Much talk has come from the government this week about the easing of restrictions for outdoor activities. It might be that outdoor theatre performances, with audiences sat on picnic blankets two metres apart, might be a socially distanced option for some theatre companies.

AdLib Theatre Company are a popular hit with many Island audiences with their outdoor productions. The company had planned for a semi-scripted murder mystery drama production this summer, which is now likely to be postponed.

AbLib chair, Simon Dabell, said: “Northwood House management and I have discussed various options but one of the main issues would be ticket sales. It is likely theatre customers may be reluctant to commit to advance purchasing or even be loathe to take the risk in attending any mass gathering other than family events for some months to come.”

He is confident next year will see a return to regular audience sizes, but it doesn’t look likely this summer.

It’s hard not knowing when theatre is likely to return, but there’s plenty on offer from local groups who are embracing digital theatre-making.