Award-winning Hope Mill Theatre has announced it is to reopen to live performances – with its hotly-anticipated revival of rock musical Rent.

The show, directed by Luke Sheppard, was due to play at the acclaimed Ancoats theatre in July but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it will premiere to socially-distanced audiences for a six week run from the end of October.  And the 12-strong cast will form a “bubble” for the duration of its Manchester run and receive COVID-testing.

Hope Mill Theatre bosses say they will be operating within strict COVID guidelines in place in line with the Government guidance for the performing arts.  The announcement comes just a day after Salford’s Lowry Theatre announced its plans to reopen for the winter season with smash-hit musical Six and The Gruffalo.

Hope Mill will operate at 50% capacity per show with audience rows spaced 2 metres apart and a transparent safety screen separating bookings.

Hope Mill Theatre confirms return to live performances with rock musical Rent I Love Manchester

The venue will be clearly signposted with essential information and will put in place hand sanitising stations, extra toilets for patrons, staggered arrival times and temperature checks on arrival.

The theatre space will be fully sanitised before each performance and audiences will be asked to wear face coverings during the show or visors for those who are exempt.

In line with current guidelines, the venue will not allow groups of more than 6 people per booking from different households and will be collecting audience details to comply with the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

All customers who have already booked for Rent have been contacted regarding their bookings with new information on any changes. 

Hope Mill Theatre confirms return to live performances with rock musical Rent I Love Manchester
Pic Shay Rowan

William Whelton, executive director of Hope Mill Theatre, said: “The past few months have been a whirlwind of highs and lows for our venue.  We have worked so hard to make Rent possible along with the support of the wider creative team, the cast and our own venue staff.

“We stated previously that we would not proceed with the production if we couldn’t do it safely and securely for everyone involved, including our audiences. After a lot of investment in equipment and working alongside a health and safety officer we are more than confident that we can deliver not only an incredible production but one that is COVID-secure and enjoyable for everyone involved.

“We want nothing more than to have our doors open once more and welcome back our loyal and supportive audiences, as well as supporting the industry that we love so much at a time that they need us the most.”

Hope Mill Theatre confirms return to live performances with rock musical Rent I Love Manchester
Rent at Hope Mill Theatre

Rent is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Jonathan Larson and is loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists living, loving and working in Manhattan’s East Village, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The show premiered off-Broadway in 1996 before moving to Broadway later the same year. The show has been staged all over the world, including in the West End in 1998 and 2005 was released as a motion picture. It features hit songs such as Rent, Without You, La Vie La Bohème and the iconic Seasons of Love.

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