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Hygiene takes centre stage

24 June 2021

Chris Porter looks at the crucial role taken by a cleaning machine in preparing for reopening and maintaining cleaning and hygiene standards at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

ON THURSDAY 27 May 2021, the Theatre Royal Plymouth reopened after nearly 20 weeks of enforced closure due to Lockdown 3.0. As it prepared to reopen, the theatre’s level of cleanliness and hygiene was the highest priority, alongside ensuring the confidence of cast, crew, staff and visitors.

Our biggest challenge was to ensure that we had enough hygiene assistants for when visiting companies and patrons arrived at the theatre. As well as this, we reviewed what equipment we already had, and what needed to be purchased in order to meet and exceed expectations.

After researching an array of floor cleaning equipment, a discussion with our local cleaning supplier representative led to a recommendation and demonstration of Truvox machines. So impressed were we, it was an easy decision to order four in total. 

As we were still ‘dark’ (ie: no shows), the first priority was to deep clean the two main auditoriums, the Lyric and the Drum which was no easy task. Not only was each of the 1300 and 200 seats (Lyric and Drum respectively) cleaned, but the frames, chrome and walls. Stairs and carpets also required deep cleaning. 

Rear and front of house challenges

The timing on when we opened for shows led to the decision to split the hygiene team into rear and front of house bubbles. The rear of house hygiene team’s responsibility was to ensure all areas supporting the visiting companies including dressing rooms, toilets and offices from the moment of arrival to leaving before the next company arrive, are cleaned to the highest spec. It is vital performers and crew know they are in a clean, COVID-safe environment, with all critical touch-points thoroughly cleaned. We used the Multiwash system from Truvox International to ensure cleanliness, knowing that when the company arrived, we would need to take a step back to give them space to maintain their own bubble.

The front of house team looked after visitors in the foyer, lobby, stairwells and auditoriums where a combination of glass, chrome, corridors, toilets and recently laid new carpet were part of the regular cleaning schedule. 

The foyer has a hard stone floor and when the contractors left after some building work, as well as laying new carpet, we had to remove a thicker than usual layer of dust before using the Multiwash system to guarantee cleanliness.

Restoring customer confidence with visible cleaning

To ensure the confidence of paying customers, hygiene assistants are present 30 minutes before doors open, ensuring every surface is thoroughly cleaned and wiped before the public arrive. Customers enter the lobby and COVID-procedures are in place, including QR-code, temperature checks, masks, sanitising stations, and social distancing. The hygiene team observe throughout and clean and wipe hot-spots as required.

As soon as the customers are in the auditorium, the hygiene team carry out a full clean, including washrooms and toilets. When the performance is over and customers are leaving, the hygiene team follows them through to ensure all touch-points are thoroughly cleaned. Finally, everywhere, including the auditorium is cleaned again.

One of the lasting effects of the pandemic is that the general public is now much more aware of safety, cleanliness and hygiene. Cleaning used to be something we did before or after the public were in the building, but now people expect to see cleaning taking place, and you could say it has taken centre stage. 

Due to social distancing we had the opportunity to trial the bubble format when we opened the Robinson Crusoe pantomime at Christmas, as well as hosting the Gingerbread Man in the Drum.

The feedback from customers was so supportive and informative and they certainly appreciated the visibility and frequency of cleaning routines. The customer perception of cleanliness is imperative and our highly visible hygiene assistants add to customer confidence.

Specifying the right equipment

Understanding the wide and varied challenges of reopening safely, we reviewed our cleaning and hygiene requirements and realised that our old methods and outdated equipment simply weren’t good enough. We needed equipment which was practical, efficient and reliable. 

Choosing the flexible multipurpose Multiwash system ticked every box. From hard floors to washrooms and carpets, staff found it easy to use with little training. It is manageably lightweight while delivering heavyweight results. We’ve used the system to clean the auditorium, so rather than having a professional contract cleaning company which would take days, we can do it ourselves.

We’ve also deployed the system at our production and learning sister site, the TR2, where we face different cleaning challenges as it is used for workshops, rehearsals, set-building and the wardrobe department. It's provided the perfect solution to ensure cleanliness and hygiene across our premises.

Chris Porter is business support officer at the Theatre Royal Plymouth 

For more information visit www.truvox.com