It’s been sad but equally fascinating to see how theatre has reacted to the lockdown.
Sad? Because so much hard work by so many people has gone to waste. I especially feel for those young actors who had just got their ‘big break’ and had all that joy and hope doused. And then with the fluctuating situation and the arrival of Omicron, a lot of the optimism for recovery and the momentum for re-establishing theatre in the West End has been lost.
Fascinating? Because there has been a step-change in democratisation of theatre as suddenly plays that were only open to the reasonably well-off or cognescenti were firstly broadcast to cinemas (better availability but still for those who perhaps already loved it) but now it’s been streamed free to homes. Switch off Eastenders, lets have Paapa Essiedu’s Hamlet from the RSC (outstanding). Turn off Britain’s Got Talent, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Frankenstein at the National.
It was always so frustrating to have the divide between live theatre (and those that can afford it) and screens at home. Of course theatres need to protect their income and with the best will in the world you can’t transmit the thrill of live theatre down a cable – but once a run is over, where’s the harm in sharing the joy and creativity with those who would otherwise not be able (or indeed not want) to go into the theatre itself. You never know, you may actually convert some non-attendees.
I kind of hope it stays this way. It will probably take years for theatres to feel properly safe again and in that time the audience can either bleed away or be engaged directly as it is at present.
And for people like me, TV is no substitute for the excitement of live theatre and I’ll be back, but in the meantime I’m loving catching so many brilliant pieces of work that I missed first time around.
Make the most of it, people!