Issy Flower considers the myriad of options open to theatre makers during a national lockdown.
The wolves are running, the world is closing in and Durham students face at least two months, if not more, of isolation and boredom. This could be a particular struggle for those of us who enjoy a good trip to, or producing, live theatre. Reading a Martin McDonagh play is not a substitute for the thrill of watching one performed, nor listening to the soundtrack of Falsettos a substitute for getting up on stage and performing a musical. For a lot of people, this could be a real impact on their mental health and career goals, as well as taking something vital from our university experience. But how to combat it?
There’s a number of different avenues available. The Show Must Go Online is a new initiative dedicated to reading a Shakespeare play one a week, performed by professional actors, for free on Youtube, and is planning to go through the entire Shakespearean canon, making it a useful resource for those of us needing to revise for our exams as well. For the more musically minded, Leave a Light On concerts are being developed where for a small fee to support the artists West End stars will perform short concerts, thus keeping their hand in and the format alive as its venues go dark. New writing is being fed by PapaTango, who have launched a monologue competition designed to support both writers and artists, all of whom will be paid for the short, online drama their collaboration will result in.
These collaborations are particularly important as they will hopefully give a little money to those freelancers who are struggling in a period where their main source of income has been ripped out from under them with very little warning. Along the same lines, if you had theatre tickets booked and are able to donate the price of your ticket (i.e. not get a refund) PLEASE do so: few theatres will be able to make insurance claims on the Coronavirus period and so will suffer immensely. The Mousetrap has closed, everyone. Theatre’s in a crisis.
Other avenues of support are also available. On Youtube are a HUGE range of amateur and professional productions, ranging from Plays for Today to college theatre versions of A Chorus Line. Similarly, companies such as the BFI and Network have put out reasonably cheap boxsets of British drama ranging from the 1950s to the modern day. These offer fantastic avenues for exploring theatre history and stimulating ideas about what we can put on when we’re back, and what we might like to explore in the meantime.
For the streamers amongst you (which is basically everyone), National Theatre Live and Digital Theatre both offer a miriad range of productions, filmed professionally and available for a small fee. Hopefully, in line with some other streaming services, these might reduce their fees or waive them completely meaning that more theatre will be available to everyone regardless of economics.
To be frank: this is not the end. DST might be restricted from seeing any kind of live theatre but there are so, so many avenues available to change this. Stream. Watch. Read. Listen. Write. Contribute. The show will only go on if we let it go on, and if we cultivate the resources and support those who make the shows then it will.