Theatre in the Time of Covid

The arts is suffering a mid pandemic crisis. As arenas for performance fall dark or, at worst, fall into the arms of the administrators, theatres everywhere are thinking creatively about how to produce content, how to stay afloat and how to adapt to the current crisis.

Lists are being produced every day about the best theatre streaming content being made available whilst stages remain dark. From the simple yet elegantly beautiful Caretaker at the Royal Court through to the top end usual suspects, people are turning to the arts to bring a little bit of storytelling into their locked down homes.

The trouble is, an already Londoncentric industry has, strangely, become even more so.

List after list – I don’t need to include examples here as there are many to be found – sees productions that are inevitably staged at London theatres or produced by London companies in London. When you have the world on your browser, why is it that we are still asked to focus on London?

My argument isn’t that these buildings and companies aren’t all struggling one way or another. They are. My argument is simple – theatre is everywhere. It is regional. It is rural. It is poor. Now it is in your front room, it can be from anywhere.

Here is a list of people and places to wet your theatrical whistle beyond the capital…

Mum and Dad by Gary Owen

Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre has a plethora of on line content to keep you busy for several lockdowns. Until 18th May, they are streaming Mum and Dad by celebrated playwright Gary Owen. Two beautiful short pieces performed by Lynn Hunter and Michael Sheen.

Manchester Royal Exchange’s Connect Fest

Running until 15th May, Manchester Royal Exchange, in association with their Elders Company and their Young Company, are producing a new piece of work daily that focuses on staying connected.

As their site says, “CONNECT FEST is a theatre show, a music festival and a soap-opera rolled into one and will be made up of five individual online episodes”.

Full details can be found here.

Mark Thomas’ Bravo Figaro

Mark Thomas is everywhere. He travels the globe on his one man mission with work he describes as, “a mix of standup, theatre, journalism and the odd bout of performance art.”

On Thursday 14th May, he is streaming his award winning 2012 piece Bravo Figaro. Take any opportunity to see anything by Thomas but take this one in particular as 20% of the ticket price will go towards Bath’s Rondo Theatre.

Tickets are available here.

Robin Morgan

Comedian Robin Morgan (no relation) is getting the band back together – or collecting together a few of his mates – and bringing Belly Laughs back to life via Cardiff’s Chapter.

Raising money for FareShare South Wales, Llamau, Chapter Arts Centre and Dragon’s Heart Hospital, this is an event where you are encouraged to get a takeaway and laugh your arse off with Robin and his pals whilst rasing money for four glorious institutions.

Full details here and tickets available here.

From Our House To Yours

Venues don’t get any more iconic than the Sydney Opera House. Don’t @ me. I’m from Sydney. I know. It’s not every day however that you can dress up, log on and enjoy the House in all it’s glory. Now you can. With their From Our House To Yours content, you can enjoy weekly downloads, family events, podcasts and performances in the comfort of your own home.

Full details can be found here.

Brassworks Theatre

Brassworks Theatre challenged writers living in Bristol and Bath postcode areas to mark the COVID-19 crisis with monologues that reflect the extraordinary times in which we’re living. 33 writers met the deadline with their takes on life during the pandemic.

This resulted in two being selected and filmed. Full details can be found here.

We Will Not Be Silenced

Writer Brian Coyle took advantage of the lockdown and wrote twelve monologues that reflected life during the pandemic. He asked twelve actors to record them on their phone. The results can be found here.

Bristol Old Vic At Home

Not only are you getting theatre at home, with Bristol Old Vic‘s At Home content, it is coming from the oldest continuously working theatre in the English speaking world.

There is a Family Arts Hub, a Bristol Arts Channel and Open Stage Online where they throw open the creative gauntlet to the viewer at home on a fortnightly basis.

Watermill Theatre

According to The Stage, Newbury’s Watermill Theatre constantly “punches above its weight” and produces world class theatre from its tiny and idyllic base in Berkshire.

During lockdown, it has some fabulous online resources and content for families and audiences alike. Their At Home programme has been curated by the Outreach Team that includes live Q&As, interactive on line sessions and weekly well being sessions.

Full details can be found here.

4 Stories

Darkstuff Productions collaborating with Director Shanaz John, Composer Dan Greensmith, and actors Corrinne Curtis, Mylo Sermon, Harrison Snell, and Britney Simpson present 4 stories, a set of tales initially uploaded to IGTV and Facebook in May 2020.

4 Stories see 4 students coming to terms with literature, lockdown and Coldplay.

Full details can be found here.

And finally, in the words of Spinal Tap, this one goes to 11.

Burn Bright

One of the finest things to come out of 2020 is the emergence of Burn Bright. Read about their story here. Their first content as Burn Bright is Better in Person, a series of five short plays by five fantastic women written for and set on a Zoom call.

Better in Person is directed by Abigail Sewell and will be on line on Monday 25th May.

Tickets available here.

This is just the beginning.


Banner Image courtesy of Lorie Shaull via Flickr.

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