How joyous it has been for the past couple of months to see the aggressive return of theatre! The sheer bravery of producers to give the ‘go ahead’ to pre-pandemic sized productions has strengthened the morale of creatives and theatre staff nationwide.
Monday 16th March 2020 will forever remain a stark date in the history of UK theatre. Theatre companies up and down the country had performed their pre-show routines; vocal and physical warm up, props set up, wigs and costumes prepped, soundchecks had taken place… a day in the life of an industry professional. Then came the announcement that would strike a devastating blow to theatre, and thus began the ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has rewritten our history.
Whilst we were locked up in our homes, our forever adaptable and forward-thinking industry took a bold step, and became a significant online presence that brought theatre into our living rooms. I distinctly remember watching thrilling productions in my pyjamas, The Phantom of the Opera, The Grinning Man, NT Live and Preludes were some of the highlights.
Although some theatres valiantly opened a few months previously with social distancing in place, many breathed a large sigh of relief when the PM’s roadmap allowed venues to reopen on 19th July, an incredible 16 months after the first lockdown began. There have been many very sad casualties along the way, and the road to reopening has without doubt proved incredibly tricky at times.
Recently, we blogged about some of the positives that had come out of the pandemic, and how ill-reputed social media had brought us closer together in a time of great uncertainty. Now, my Instagram feed is flooded with excited audience members attending their favourite shows in person (!) and WhatsOnStage email daily with news of casting announcements and brand new shows – inevitably products of the pandemic.
Here at Associated Studios, both tutors and students alike faced challenges unlike any they had experienced before. Our wonderful tutors, many of whom teach with us in the daytime and head off to their professional shows in the evening, found themselves taking a lot of their teaching online. They took to instructing students of all ages from all over the country – an absolute novelty of tuition on the web! As work was scarce, many also took jobs in their local supermarket, as well as other key worker roles, a world away from their normal day to day. One of our Musical Directors commented that during the lockdown, he had received a pizza delivery from a girl he had previously conducted in the West End! Our truly proficient students also had to become resourceful, and we heard wonderful lockdown stories of how they were staying motivated and creative.
When the world re-opened and we came back to sing together for the first time, the emotions were flowing, and it was in that moment, we realised how lucky we are to spend time creating art with others.
The grit and determination of the theatre industry has meant its survival. We are reopening. We can go and see big musicals in the glittering West End, new and exciting fringe productions, drink a glass of wine whilst watching a cabaret, and all with our friends and loved ones. None of us will forget the troubling times that we all experienced, or the losses suffered by the industry, and those pioneering the way out of the pandemic and into a new chapter are doing so safely, and with a different mindset than before.
Here’s to a complete return of live theatre, with kindness, togetherness and support as the leading players in our wonderful and unique industry.
Performer and Admin Assistant