How have theatre's been coping during lockdown?

This article discuss the struggles many theatre's across the country have been having and what they have done to overcome them.

How have theatre's been coping during lockdown?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a stand-still. Thousands on businesses have fallen under and millions of jobs lost. On March 20th, theatres were ordered to close to avoid the spread of the virus. Both creativity and community were lost as well has having a severe effect on society. Theatres have been struggling the keep their heads above water, but despite this there have been some extraordinary efforts to bring the stage to home.

Unlike other businesses who have moved their work online, theatres have been completely stranded in continuing. Financially, a lot of theatres may not make it through this terrible time. Theatres rely on income from the public of seeing their shows and without this, most are relying on donations. Many companies have asked audiences to hold off on refunds and donate the money to the theatre. The Guardian revealed that shockingly “tickets and income have dropped by 92%” compared from 2019.

One of the most famous playhouses in the world is the Shakespeare Globe in London. This traditional replica of the original theatre, which burned down in 1613, not only gives a national identity but is also world renowned. It told the BBC that it would need at least £5 millions to continue to run after Covid-19. Unfortunately, this is the same case for most theatres across the UK, and the world. Without funding or donations, it is likely the industry will suffer a huge blow.

I wrote to the Oxford Playhouse to get their view on what their theatre is doing. The administrator, Matilda Rose, wrote back to me with a message the chief executive, Louise Chantal, had issued to the board. Although they have only cancelled show up the August 6th, they are not expecting to be able to open until “January, or even April 2021” and they “don’t expect our audience to be at pre-covid levels for 2 or 3 years.” It is clear that with the current 2 metre distance rule, theatres will not be able to function as “capacity goes down from 632 to 73 with 2m spacing.” The playhouse has “80% of our staff furloughed” and are looking to increase this number “at the end of the academic term.” However, this theatre has shown incredible commitment to the community and its consumers. I was given the opportunity to partake in work experience at the Oxford Playhouse later in June, but unfortunately could not happen due to the pandemic. They actually moved the scheme online so that they could still deliver to us which I think is outstanding as most other companies external to the theatre have just cancelled their work experience and youth programmes. They also have “new programmes in partnership with community groups such as KEEN (learning or physical disabled youngsters), Age UK, SOFEA (foodbank), BeFree (Young Carers) and Oxford Association for the Blind.” I think we can all completely admire the dedication the Oxford Playhouse has shown.

Socially, the theatre has been greatly missed. A night at the theatre goes back hundreds of years and has continued to wow and shock audiences across the world. It is a chance to escape normal life and immerse yourself in a someone else’s story. We get dressed up to meet friends and family on a night where we treat ourselves and worries go out the window. The theatre captures audiences’ emotions which really is the magic of theatre. It’s being able to leave our own ordinary lives for one night and transform into somebody extraordinary. I believe that this is what keeps people engaged and excited about theatre.

However, some theatres have been able to find a way to move the stage to our homes. The Shakespearean Globe, along with moany other theatres, have uploaded pre-recorded performances of plays held at the venue to its website. Last week I watched “Macbeth” from the safety of my house. I projected it onto a TV and thoroughly enjoyed watching with a bag of popcorn. The National Theatre have also been streaming 30 free productions from their website.

When life returns to our “new normal” theatres will have to adjust, just like they have done now. It is clear that the industry may not recover for at least 2 years. The coronavirus pandemic has devastated modern society and socially has had a severe impact. I believe that theatres have been greatly missed and it is clear how important they were to our lives. Their commitment they have had to continue sharing the love of performance with us is truly incredible.

Header Image Credit: King's theatre, Glasgow


Olivia Young

Olivia Young

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