I recently decided to take full advantage of London Theatre Week. It’s a wonderful excuse to visit the West End multiple times in a short period. Tickets may add up to a pretty penny – but boy are they worth it!
And yet, there seemed to be something slightly different in the auditorium atmosphere when I went recently. I don’t know whether it was the specific performances I attended, or the specific areas I was seated in. But there was definitely something different. Something more lively, more enthused.
Take ‘Hairspray’ at the London Coliseum as an example. There were cheers when certain characters entered, applause for Edna’s make-over. Laughter erupted when ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ – the comedy number – continued long after its scripted demise. Whooping occurred when the anti-segregation rally took up placards. And I even saw audience members shamelessly dancing while the grand finale played out.
Perhaps it was merely the production, but I believe there was something more at play. I believe what we saw was some post-pandemic passion – a joy held for the things we missed the most.
You could sense a similar energy from the actors as well. Certain lines seemed to make them giggle, certain declarations about fighting for what you love seemed to hold more depth.
Of course, this could be just a reflection, a projection, of my own feelings. But to me at least there seems to be more life in the theatre at the moment.
In a strange way, it is as if some Broadway-esque qualities have hit London. Although I have never been across the pond myself, I see numerous clips where American audiences prove to be far more vocal, intimate, and involved in performances than their UK counterparts. Arguably this is a quality indicative of a wider cultural difference, but it may also be an impact of Broadway’s inflated prices. After all, the more you pay for an experience, the more you aim to get out of it. And perhaps, in a similar vein, the longer you wait for the theatre to reopen, the more joy you get out of performances once they do.
It makes my hairs stand on end to see not only theatres alight once more, but also their audiences giving their all to the experience. May this wave of theatrical energy sustain itself from here on out.