“The show must go on”, as the old adage of theatre goes. Although, during the coronavirus pandemic, this has been incredibly difficult for the arts and entertainment industry. Any ticketed indoor venue has to weigh up the social distancing and sanitising costs against any potential profit they can make by putting on a show with a reduced audience. For a lot of theatre companies, it’s currently not a viable option.
Therefore, for many of us, we have to think back to pre-lockdown times to remember the last occasion when we were sat in an auditorium together, watching a live performance on stage. However, this past week offered a chance to see the latter streamed live into our own homes. On Tuesday, this was supporting theatres across the north of the UK, where the doors have been closed to the public for at least the last six months.
The performance was Romantics Anonymous, put on by the Wise Children theatre company. The story is based on the French-Belgium romantic comedy film Les Émotifs Anonymes, which has been adapted into a musical by Emma Rice. The plot is predominantly set in a chocolate factory. It follows the lead characters: Angélique – a shy chocolatier, and Jean-René – the factory manager, as they fall in love despite their social anxieties.
All the actors have been in a bubble together, which meant there was no social distancing necessary on stage – they could sing, dance and kiss each other, just like in old times. The performance was streamed live from Bristol Old Vic and each night this supported theatres in a specific region of the UK or the USA, with the funds generated in the price of a virtual ticket. Theatres close to my heart, as well as geographically, that were hosting the show that I saw were Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, The Lowry in Salford and Home, Manchester.
It was great escapism to watch this musical; for a couple of hours, life felt normal again. The story was sweet, just like chocolate, and I particularly liked the stylised elements of the staging – there were hardly any doors used on set, for example. The car chase scene was also performed innovatively without a physical car, as such. No spoilers – but there was mini remote controlled version!
Another adage of theatre is “the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd” – or is it the other way around? There was a socially distanced show performed to a seated audience at the end of the week. However, for the majority of the shows, there may not have been an audience in person to see the performance but it will have been enjoyed by many people, viewing over a screen as part of 2020’s ‘new normal’.
Reflecting on the past week, I remember a friend of mine who has died after becoming ill with coronvirus. Every day the death toll is rising and behind each number are family and friends who are grieving. All coronavirus related deaths would not have happened had this virus not existed and it’s heartbreaking to think how many people across the world have lost loved ones.
I have known Geoff most of my life; he was a fellow Manchester City fan who I knew from our supporters’ club and he went to games with my Dad. He was always kind to me and interested in my career. I shall remember him with affection. Only close family can attend his funeral, due to social distancing measures. It is with great sadness that I cannot pay my respects in this way.
This past week has also been lamentable because I should have been on holiday in New York. It became all too easy to think of “what if” scenarios – what I might have been doing at certain times had the pandemic not swept across the world. I actually saw the hotel I was meant to be staying in on Times Square in a shot used on a BBC news report about how New York has been severely affected with cases of the virus.
The lights are out on Broadway, where I was due to see the production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy Company, after missing its run in London’s West End last year. The ticket price has been refunded but I am still waiting to be reimbursed for the flights and hotel bookings, which could take anything up to 90 days.
Musicals are great escapism during these uncertain times and I’ve been able to get my fix with a subscription to Disney Plus, which isn’t just about animated classics. There’s the Star Wars back catalogue, Marvel universe and National Geographic documentaries included too. During my annual leave, I’ve watched another of Sondheim’s works Into the Woods as well as Mary Poppins Returns. Two very different films, both I’d recommend.
Friday night YouTube screenings of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical have also been something to look forward to, while staying at home. This week’s was Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original I didn’t know what to expect of a new iteration but I loved it and may even catch it again before the link on the ‘Show Must Go On’ page expires this weekend.
Having more time on my hands, while in self-isolation, has also given a chance to bake more often than usual. (With usual meaning not at all.) I was previously quite daunted by it, after seeing elaborate showstoppers on the Great British Bake Off and other cookery programmes, I’d find any excuse to buy ready made baked goods from a shop. However, I’m amazed how simple some recipes are.
It’s easy to see why there’s a shortage of flour because it seems every man, woman and dog have been having a bash at baking banana bread. I’ve perfected my own version (pictured below) which has oats in and caramelised banana on top. Other tasty recipes that have gone down well include a tea loaf that’s made with marmalade and homemade ginger biscuits.
I’m back working from home this coming week, all that’s left to do now is finish wiring up the work computer and, all being well, I’ll be able to log in and access the internal BBC network. That should help workflow massively. I’ll let you know how it goes in next week’s update. Stay safe.