Clinging to the wreckage. May 17, 2020

by admin on May 17, 2020

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The coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the productions of both my novel and my play which each had the misfortune of happening as the pandemic hit.

So, being both bruised and bemused, I’ve been picking through the wreckage, trying to figure out the way forward. And for the forseeable future there doesn’t seem to be a viable one for my play about the painter Tom Thomson, called TOM: Birth of a Legend.

Theatre on all sides is in disarray, including opera, musicals, fringe or main stage, amateur or professional.  All is chaos. A wasteland. Ashes.

But out of the ashes, some green shoots are appearing. Namely, Zoom play readings of new plays, and endless online archive productions from the larger prestigious theatre companies such as the RSC, the National and Stratford festival.  Also many lesser known theatre companies who have been recording their productions live and storing them.

And offering them for free – at least, initially, with the hope that we will donate to support them. So we have been feasting on this surfeit of theatrical performances but what happens when they run out of this limited backlog of material?

What will replace it? It’s anybody’s guess how long it will be before theatres can start to rehearse new productions and if they do who and how will we see them? If only handfuls of people are allowed into theatre spaces at a time, ticket sales won’t fund any but the smallest and barest productions. One person shows will presumably reign supreme. The mantra of bums on seats will be a hollow echo from the recent past.

Playwrights like myself who write large cast plays will become dinosaurs. The mighty Shakespeare industry will shrivel away.

There are always government grants and arts council support, but with our economies in freefall for the forseeable future and unemployment at horrendous levels, the arts can expect short shrift with little more than token handouts for a long time to come.

As Chaucer said: “Jesu, Mary and St. Frideswide bless us, we little know what’s coming to distress us.”

Perhaps we must take the time now to mourn the loss of theatre as we knew and loved it and begin to build the new one, whatever it may be.

 

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