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A Lockdown View From the Isle of Wight (Life in Lockdown)

A Lockdown View From the Isle of Wight (Life in Lockdown)

By Ginnie Orrey

Here’s the editor’s foreword from one of your newsletters.
This particular article, by Ginnie Orrey – Business Manager, Webmistress & Editor, comes from the July 2020 magazine (Apollonius) of the Isle of Wight’s Apollo Players.

In 1606 a devastating pestilence swept through London; the dying were boarded up in their homes with their families, and a decree went out that the theatres, brothels and bear-baiting yards be closed. It was then that Shakespeare wrote one of his very few references to the plague (from Macbeth):

The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who,
and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps
Dying or ere they sicken.

In the 2020 version of the plague, theatres everywhere (and probably brothels too) are in crisis following lockdown. The Old Vic — which receives no government funding — warned that it is only hanging on by a thread. The show is certainly going on, online, but nevertheless all theatres are suffering in one way or another. The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh has announced that it has had to choose between hibernation and permanent closure, will not be staging any productions this year and has put all its staff on notice of redundancy. [I think ‘hibernation’ is a great way to describe where we and other theatres are at present. Hunkered down, nose in paws, waiting for the storm to pass.] The Nuffield in Southampton — where at least two of our members have recently appeared — has already gone into administration. Many other theatres, including the Globe in London, have warned that they will not be able to survive without more financial support. We are hanging on in there at present; obviously amateur theatres have fewer outgoings than professional, principally because we don’t employ anyone, but nevertheless just keeping our three buildings going has costs attached to it. It’s the future that we must consider, and when things are likely to change.

It’s also interesting to remember that during the last war almost the entire theatre world was shut down (and they had bombs to contend with, not just a virus!). I happened to do my degree thesis on ‘Theatre in Britain in WWII’, and whatever else the experience taught that generation, it was that however frightful things got, they got better eventually. After the war, the arts came back stronger, and they can do so again. My mother remembered going to the West End during the Blitz and seeing a burning bus — but they still went! We have to hope that those who announce gloomily that ‘the heart of the West End has stopped beating’ are wrong — and I do think they are.

One thing this current unpleasantness is certainly generating is a selection of pithy and brilliant cartoons, of which the one above is an example. The very best cartoonists have that remarkable skill of encapsulating a situation graphically without the need for words; here, our very theatrical existence depends entirely on the audience at the other end of the gangplank. If too many of them up and leave, we fall into the abyss — and who knows whether there’s a ladder up the side of the chasm?

Still, being positive (I make it my objective in life to be as positive as possible, which some find frightfully irritating) one of our members has composed a song entitled Ghost Light, inspired by the front cover of the last issue of Apollonius.

It’s on YouTube; if you fancy having a look and a listen here’s the LINK (you could even ‘like’ & ‘share’, as I believe the hip cats say …)

Ginnie Orrey, Business Manager, Webmistress & Editor, Apollonius