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Social Media (Life in Lockdown)

Social Media (Life in Lockdown)

As you might imagine, social media platforms have been awash with debates during lockdown. The big question was about getting theatre up and running again, which Lee Baxendale posed back on 11 May on the Facebook page of The Great British Amateur Theatre Hub. Here is an edited selection of responses:

Lee Baxendale: So now we have a little more (mixed) information, what are people’s thoughts on when am-dram can / will get up and running again?

Ben Thompson
Personally I think Cameron Mackintosh isn’t far off with 2021. Realistically if rehearsals resume Sept/Oct it’ll be a few months before shows are ready to go on, and then it’s how do we manage social distancing? I don’t think it will be back ‘properly’ until we no longer have to social distance … our capacity would go down from 180 to less than 40.

Tara Hutchings
We are starting this week. With virtual zoom auditions and then rehearsals. Gives us something to keep our mind off things. We are planning to have script and songs learnt by the time we are ready to have actual rehearsals (we guess around September) then it will just be dances and setting and we will be ready to perform in December. Fingers crossed! … If we need to push dates back again we will of course. But for now the virtual rehearsal idea is really popular with our members as they miss it!

Barry R Jones
I doubt theatres will open much before Christmas.

Sandie Gasson
Can’t see any am-dram happening until the end of social distancing as it wouldn’t be easy to keep to the rules, so my guess will be end of Sept maybe to start meeting / rehearsing and productions not being performed until 2021.

Jane Hilliard
I don’t think it will be until next year sadly, I’m sincerely hoping I’m wrong as we have a production planned for November, rehearsals starting in Sept but I think social distancing would be so difficult in small theatres etc. Plus, a lot of our am-dram audiences are of an age when they would be cautious of venturing out.

Tony Deeming
Dependent on a LOT of factors including how many people still follow guidelines and don’t cause a huge peak of new cases, and how nervous your people are about being close to others and also how the venue is going to cope.
If there’s still a 2m spacing issue that’ll mean the venues won’t be able to (and the perf’ companies) cover their costs…

Jonathan Manley
Being involved with a theatre with both membership and patrons largely over 70, I struggle to see any publicly accessible theatre performances able to perform this year. I would love to think some minor miracle occurred whereby we could open earlier…

John Arthur Miles
We could do ‘Shirley Valentine’ again…. but with social distancing, a full house would only be about sixty punters ….or ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’… then there would be no punters at all!

Amanda Alderson
We’ve moved our show from September 20 to April 21. Lost some deposits but we were worried it would be too soon for decent sales.

Pete Smith
Whilst some people might say my voice would sound better behind a mask, I generally can’t see it working. 30 to 40 people dancing and singing in an enclosed space doesn’t sound feasible. And then facing the risk that people don’t want to buy tickets. Regretfully I think it is best to plan for next year, when hopefully there is a vaccine.

Stacey Warner
It’s all speculation really, but I’d have thought early 2021 is best case scenario. Worst case is they don’t open until after there’s a vaccine, but I actually feel a little sick thinking about that.

Derek Calder
You have to question: “Will the audiences want to come and sit beside each other?” A lot of audiences are in the older bracket, so probably not.

Frances Brindle
Before you even consider the audience you have to consider the cast. You can’t socially distance on stage, in a small changing room, or in a backstage corridor. You can’t touch props without other people all touching them…

Eddie Stephens
For vulnerable people I can’t see how we avoid social distancing until there is a vaccine or a cure, or the virus dies out naturally through herd immunity. A year, maybe two, ten? Some scientists are saying we still don’t know if a vaccine is even possible.

Dawn Trevor
Realistically don’t think anything until Jan 2021. I started an operatic society on 5th March, great response with loads of people. We had our second rehearsal the week after and then everything stopped!

Steve Mitchell
Think outside the box chaps to survive .. we already are.

Iain Douglas
So … the reality is that a vaccine possibly may never be found. They are more likely to find some sort of treatment that means it becomes less of a threat. The very real possibility is that this virus is here to stay…

Teignmouth Touring Theatre Company
Theatre is not going to possible again until we can dispense with social distancing. Never mind the difficulties of rehearsing, which can be overcome, never mind trying to put on a play when the actors cannot get close enough to hug, kiss, fight, kill…

Clare Brown
January 2021 at the earliest!

Alec Taylor
We do not currently know when theatres will be allowed to open again. Nor do we know when groups may be able to start rehearsing.
There are a number of theories and rumours – there is no harm in discussing the merits of those and it is always good to share ideas of what to do in the meantime.
Just please keep in mind that this is currently all conjecture. As well as there not really being no wrong answers to this question, there are oddly not really any correct ones either.
So far, discussions on the Hub about this topic have been amazingly constructive, supportive and respectful of one another – unfortunately, other groups have not always been so lucky.

Paul Lumsden
It will be all about if, and how large the 2nd spike will be. Decisions may be made very quickly if this is deemed to be low and controllable.
Public confidence will grow and the population will then add more and more pressure to the authorities.
Watch this space! We’re hoping for a November show.

‘The Great British Amateur Theatre Hub’ can be found on Facebook

Sophie-Louise Dann is Thinking Outside the Box

Sophie-Louise Dann is Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve just had a most glorious week in a rehearsal room. Then, within the space of a four-hour call, with Hollywood heavyweight Kelsey Grammer, Gillian Bevan and Michael Praed… putting a scene together in act two of The Boy Friend – which was scheduled to play at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, Canada (under the banner of The Menier Chocolate Factory) – we were called up into the main studio and told by our wonderful producer, Paul Elliott, that forty-five minutes earlier the decision had been taken to close all of the Mirvish Theatres for the first time in their history due to the global Coronavirus situation. He had come straight to the rehearsal room to tell us all.

Unfortunately, because it was such a small call, much of the young company were not at rehearsals that day. Of course, there’s nothing worse than getting a message in your inbox – but the fact remains that we’re cancelled!

We probably knew the writing was on the wall when Broadway went dark on 13 March, but it’s all happened so quickly hasn’t it. We haven’t even seen this week out [mid-March]. So many people are working in the industry, and that’s before you even take the amateur sector into account too. The impact of this is huge. And I know everybody is figuratively in the same boat, but I do think ours is a slightly different boat in this industry. It has a direct impact on finances and mental health (which can be fragile at the best of times). Without a doubt, first and foremost, this is a health crisis but it’s also a financial one. The only slightly rosy situation, for me personally, is that we have been honoured with two-weeks’ paid notice.

What I must say, in hindsight, is that I’m very grateful – as a company – we’re not stranded on the other side of the world. We are able to be close to loved ones… but, of course, that’s just my story. This is also happening to millions of others in all walks of life. I’m just trying to reach out and make people aware of the problems faced by the theatre community. In the industry, professional actors are freelance and don’t get statutory sick pay. In my thirty-year career I’ve had no more than ten performances off – you just don’t go ‘sick’. The old adage of ‘the show must go on’ is very real, because the bills still have to be paid.

Sophie-Louise Dann in A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN (2018). Photo: Matt Martin

What angered me initially by Boris Johnson’s response was that he really threw us under the bus, as an industry. It was left for the producers to take the situation into their own hands, and, if producers cancel a show then nobody’s covered. Just a re-wording of his sentence could have helped us out a little bit at least.

Unlike over here, theatres in Canada were closed by law rather than a public request and, as a result, I think the legal ramifications are currently being wrangled to and fro across the pond as we speak.

I really didn’t want to make this a political rant, but I think that many people – even your agent – think that in periods of down-time we exist in this sort of idle rich idyll, ha, ha! We don’t! We’re real people with mortgages to pay like everybody else.

Anyway, I went to bed last night thinking about what we can do. We all have captive audiences, literally. But, at the moment none of us have a platform, even for smaller productions like our cabarets or one-woman shows. For me, the smaller venues such as Live at Zédel aren’t available because they’re all rightly closed.

People like me have lovely sets which we’ve put together and might perform to around eighty people. There must be a gap in the market, somewhere, to get together some kind of venue and a videographer and perhaps stream a performance for the price of… well I don’t know. That’s the other thing; as an actor you’re always terrified to ask for money in case it loses you a job. Ha, ha! I can entertain people from my living-room if I need to. I just need to know how. It might be a case of ‘watch this space!’ With today’s technology I’m sure there must be quite a few people who are already thinking along the same lines of how this kind of idea might be feasible. We’ve all got these iPhone 11 Pros, on which you can even make a movie!

I’ve even started to do some bite-size chunks – without getting preachy – on social media myself. People might not miss not going to a show at the moment, but they will if venues go bust and are forced to shut down permanently.

We do of course need to put all of these arguments into perspective. There is a bloody nasty virus out there and, at the end of the day, we’re just show people – only with bills to pay.

Sardines comment:
The famous quote says: We’re In This together! Never has this been truer than right now.
If your society has any creative ideas to share with the rest of the country, perhaps even along the same lines as the ‘safe’ video streaming mentioned by Sophie-Louise Dann, then please let us know and we will publicise your thoughts.
We were down to review Abbey Musical Society’s March production, Shrek the Musical, which has been cancelled – along with both amateur and professional shows up and down the country.
As a little light at the end of the tunnel, Abbey Musical Society has told our reviewer that a video of the production is hopefully to be released which, if successful, will be made available in the future. Our reviewer has even offered to review such a video version to make up for the cancelled show, with the thought that: “all their efforts can then at least get some acknowledgement.”
Hopefully the idea may catch on so if there is any way Sardines can help with publicity and social media posts then please do, again, get in touch.
We are aware that, in the past, videos of performances have usually been prohibited as part of securing a license. However, rights holders and playwrights are also ‘in this together’ so why not suggest the idea? Just like Sophie-Louise Dann they are just ordinary people, with bills to pay, like all of us.
Also, in related news, TicketSource (used by a high number of companies) has offered to waive fees for coronavirus event cancellations. “The online ticketing platform, has suspended its handling fees for customer refunds resulting from events cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns. All affected customers will be refunded the purchase price of their tickets including booking fee.”
Contact Sardines by emailing: or call 020 8302 7565