Jacquee Storozynski-Toll | 20 Dec 2021 15:41pm
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Just when we thought everything was getting back to normal, we’re struck with the doom and gloom of the Omicron variant. All the theatres are at risk again. I am only glad that Southend Shakespeare’s production of Flare Path finished just in time. Although the local theatres are still open, the regulations re masks, vaccines and social distancing that had started to relax a little, have become more stringent again. However, our production was a great success, even though the audience numbers were still down on previous years. We even had the Terence Rattigan Society come along and they asked us to hold a Q and A session. Even better, they informed us that our production was the best they had seen. It made all the toing and froing with RAF costumes worthwhile.
The downside from now on is that our theatre owners HQ, have merged with Trafalgar productions, and it appears that life for local amateur productions will be extremely difficult from now on. The organisation owns numerous other theatres that need to book tickets for shows, professional and amateur. However, they are all booked through one central telephone number. Therefore, people who can’t book online are having difficulty buying tickets, as the phones are always engaged. This is affecting the size of the usually sell out audiences. What nonsense is that?
Additionally, new fixed rostra has been purchased via a government grant, to enable the organisation to upgrade the Studio theatre. This venue is predominantly used by local amateur groups, of which there are several. Now they can only stage their productions end on. This is extremely limiting, surely, the purpose of a studio theatre is to be flexible? Several planned future productions, amongst them The Revenger’s Tragedy, and Romeo and Juliet, were intending to utilise three sides or perform across the front longwise. Not only that, it will also lead to lighting problems. From now on the lighting will be in a fixed position leading to dark corners and shadows on the stage and no special effects. We had already experienced some of this with the Flare Path production unable to have a flare path lit up through the window.
However, worst of all the company has decided that as well as a booking fee, buyers of tickets must now pay a transaction fee of £3.75. This adds nearly five pounds to tickets purchased by theatregoers, which I think will make our punters think twice before attending our shows.
On that happy note, let’s hope that 2022 is a better year for all theatres and productions.