Shifty time

I’m on my bench. At least summer isn’t cancelled, even if all the events are. Today’s weather was summer alright, even if it felt like it was summer laid on by a supreme being who is as discombobulated as we all are right now. The barometer hardly shifted, but we went from shocking sunshine through several tremendous hail deluges and back to shocking sunshine again.


The bench has already dried in the sun despite the faint petrichor smell still hinted at warmly in the wind. And the wind is starting to rouse itself now, firing across me from right to left as the tide ebbs out in the same direction.

I’ve got some filming for a training video lined up. A recorded zoom call. My job is to pretend to be a client and get really mardy about little niggling things just before the possible renewal of a lucrative contract. It’s teaching a technique to sales people which appears to be : “don’t just pretend to give a shit about your potential client, trick yourself into actually caring about them”. It’s this kind of thing that helps me understand why a fair few of my early acting contemporaries are now doing very well indeed in sales and marketing, and supporting their burgeoning families. Like teaching, the skills are entirely transferable. Marketing. Sales. Advertising. Law. Teaching. PR.

Meanwhile I’m dreaming by the river, still wondering how to fight the negative projections and make live theatre, dammit, despite this thing that unexpectedly blossomed from “oh gee there’s another distant SARS or something because people have been eating pangolins in China” to “STOP THE ECONOMY! FORGET HOW TO BE WITH HUMANS! HIDE IN YOUR HOME! COVER YOUR FACE IF YOU LEAVE HOME! BE AFRAID!” Every day I’m glad it’s not Captain Tripps, even though it’s the lack of symptoms in many that allows the stealthy spread.

I mean I could just dump all the theatre stuff, and tell my agent I want to go into full time “I’m only filming from now on” mode. But no. I love both disciplines, and I think that keeping a hand in both is key to helping someone like me who thrives on new stimulus to be balanced and sane. So. Theatre in a time of cholera. Expect some phone calls in the next week or so once I’ve crystallised this shit in my head. These major venues going under? It will be so culturally destructive as to be almost impossible to contemplate especially as the venues will all be replaced by flats which will be immediately bought by the same 12 people and rented to humans at a rate designed to keep their heads down working to pay the rent. I can’t bear that to happen in venues that have been about shared joy for hundreds of years.

Fundraisers don’t set a healthy precedent even if they help us feel engaged. Like that guy walking round his garden, God love him. But the NHS isn’t a charity and we shouldn’t start to think of it as one or we will end up with Go Fund Me pages of our own when we get hit by a bus, and losing our house when the teenager gets MS.

There’s got to be a way with theatres. With the buildings as well as the output. Adapt or die has always been the law of evolution. Watching Black Cabs atrophy vs Uber by digging their heels in, I thought it was pitiful. Then Coronavirus makes black cabs viable again because they have a partition, so they are potentially given a stay of execution and time in which to work out a better business model in different times. But they might still go under if they can’t embrace change.

Business models in theatres universally are still following patterns that were set before the internet was universal and generations shifted. What is possible now with new heads and new technology? What are we overlooking because it’s new and we haven’t wanted to shift too far from the old model?

So much. So much more. Time to start implementing, surely.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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