Going through Waterloo and seeing “We’ll be back” on the outside of The Old Vic sends a bolt of sadness through me. I’ve never worked there. I’ve never met for them. I hope it’s true they’ll be back. But…
This lockdown has come at a time in my professional life where that sort of meeting was looking like a possibility. Just in time for this universal shutdown. I’ve got some lovely credits recently in the can. I was hoping to roll with some momentum. Hum.
There are so many people in my industry, so many good hearts committed to making shared experiences in theatres or telling wild and wonderful tales on camera. And the cinemas are reopening but not the theatres, and this government plan for the theatres makes very little sense and certainly isn’t looking at how to cover the often astronomical cost of renting the buildings which is why tickets sometimes rise to the hundreds of pounds, and why you have to pay in gold for a thimble full of beer.
Even if the actors on those major stages haven’t frequently been me yet, I still want to see those actors being paid handsomely for their work and for the time it took for them to hone their craft.
I always dared to think – I still DO dare to think – that eventually my openhearted gung-ho tenacity will result in a period where those jobs and that joy looks in my direction and I can butter more parsnips. The constant low income over years and years hopefully balances out after decades of tenacity when you get to be part of a community in a beautiful place making stories for a decent wage. So long as you don’t then blow it all on £40 glasses of wine in late night clubs.
But there’ll be none of that if the whole industry goes tits up. It’s starting to happen. The dominos are falling.
Beautiful buildings outside of London, anchoring communities – some are already winding up, others on their last legs. We can’t let these places – the result of generations of love and sweat and passion – we can’t let them turn into JD Wetherspoon’s, even though the beer will be much cheaper. Surely there are new business models and new ways of engaging audiences. The internet can be better used through the creative process to drive connection and ownership. It would be a comfort to know that the government might help financially, but if they aren’t going to do so what else can be done to do the work and to connect that work to community, to that specific building and to the all important money?
Not that I know. But all that work and time and passion… Lifetimes of it measured across thousands of thick skinned good hearted optimists… I’m scared to see what might happen to my industry if we don’t all find ways in which we can pull together to make delightful things that work and that sell and keep the buildings open.
This hot day I’ve been meeting old friends. Good hearts and makers, all of them, in different ways. I’ve got a whole weekend of it coming up. Planning and plotting and making and laughing and connecting. Remembering and forgetting together.
Apparently we will be allowed to rehearse soon. For WHAT?? For broadcast. WE CAN DO THAT IN OUR LIVING ROOM ON ZOOM. THEATRE NEEDS TO BE LIVE AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
All will be well, somehow. But this is a dark time for the people I love. Many of my friends are in tatters. I’m very glad I went to the woods.