Lockdown Black and Blues

“Hibernation will allow us to conserve the limited resource we have through the dark winter of Covid-19” artistic director David Greig

Theatre is bruised by the whole experience of COVID-19, however twice as many people go to the theatre annually than attend football.

Let that sink in for a second. The reality is, however, that we are talking how we desperately need sport behind closed doors, we count the value economically of the Football Leagues to the well being of our commonwealth and we need to see sport live as soon as possible to help us survive and then thrive as a country. It is becoming almost as cliché ridden as the idea you can test your eyes whilst endangering toddlers.

The news recently that the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh – note how the word Royal has appeared when it is under threat but is usually Lyceum when people are trying to be chummy – has gone into hibernation was inevitable. The likelihood of any activity that involves a live stage and an audience is unlikely for the foreseeable future so the Lyceum (I am more a republican than a royalist) has bitten the bullet and said, let’s get real we are dark till spring next year.

Quite right too.

I don’t know the financial background in detail but any business losing £700,000 in any given year must be devastating. In fact, most would not be able to survive. The Lyceum needs to survive.

So too, does the Pavilion in Glasgow. They have no public subsidy and no grant aid to help them through it, but we have heard little from their eponymous manager, Ian Gordon. We have heard equally little from a lot of theatres outside of the West End in London or the tragedy in Southampton, though voices raising in alarm have come from the Globe, Nuffield Southport and the Old Vic, though it is only the Nuffield in Southampton which has fallen into administration. BECTU have added their voices to clarion calls for action. Or at least such distress in the aisles and on the barren stages is not daily news in any of the popular titles or websites, so the general public are not daily hearing of the plight of our cultural institutions.

It is tough times for all theatres and not having any news items that are publicly “out there” for the general public will be tough for them but some theatres are making some exceptional stuff in the current circumstances. The National Theatre of Scotland, for example, has shot with scenes that are great, the Jermyn Street Theatre are doing daily Sonnets with some “names” and some less famous faces and the impact has been highly positive.

In my own hometown of Ayr, the Gaiety Theatre, once under threat of being wiped off the cultural map, like its sister venue, The Civic Theatre in the same town was years ago, have posted regular updates.

Things are stirring.

But, if we want a new tomorrow and we want new relationships, the opportunity to come out of this adversity and make a difference to the world is a gauntlet thrown down which we need to take up and reimagine.

Its not just the Fringe in Edinburgh – will there be a Space, Sweet venues or even a Pleasance in 2021? – that may need to have a new template but theatre and our relationship with it – just what that shall be is likely to be a creative solution – who better to create it than the very people who know how to do it – the artists. All they need is the support… Maybe a terrace campaign on the Premier League channel!