We are now 40 days into lockdown with little sign, as yet, of things getting back to normal. Quite early on I decided that if I was to remain sane then I need a theatrical project with which to occupy myself. I’d already taken a couple of tentative steps by reviewing online productions of Lady Windermere’s Fan and Oklahoma and it had struck me that for theatre going folk this was going to be the only way they were going to be able to get a fix for the foreseeable future.
Challenges are all the rage these days on social media and TV shows and so I thought I would set myself one – to watch one online play a day for every day in April and then post a review. Thus #30plays30days was born. I wasn’t altogether sure it would be feasible – were there even 30 shows that I wanted to see? Could I structure my day so that reviews could be constructed and published in time? Fortunately, the answer to both questions was yes. Over the first few days I did plenty of research to provide myself with a list of possibilities (more of this anon), watching was the relatively easy bit, although there was the occasional glitch/freeze and the writing became a first thing in the morning routine.
I have seen and reviewed 35 productions in the last month (some days I doubled down) and these have ranged from the highly polished offerings of National Theatre at Home, via the clever work carried out by the production company The Space, to rather cruder almost home video stylings to be found on platforms such as You Tube. Some recordings were clearly never meant for public consumption, some exist to make innovative use of the medium via which they are being shown, nearly all experiences have been positive and it has been a blessing to have so much choice.
Now that the specific project is over does that mean the end of online reviewing? Decidedly not – even tonight I’ll be back on the campaign trail with the NT’s production of Frankenstein and I have plans for the weekend’s reviewing. More is coming along every day as the theatre’s raid their back catalogues to keep their brand alive. There are also a number of other online productions I know I still want to see and I’m also hoping that some which had initial limited run times (Andrew Lloyd Webber I’m looking particularly at you) will be rolling round again. I don’t think I’ll be confining myself to the strictures of one a day, every day but as long as this lockdown rolls on, I’ll roll on too.
The second outcome from the project was compiling for myself a list of possibilities. Many theatre websites and news media outlets seemed to be coming up with recommendations lists of “Best Ofs…” but none of them seemed to do a really full job and/or be kept up to date and they were scattered over so many different sites it was become awkward to maintain focus. Thus, I decided to create my own “Theatre Online” list and, just in case a few other people might find it useful, to publish it on my blog. Well, as of this morning that particular page has now been viewed well over 1,000 times. While this may be “small beer” to most websites it is far in excess of any expectations I might reasonably have had. It’s an ever evolving and ever expanding list and it is now also downloadable. I revise and update the list every weekend; daily updates are provided on my Twitter account. If you’ve yet to see it, please click here.
I’m pleased to say that the list has led to more of the reviews themselves being read, and a consequent increase in followers. It has drawn positive remarks internationally and has helped gain my blog a place in Feedspot’s Top 40 Theatre Blogs, Websites & Influencers in 2020 (click here); OK, it’s only at Number 39 but we all have to begin somewhere ….. and I am one above “The Guardian”*
Regrettably, building up a bank of online material and the consequent reviewing is probably going to be useful for some little while to come yet. Although none of this can ever hope to replicate the experience of watching a live event in a real theatre space, it is an acceptable substitute for the time being. Depressingly, in polls listing the order in which the public feel that things should be reintroduced after lockdown, theatre comes 2nd from Bottom … I knew there was bound to be another reason that title came in handy!
Here’s a list detailing the productions viewed and reviewed during #30plays30days. Click on a title to take you to a review
|2||One Man Two Guvnors||Richard Bean|
|3||I, Peaseblossom||Tim Crouch|
|4||A Woman Of No Importance||Oscar Wilde|
|5||Desperately Seeking The Exit
Timpson, the Musical
|Peter Michael Marino
Sam Cochrane, Chris Baker, Theo Caplan & Tom Slade
|6||Cyprus Avenue||David Ireland|
|7||Going Viral||Daniel Bye|
|8||My Perfect Mind||Edward Petherbridge & Paul Hunter|
|9||Jane Eyre||Devised by the company|
Jesus Christ Superstar
Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber
|11||An Ideal Husband||Oscar Wilde|
|12||Flowers For Mrs Harris||Rachel Wagstaff & Richard Taylor|
|13||The Murderer||Clown Funeral|
|14||Key Change||Catrina McHugh|
|15||Drawing The Line||Howard Brenton|
|16||Treasure Island||Robert Louis Stevenson (adptd. by Bryony Lavery)|
|17||Fleabag||Phoebe Waller- Bridge|
|18||The Importance Of Being Earnest||Oscar Wilde|
|19||What The Butler Saw||Joe Orton|
The Delight Of Dogs And The Problems Of People
|21||Lights Over Tesco Car Park||Jack Bradfield/Poltergeist Theatre|
|22||Night Of The Living Dead – Remix||Imitating The Dog|
|23||Twelfth Night||William Shakespeare|
|24||Wise Children||Angela Carter (adptd. by Emma Rice)|
|25||Mushy: Lyrically Speaking||Pravesh Kumar & Raxstar|
|26||Amsterdam||Maya Arad Yasur|
|27||What Once Was Ours
Off The Grid
|29||Thirty Million Minutes||Dawn French|
|30||The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby||Charles Dickens (adptd. by David Edgar)|
To keep up with the blog and all the latest online theatre reviews please click here and choose a follow option
For my Theatre Online list (suggestions and news of newly released productions) please click here. This list is supplemented by daily updates on Twitter – @johnchapman398