Turn Of The Century

Turn Of The Century

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These are strange and trying times indeed. Yesterday the Culture Secretary announced that open air theatres could reopen from tomorrow – stage 3 of the so-called road map, presumably on that well known route to nowhere in particular. Announcements about other sectors opening up have always seemed to allow for preparations to be made and safety measures to be put in place. Gyms and swimming pools are being allowed to reopen from July 25th so have a full two weeks to get themselves ready. Open air theatres? Two days. I can only conclude that the powers that be assume that shows are ready to go at the drop of a hat and that decisions already taken to cancel summer seasons can be reversed at a moment’s notice. Either that or they simply don’t care enough to have taken advice before making the announcement. A case of “We’ve done our bit by allowing you to reopen, now it’s up to you to make it work” …. A bit like schools really.

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Be that as it may, yesterday/today is also significant for another more personal reason. On April 1st I started reviewing online shows at the rate of at least one per day as a small way of helping to keep the theatre flame alive. Since then I’ve reviewed shows from flagship institutions, commercial enterprises, small scale fringe companies, innovative audio and video streams and just about everything in between. I’ve seen all the productions in the National Theatre At Home programme, pigged out on the comedy of Spymonkey and made consistent use of the new “Netflix for Theatre” which is the Scenesaver platform. I have accessed material through You Tube and Vimeo, taken part in several live streams using Zoom and plugged into the BBC’s iPlayer. I have “visited” theatres across the country and, and indeed, round the globe, encouraging me to experiment with formats, styles and content that I might previously have dismissed. And the shows just keep on coming. Keeping a handle on everything has led to the creation of my Theatre Online listings which has been accessed and downloaded nearly 2,000 times; to keep that company I’ve recently added a separate version for Young People/Family theatre. In all I’ve been busier than a regular schedule of theatre going and reviewing could possibly have allowed.

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I have already written two lengthy blog pieces about the process, the first when I reached the end of the original #30plays30days project (click here) and again when I reached day 50 (click here) so I won’t rehash those. Suffice to say, I’m now at a position where exactly 100 days have elapsed since this all began and have published 120 reviews of online material. Will I continue? Twice before I’ve said that I would in limited form and then instantly proceeded as before. The process has been enjoyable enough to keep me plodding towards the next target so no claims this time round; let’s just see what transpires. I acknowledge that watching shows online is not and never can be a replacement for the real theatrical experience but all the same I’m glad it’s been there as a substitute. Thanks to those who have been constant followers or merely dipped in and out – Thy friendship makes us fresh (Henry VI, Part 1)

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