It’s been 430 days since Leicester’s Curve closed its doors to audiences in March 2020. There have been dark times, literally and emotionally, but after a few false starts, an audience was finally welcomed back into the theatre’s distinctive space on 20 May for its season launch.
In what may well be a sign of how theatres must function in the future, the event was also streamed live via social media and through Curve’s web site (and how I ‘attended’). In conversation on stage with co-hosts Geeta Pendse and Matt Helmley, Chief Executive Chris Stafford outlined some of the safety measures now in place at the venue: an at-seat hospitality service, temperature checks, allocated arrival times, a one-way system around the theatre, contactless ticketing. To name but quite a few.
Underlining the economic challenges facing live performance, the venue is reopening at a third of its original capacity. Curve is now a 533-seat, socially distanced auditorium, with the donation by Sir Cameron Mackintosh of a revolving stage allowing performances in-the-round. In terms of how Curve will approach the future, Stafford is keen to maximise how they’ve managed to utilise online streaming to reach new audiences: 650,000 online interactions in 120 countries is impressive.
Performances begin from 21 May with a showcase of new work by Curve’s Resident Creatives, including musical theatre company Sheep Soup, and hip hop dance company Wayward Thread, who both performed at the launch.
‘Going full circle’ was a popular phrase during the evening, exemplified by Quick Fantastic’s Am Dram: A Musical Comedy (27–29 May, music by Alex Parker and book and lyrics by Katie Lam). Featuring an impressive cast including Janie Dee, Debbie Chazen, and Laura Pitt-Pulford, this new musical will be performed in-the-round thanks to the aforementioned revolve, but also, is set where many cast and creatives began: in amdram. Laura performed “Out in the Light” from the show at the launch, a gentle but optimistic number.
Much of the programming for this coming season is musical theatre, and, as Stafford said, the forthcoming season is very ‘Nikolai Foster’, Curve’s Artistic Director. It was a shame Nikolai couldn’t join the launch for health reasons, but we are assured, and reassured, that he will be back at Curve soon. In fact, Foster is directing the opening show, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, with cast including Ria Jones, Tim Rogers and Jessica Daley.
Later in the season, Curve productions of Grease – The Musical, Rent – The Concert and Hairspray are scheduled, with incoming touring productions including Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Six.
During the long period of closure, Curve continued to work with over 250 freelancers, and maintained their links with De Montfort University and their wider work engaging young people with theatre. There is a strong sense of community and collaboration at Curve and, although we’re not out of the woods yet, cause for optimism. This event, presented so enthusiastically, gives us hope for the future of performance.