Theatre and me in 2021

On Thursday 22 April 2021, I reached my 78th birthday. I’d had my first vaccination in January and the second in March and a little earlier the government had released me and all other Clinically Extremely Vulnerables from the bondage known as “shielding” but I still had no expectation of seeing anything in the way of theatre any time soon—except, of course, for those productions streamed online.

However, despite my worst fears, live theatre began, tentatively, to make a comeback even though there was some hesitancy among audiences. My first review of the year was on 6 May. It was virtual, of course, for Alphabetti Theatre’s Listen In consisted of three specially commissioned audio plays.

Then, on 26 May, I received my first invitation to an actual, live, in-a-theatre press night. Again it was at Alphabetti. On 16 May, I wrote this is my journal:

“Last night I woke up every ninety minutes or so with a dry throat, a dry mouth, a full bladder and a mind furiously trying to work out how—if!—I could go to Alphabetti.

“Take the car? But what if I can’t find a parking spot within my walking distance?

“Take a taxi? That’ll cost over £50 for the two journeys.

“Car to Seaburn Metro, then taxi from Newcastle Metro to theatre? That’s doable but I’m very wary of using the Metro. I know I’ve had both jabs, but…

“So I turned down the invitation. It hurt to do so but if I hadn’t, it would have been preying on my mind for every minute of those next ten days.”

Then on 4 June, the Deputy Director (Learning and Participation) of The Customs House in South Shields, Fiona Martin, e-mailed me to say that she knew I would be feeling nervous about being in a crowd so she was inviting me to see the dress rehearsal of Cherryade Supernova, the Takeover Festival’s specially commissioned play, written by a first time young writer, directed by a first time young director and performed by a cast at the beginning of their careers. I was so delighted and very, very grateful for there would only be about four of us in the auditorium. It couldn’t be safer.

I went and thoroughly enjoyed both the show and having socially distanced chats with Fiona, the writer and the cast. My first time in a theatre since 5 March 2020!

(I didn’t review it, of course. Everyone knows the massive changes that can happen between the dress and the first night.)

I didn’t attend a public performance until 26 August, by which time I’d had my booster jab and was feeling more confident. Since then, I’ve been to 20 productions, including pantos, and not a single one, no matter how good—and some were superb—has played to a full house. Clearly my theatre hesitancy was, and still is, shared by others.