At the beginning of next week, as our leaders abdicate all responsibility for the populace, we are will be forced to accept a new, insidious form of government PR.
We are all familiar with the standard version colloquially known as 'spin'. Rather confusingly, that kind of PR is now to be supplemented by personal choice but branded with the latest spinning buzz term, Personal Responsibility.
Given the behaviour of so many football fans over the weekend, a more accurate acronym might have been PI for Personal Irresponsibility.
Readers will immediately have spotted the irony given that our Prime Minister is incapable of taking responsibility for wives or children, while his financial affairs appear to be in a pretty pickle.
Instead of referring to this as the government’s new policy on Personal Responsibility, this writer would propose Community Responsibility As a Person given that the mildly blended acronym speaks to the subject so much more accurately.
It might have been a dream but this writer is sure that he heard Mr Johnson telling the nation that from 19 July the legal requirement to wear masks in public places will be replaced by a government instruction to do exactly the same. Readers can decide for themselves whether this Trumpian announcement has been borrowed from Lewis Carroll or Franz Kafka.
Despite so much bluster to the contrary, next week may not be the long-awaited moment when we and our theatres can open at full capacity and audience members forget about masks forever.
Consider a number of ethical dilemmas.
You and your nuclear family have been waiting two years to see Hamilton, the most heralded musical of the decade.
On the day of the performance, you are feeling distinctly unwell and so are both of your children.
Do you a) abandon the trip and potentially lose £1,000 for your four premium tickets b) go ahead and hope for the best?
Sadly, now that this is a matter of personal choice, many will choose option a). In the fullness of time, this could lead to hundreds if not thousands of people falling ill.
This ethical dilemma is not only yours but also that of the producers. Should they offer full refunds to anyone cancelling potentially immediately before a performance claiming coronavirus or public health advice to self-isolate? If so, based on reasonable projections, before long up to 25% of each night’s audience may be getting their money back.
You graduated from drama school towards the end of 2019 and, miracle of miracles, were finally cast in a show at a respectable provincial theatre the following spring. After one week of rehearsals, the show closed and you have been largely living off your parents ever since, with the occasional opportunity to stack shelves at the local supermarket.
Now, you have a wonderful chance to play the juvenile lead in a production at a renowned off-West End theatre.
On the day of opening, you are feeling absolutely terrible but due to financial constraints, there is no understudy.
Do you a) self-isolate for 10 days b) rely on the powers of Dr Theatre and ensure that the show goes on?
Once again, given the choice between losing your career forever or taking a chance, many will be tempted to hope for the best, infecting others along the way.
The Artistic Director/Producer
After almost 1½ years of permanent darkness, massive cuts to staff and zero income, finally your theatre can reopen at capacity.
The finance manager and your external accountants have made it abundantly clear that unless the new production is a sell-out success, insolvency and permanent closure await.
One morning, you wake up to messages from every member of the front of house staff plus half of your actors informing you that they have tested positive for COVID-19 and / or been told to self-isolate.
Do you a) close the theatre for 10 days (i.e. forever) b) frantically call all of your occasional front of house staff and understudies to re-jig a show that must go on?
In this situation, it is hard to imagine that many would go for permanent closure, instead praying and beginning the draft of a press release explaining that your actions were in line with legislation, if not necessarily following parts of contradictory government guidance.
Nobody wants to be confronted with issues like this but sadly, they are likely to be representative of the dilemmas faced by those in an unsupported industry following the latest announcements from HM Government.
It is painful to have to write yet another depressing article, but the government’s confused policy announced on Monday and muddied rather than clarified since really is a classic example of Community Responsibility As a Person.