Sometimes, even the most imaginative of writers has to admit defeat.
Those that read last week’s column published on the eve of Freedom Day might have found it a little pessimistic. It contained examples of some of the worst disasters that might occur over coming weeks. In fact, thanks to the combined efforts of HM Government on COVID-19, the dire prognostications proved to be a long way short of the real thing.
Who could have imagined that the hatchet man brought in to prove coronavirus was a thing of the past would fall victim to the virus derailing the freedom train before it even reached the terminus?
Even a bad soap opera writer would not then have conjured up a scenario in which he took the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer out of the picture, but not before the dynamic duo had attempted to confirm that they did not believe in following their own guidance and, quite possibly, the law.
Since then, our latter-day Julius Caesar’s worst nightmare, his former best friend, Dominic “Cassius” Cummings, has added vast amounts of insult to self-injury making one wonder how long it will be before Rishi “Brutus” Sunak is obliged to move next door and heroically rescue the country—and boy do we need rescuing.
In passing, should any reader guess that the quote at the top of this column comes from that play, they would not be too far off. In fact, it derives from that famous Shakespearean tribute series, Up Pompeii, another prospective metaphor for our own time.
On the theatre front, the government has ensured total chaos with the promise of more to come as illness and self-isolation numbers rocket. Without doing any research, it is easy to count up eight or ten shows that have been wrecked over the last few weeks with more added daily, each losing several days of production, opening nights or even the whole kit and caboodle.
After all of his stress over the last few weeks, Lord Lloyd Webber must wonder whether he has offended the divine being, after finally getting previews up and running for the ill-fated Cinderella and then being obliged to postpone opening night.
On a similar tack, it was depressing to see that Sir Kenneth Branagh’s plan to produce The Browning Version at Riverside Studios to raise money for RADA has bitten the dust due to limited cast availability.
On Tuesday, we got the kind of farce that is only possible with our current leadership when a government minister happily announced that receiving a message from a government-sponsored app telling you that you may have coronavirus should be ignored, only to be countermanded by one of those ubiquitous spokesmen from Number 10.
To cap it all, though something else even more disastrous will probably come along to put all of this into perspective, on the first day of freedom, just when life should be getting simpler, the Prime Minister stepped in personally.
It is currently not entirely clear where this will end, but his announcement that from September it will be obligatory to provide a COVID passport in order to enter nightclubs and other busy venues must have put shock waves through the theatrical community.
As if life is not hard enough already, the idea that theatregoers might be obliged to provide proof of vaccination in order to see a show is pretty terrifying. Such a measure will surely require financial outlay to acquire the necessary technology and supplementary security staff, if nothing else. It may also prevent the younger visitors that we crave from entry, along with youthful staff members.
It could all get even more confusing since, if the example of Springsteen on Broadway is anything to go by, some vaccines may not pass the test. One can’t imagine that the UK government will operate on the same basis as Bruce’s backstage crew and ban anyone who has received a (sub-standard?) AstraZeneca jab but some of the Indian manufactured products could be a problem.
Looking slightly further afield, while at the moment it is hard to imagine that the West End will be thronged with tourists, theatre managements may not be excited at the prospect of having to turn away rich foreign theatregoers because they have not yet been vaccinated or have the wrong brand.
Why does freedom seem so much like imprisonment?