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Ask Lyn: Who in theatre would you send a Christmas present this year?

Ask Lyn: Who in theatre would you send a Christmas present this year?

Ask Lyn: Who in theatre would you send a Christmas present this year? cover photo on Stagedoor
"Dear Lyn, as an actor I get a present every night when the audience applauds but I can only do my job because lots of unsung, sometimes unseen, people who are doing their jobs. So, who in theatre would you send a Christmas present this year?" - Mia, Kingston upon Thames

Hello Mia,

What a lovely question. Particularly in a year which has been so grinding for everyone associated with theatre and where just getting a show on counts as a triumph. Particularly too at a moment when so many shows are being forced to cancel performances.

As you say, theatre is a joint effort and what you see on stage is but the tip of the iceberg. Casts get their applause at the end of the evening, creatives get their nods in reviews (at least they should if the work is good, whether they are the director or the costume or lighting designer). But there are thousands of people working backstage in all capacities whose contributions may be invisible to those of us who sit in the auditorium but without whom the show wouldn’t go on.

I’d definitely send bouquets to box office staff who over the last 20 months have worked tirelessly to help the public exchange and refund tickets when performances have had to be cancelled because of Covid. Front of House staff also get my flowers. Often working on zero hours contracts with no job security, they have proved unfailingly polite as they try to keep audiences safe and help everybody look after each other and are now bearing the brunt of ire from those who object to the new mask-wearing rules in theatres. You are heroes.

I’ve written before about producers without whom nothing would ever happen in theatre. I reckon we still fall back on the tired old cigar-chomping trope when we think of producers. There are a few who behave in the grand manner. (Just don’t mention that telephone call). But most don’t and many are fearless young women fighting to change theatre. Fearless is exactly what you have to be as a producer in these Covid times. And optimism. Theatre needs its optimists.

Presents all round too for all those working backstage. Somebody has to clean and iron all those costumes every single day so they look immaculate. Somebody makes sure all those wigs are comfortable and fit properly. Those who do these jobs—like every stage hand—may be invisible but what they do isn’t.

Freelancers. Still here after 21 months of the pandemic. Often still struggling but still essential. 75 per cent of those working in the theatre industry are freelancers and around 95 per cent of all productions require input from freelancers. Without them the theatre industry collapses. Their resilience is remarkable.

I’d send presents to all the understudies and swings who have had a remarkable year stepping in at short notice to save shows hit by Covid rules and infections.

Finally a very big present should go to audiences. You could have stayed away, but you didn’t. You bought tickets, you came, you clapped and you cheered. You reminded that theatre brings you joy and that without you it is nothing.

Cover image from the Globe Theatre. Photo by John Tramper.

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Lyn Gardner

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