At points this year, even the most powerful ancient wizard would have struggled to conjure up some positivity – but theatremakers have made a herculean effort to supply some magic, even as the industry struggled to survive. Here are some of the ways that theatres have made us feel hopeful for 2021:
🕯️ By helping their local communities
With shows cancelled, theatres across the UK have transformed; as you read this, Park Theatre is delivering meals to Finsbury Park families, following in the footsteps of Leeds theatre-turned-food-bank Slung Low. Albany Theatre made phonecalls to lonely pensioners, Battersea Arts Centre dispensed craft kits to bored local kids. And freelance costume makers spent spring turning their skills to making scrubs and PPE for hospitals.
🕯️ By reaching massive audiences across the globe
This year, it was harder than ever to call theatre 'niche' or 'an expensive luxury'. The success of National Theatre at Home brought free YouTube shows to over nine million viewers across the world, and got them giggling at James Cordon (One Gentleman Two Guvnors) and goggling at Benedict Cumberbatch's loincloth (Frankenstein). Don't miss the final, celebratory show - which will see the NT baffling international audiences with beautifully weird British panto traditions in Dick Whittington (23rd-27th December).
🕯️ By creating pandemic-proof new ways of performing
2020 was a year of theatre experiments; not all of them worked, but they've taught theatremakers lessons that'll help theatre survive this crisis - and whatever else the cosmos throws our way. Swamp Motel's Plymouth Point sent audiences on an adventure through Facebook, YouTube, and creepy folklore websites. And Fuel's Signal Fires project staged shows outdoors round roaring bonfires, in a throwback to pagan days. Wise Children performed musicals to empty theatres, but packed audiences at home; their AD Emma Rice has announced that whatever happens next, livestreamed theatre is here to stay.
🕯️ By taking on the government
High-profile voices like Sonia Friedman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and James Graham have spent the year cajoling, arguing, and shaming politicians into helping the theatre survive a pandemic which feels like it's uniquely designed to destroy it, while freelancers, grassroots campaigners and theatre fans have kept up the noise about why theatre is worth saving. Has everyone always agreed HOW we should actually save theatre? Of course not. But what matters it that we all yelled together to make a noise the government couldn't ignore.
🕯️ By giving us stuff to smile (or belly laugh) about
It's sometimes been hard to remember it this year, but theatre is fun and silly and joyful. Remind yourself with Sh!t Theatre's Sh!t Actually (streaming tonight or tomorrow); which is as ridiculous and dazzling as the huge gilded poos that make up their set design. Or watch the Showstopper gang improvise a brand new musical over livestream, or delight in Sandi Toksvig's Snow Globe – because even if this year, you can't sit in a theatre being pelted with fake snow and wrapped sweets, you can bombard yourself with enough festive theatrical magic to make the world seem like a warmer, brighter place.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Stage Savvy and everyone at Stagedoor
ASK LYN: What's on your list for Santa?
In the latest edition of Ask Lyn, she asks for clarity from the government, more protection for freelancers, gender neutral toilets, better snacks & more.
REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS CAROL
"Too often Scrooge is played either as an irritable pensioner or a panto villain, but with Jack Thorne’s help, Andrew Lincoln plays him as a human being."
Lyn Gardner reviews the Old Vic's heartstring-tugging livestream of A Christmas Carol, available until 24th December.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"We need to heal together, we need to laugh together and cry together to try to figure this thing out.”
- Bryony Shanahan, talking about why we need to get back in theatres in an Exeunt interview
"Panto is such a uniquely ridiculous tradition"
- Tali Clarke, telling the Guardian why she's creating queer punk pantomime Madre Goose
OPENING THIS WEEK
Sunset Boulevard (22 Dec 2020 - Sat 9 Jan, Tickets from £20) A livestreamed concert production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's gorgeous musical, staged by Curve Leicester.
Mischief Movie Night (27 -31 Dec, Tickets from £10) Put some silliness in your Christmas with this improv livestream from seasoned comedians Mischief Theatre.
A Gambler's Guide to Dying Available on demand until 27 Jan Lyn Gardner recommends Gary McNair's "warm and knotty piece about life, its purpose, and the ways we try to outwit death."
Peter Pan Available from 24 Dec This starry audio drama features Olivia Coleman, Bertie Carvel, Kenneth Branagh and more bringing J M Barrie's emotive adventure story to life.
Give the gift of theatre!
Make your generosity stretch further with Stagedoor; pay just £20 for a £25 gift card, which can be redeemed on any show that's booking through the Stagedoor app.
Purchase by 24 December
Anything Goes (Opening 8 May, Barbican centre, Tickets from £25) No Booking Fees
Michael Ball plays Edna Turnblad in this feelgood dance musical's long awaited return. 'Cole Porter songs and tap-dancing sailors, what's not to love?' - The Hollywood Reporter.
Showstopper! The Christmas Livestream
(Tue 22 Dec, Tickets from £10) No Booking Fees
Watch musical theatre improv masters cook up a witty festive show based on your suggestions.
(Opening 12 Mar, Tickets from £25)
This hilarious show is a loving mash-up of Max Martin's '90s pop classics and Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers.
Back To The Future
(Opening 14 May, Tickets from £24)
Madcap time-traveller Marty McFly gets the musical theatre treatment in this new show.
(Opening 22 Apr, Tickets from £21)
Michael Ball plays Edna Turnblad in this feelgood dance musical's long-awaited return.