Especially with (gestures vaguely) all of this news going on. But there are some small silver linings. It's a month where there's zero pressure to be having fun, especially when you're in lockdown, so there are no compulsory Zooms or awkward socials. It's a month when your expectations are so low that even finding a stray Quality Street at the back of the cupboard is cause for major celebration. And if you're starting at the bottom, you know that things really can only look up. Here's what 2021 might bring theatre-lovers:
🔮 This is the year where in-person theatre comes back Do we know when? Um, sorry, my crystal ball seems to be malfunctioning again. But with the vaccine roll-out gathering pace, we can be pretty confident that there'll be a summer of shows to reward us for making it through this latest lockdown.
🔮 Pandemic-era experiments will come of age Social-distancing restrictions are likely to stick around well into 2021, but hopefully producers will be able to draw on the lessons of 2020 to develop effective ways of working around them. For indoor theatres, that could mean small casts, multiple performances a night, or making hybrid shows that exist both online and in-person. Or it could mean coming up with newly sophisticated online offerings. 2020 was about quick-and-dirty responses to crisis conditions; 2021 will let theatremakers hone their skills in creative and online ways of working.
🔮 It'll be a huge, huge year for outdoor theatre Arcola Theatre is building a spiffy new outdoor venue out of recycled materials, and they're right on trend: the virus-banishing powers of fresh air mean that this Summer will be huge for outdoor theatre, both at established spaces like Regent's Park Theatre or Shakespeare's Globe, and at new pop-up spaces. Only rain can stop the fun, so let's hope this August is drier than a three-hour post-show discussion!
🔮 West End producers will get hi-tech West End producers like Nica Burns have already made huge investments in Covid-19 safety measures like temperature checks and testing hubs; for now, their plans are on ice, but coming back in 2021 will be easier now they've successfully trialled strategies for keeping audiences and performers safe. There are also new advances happening all the time; this month, London's 100 Club is trialling a new ventilation system which uses UVC light to neutralise 99.99% of airborne pathogens.
🔮 Festivals will return as you've never seen them before Edinburgh Fringe is scheduled to run in 2021 - albeit at a reduced capacity. Expect fringe shows staged in new ways; outdoors, online, and in unconventional venues that reduce crowding. Perhaps there will be a few too many solo shows about 'My Corona Hell' but at least you'll be able to walk down the Royal Mile in peace; aggressive flyering definitely isn't covid-friendly.
As you've probably gathered by now, the arrival of 2021 doesn't mean that theatre's problems are over! But it does at least mean that we're at the beginning of the end, and that across the country, dedicated people are getting ready to rebuild the UK's theatre landscape, brick-by-brick.
Until next week,
ASK LYN: Will streamed theatre continue post-Covid?
"Brexit will undoubtedly make international collaboration and touring more difficult and costly for British theatre, but streaming gives it the tools to achieve international reach."
Quotes of the Week
"Theatre critics, even the ones you hate the most, are human, and they will even behave like humans in certain circumstances."
- Fergus Morgan, writing in Exeunt about why critics are being kind to a beleaguered theatre industry
"For me, utopia resides in interactions between people, acting with care and compassion, understanding and kindness. Behaviours create and sustain utopias, not grand designs."
- Playwright Vinay Patel, quoted in Natasha Tripney's Guardian article on theatre and utopia.
WATCH THIS WEEK
Sunset Boulevard (Until 9 Jan, tickets from £20)
Start the year with some Norma Desmond-worthy glamour: Leicester Curve's livestream stars Ria Jones as a fading star.
Kings of War (Online 10 Jan, tickets from £10)
Lyn Gardner recommends Ivo Van Hove's "forceful, gripping and operatic" staging of three Shakespeare plays.
How It Is
(Online 9-10 Jan, tickets from £14.50)
Irish company Gare St Lazare offer a "stunning, sometimes provoking, and on occasion uplifting" take on Beckett.
Leopoldstadt (Opening 12 Jun, tickets from £24)
Tom Stoppard's long-awaited masterpiece
To Kill A Mockingbird (Opening 27 May, tickets from £24)
Aaron Sorkin adapts the classic novel
Anything Goes (Opening 8 May, tickets frok £30)
Will and Grace star Megan Mullally makes her West End debut in this '20s musical
(Opening 22 Apr, tickets from £21)
Michael Ball plays Edna Turnblad in this feelgood dance musical's long-awaited return.
Life of Pi (Opening 26 Sep, tickets from £30)
An adaptation of the blockbuster novel
Get Up, Stand Up! (Opening 28 May, tickets from £18)
Arinze Kene stars in this Bob Marley musical