Photo: The Phantom of the Opera in full goth party mode. Credit: Johan Persson
Okay guys, here goes - lockdown #2, the sequel that no one ever asked for. If the first lockdown was The Phantom of the Opera (all your plans crashing down with the crystalline chaos of a falling chandelier) then second lockdown is Love Never Dies; it arrives too late, there's no dramatic tension, and it feels like it's never gonna end. But at least this time venues are allowed to film livestreams, which means it's party on for theatre fans; even if you're not 100% sold on watching theatre on a screen, there's something so massively life-affirming about assembling your friends to experience a show apart, together.
STEP ONE: Invite your mates (or ambush your enemies)
Option A: If you want to take in some serious drama, invite your friends for a half hour video chat before curtain up. Then reconvene after the show for another video chat to process your feelings. If you're feeling really 'GCSE English class' about it you could even persuade someone to lead the discussion.
Option B: If you're revisiting an old fave or just fancy getting silly, supplement the above with a WhatsApp or Messenger group and your friends can spam each other with memes/'brilliant insights' all the way through the show.
STEP TWO: Set the scene
When you're actually in a theatre, you don't think about all the subtle architecture that goes into creating a sense of 'event'; the old show posters, the hubbub of the bar, the little bells that summon you to your seat. I'm not saying DON'T watch in bed in a soup-stained dressing gown, but creating a sense of occasion and ritual really helps a livestream feel special. Dim the lights, come up with a basic costume ( you can create a limitless number of shit-but-funny effects with just an eyebrow pencil and some corrugated card), and light a candle or two in honour of your long-suffering wife, theatre.
STEP THREE: Bring your best snack game
The 'theatre etiquette' crew can't complain about rustling crisp packets now, unless you happen to live with one of them. Which means themed snacks are GO: how about some Tudor-style pies for Emilia, or a banquet featuring all the different foods mentioned in 'La Vie Boheme' in Rent? Or for something more refined, send your friends the recipe for a special cocktail that you can all sip during the show.
STEP FOUR: Spread the word
As the comedians of the Edinburgh fringe love to say, if you liked the show, tell your mates! Or leave a review on Stagedoor, or send the link to the disgruntled neighbour who keeps complaining about your late-night Zoom antics.
And if this isn't inspiring you to get organising, well, I can tell you on good authority that even if it ends with you black-out drunk on the sofa trashtalking Andrew Lloyd Webber, then organising a Theatre Watch Party would make your GCSE English teacher feel really really proud of you; and we all need to feel good about ourselves right now.
Until next week,
"I have been writing about theatre for over 30 years and during that time people keep on telling me that theatre is a dying art-form. But as John Steinbeck once observed: “the theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed."
Quotes of the Week
“Night night, you disgusting halfwit. xx”
- This week marked theatre academic Dan Rebellato's retirement from trolling outgoing president Trump on Twitter, after four years of daily messages.
“I wasn’t afraid of the dead, I was afraid of not paying the rent"
- Theatre special effects artist Paris Rivers, who got a job in a morgue during lockdown
Sophie Eleni in 15 Heroines at Jermyn Street Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner
Emilia is an Olivier Award-winning feminist play that's the perfect excuse to get your squad together for a virtual theatre trip. Watch online from 10 - 24 Nov. Tickets Pay What You Decide
Cinderella stars Carrie Hope Fletcher in a brand new take on the fairytale from Andrew Lloyd Webber. Booking from 19 Mar - 24 Oct 2021. Tickets from £24
Good stars David Tennant, who plays a conflicted professor in this timely story about the rise of fascism. Booking from 21 Apr - 17 Jul 2021. Tickets from £24
Hairspray is making a long-awaited return, with Michael Ball dragging up for this feelgood '60s musical about a wannabe dancer. Booking from 22 Apr - 28 Aug 2021. Tickets from £21
Jersey Boys is a bright and perky '60s musical that's tapping its way back into the West End next spring. Booking from 14 Apr - 31 Oct 2021. Tickets from £19.50