From Front Room Sofas to Front Row Seats: Why Community Theatre Should Be Essential After Lockdown!

Lockdown Day 40. The United Kingdom is binging on Netflix and Disney+, age old stories and brand-new tales making their way into the eyes and minds of not only the British public, but housebound audiences worldwide.

Theatres too, in the face of empty auditoriums across the world, are getting in on the act. Establishments such as London’s National Theatre are streaming some of their greatest hits to try and keep interest going whilst awaiting the siren call to ring out saying we are free to resume normality, with ‘One Man Two Guvnors’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Treasure Island’ being shown on their YouTube channel over the coming weeks. Even ourselves at Williams Creatives are refusing to stay idle with our webcam jukebox clips, ‘Miscast: #MakingTheMostOfIt’, all in aid of the wonderful Leicester Hospitals Charity.

But perhaps this is a natural progression. Theatre has always found a way of worming its way to the LED screens of our homes. A particular example of theatre to screen to emerge last month was ‘Quiz’, the by now classic true story of the infamous fraud Major Charles Ingram, who in front of the piercing eyes of Chris Tarrant (or possibly Michael Sheen in a wig, such as his performance was) attempted to make ITV ‘cough up’ £1 million. The ‘Most British Crime in History’ was wonderfully adapted to the stage by James Graham in 2017.

But what about when we begin to venture out into the wide-open world again, when we can enjoy the outdoors without trying to mentally gauge two metres between you and a little old lady in Tesco’s. Will people exit their front rooms and return to the front rows?

At this very moment, writers like myself are spinning ourselves silly in our own four walls, typing up stories of our lockdown experiences. The sense of isolation, the tension between housemates and families, the inability to tell what day it is! Across the world, new stories inspired by an unprecedented time will soon be ready for audiences to see. But where should they be showcased?

The sense of engagement, the connections to our own lives, the fact that these stories are in the same room; lockdown stories are made for the stage, immersive, allowing an audience to step into the room of isolation again, with the safe knowledge that they can leave when the curtain falls. Nowhere will this feel more engaging than in community theatres, the smaller stages where the audience is practically on top of the action. There are exciting times ahead for theatre.

Think of the small stage of a community theatre as a mixing bowl, the spices of the old classics and the refreshing herbs of new, original thought, coming together. The story to be told on these stages are not to be ignored.

The stories made in the small confines of our homes will now make their way onto the stage in a way that has not be seen before. Born in the living room, made for the stage, enjoyed by all.

John-Joseph Boyle