Louise Penn is a theatre blogger and reviewer at LouReviews, also writing for My Theatre Mates and Broadway World UK. She’s active on Twitter @loureviewsblog and a passionate supporter of theatre. We asked her how lockdown had impacted her and what her hopes for the future of theatre are.
In March 2020 I had a full calendar for the next three months, with theatre productions to review across London. I was gearing up for the final week of the Vault Festival and the last few shows of the thirty I had booked in, when the government advised closure of theatres, and all venues slowly went dark over a couple of days.
Suddenly my diary was empty, and it felt very unsettling. I took the decision to run a series of pieces on London theatres, examining their history and place in their regional settings, and then to start reviewing online productions as they appeared. Lockdown has been a series of reviews and interviews, with tweets and retweets about what theatres are doing to keep themselves alive.
The future of theatre does feel rather bleak. We have already heard of venues closing permanently or making staff redundant. The government roadmap released on the 25 June offers no financial support and does not consider the position and needs of smaller venues and companies, who are most likely to suffer from a prolonged period of closure. It is important to realise that in the theatre one size does not fit all: even in London we have the 30+ West End powerhouses but also a thriving pub theatre scene, immersive theatre venues, outdoor performance spaces, and a variety of fringe venues with long histories of engaging with their respective communities.
My vision for the future would be a more cohesive theatre scene, where all creatives, companies and collectives are valued for what they bring to the table. Yes, the large venues are key for tourism, but for innovation, education, and community engagement we need to ensure the survival of smaller spaces. Help them to reopen and to explore safe ways of engaging with their audiences.