North West End UK

North West End UK: supporting theatre during COVID-19

North West End is a theatre news, reviews and interviews website which covers theatre of all sorts from across the UK. They kindly featured Scenesaver’s launch on their site in June. We caught up with Caroline Worswick, North West End’s Edinburgh and London Coordinator, to find out how their team are feeling about the current state and future of theatre. 

We, like everyone else in this wonderful industry, wish that we could wake up from this nightmare and that everything would be restored to normality.  We are acutely aware that even though we are fully awake, the nightmare continues, and we see this much-loved industry sinking, and it would appear that there are very few lifeboats available.

On 5th July we heard from the Government that there would be an investment of 1.57 billion to protect Britain’s ‘World-Class cultural, arts and heritage institutions’.  As of today, we have heard no further detail concerning the allocation of these funds, and there is a worry that this money will only find its way to larger institutions, leaving the freelancers and small theatre companies to paddle their own canoe.  We await further detail with bated breath and our hope is that some of this investment reaches the life blood of theatre; the freelancers.  Without their creativity both on and off-stage, productions would not take place.  They are British theatre!

Many local theatres have rallied around their communities with support, offering food delivery services and cooking meals for those who struggled to get out or could not afford to buy food.   They helped to educate young people who needed home schooling.  We need to recognise that theatre is not just about a wonderful night out; it can be the heart of a community and help to pull everyone together.

We see our role as supporting artists who, under very difficult circumstances, are producing high quality work.  Innovation is key and we have reviewed many Zoom and digital productions and have seen the standard rise considerably as artists become more familiar with the technology.   We are always willing to offer a review, write an article or simply retweet and share artists’ own publicity/articles to assist them in promoting their shows.

North West End UK (NWE) was established in 2015 with an ethos that we would help to promote amateur, fringe and professional theatre in equal measure.  Our dedicated team of reviewers are passionate about theatre and we have our own actors, directors, producers, writers, backstage staff and avid theatre lovers, who love nothing more than spending their evening in a theatre lending support and giving their appraisal of a production.

We too have had to adapt to the pandemic.  We no longer have to leave the house to review a show, we sit in front of our computer or television with pen and pad in hand (and maybe a glass of something) and write our review with the same level of care as we have always done.  We won’t pretend that sitting in a theatre wouldn’t be preferable, but we are all in this together and we will do our utmost to lend support where we can.

During lockdown we saw a dramatic fall in review requests, so we decided to move ahead with our plans to launch our new website which went live at the beginning of this month.  We are proud of the teamwork that pulled this website together and it is a vast improvement on our previous site which was looking tired.

We have also resurrected NWE Live.  We have drawn from the talent of our own in-house team to create digital performances which are written, performed and directed by NWE reviewers.  We were proud the publish our first monologue recently which can be viewed on our website www.northwestend.com.

We are all willing COVID 19 to disappear.  Most of us will know people that have had the virus or died from it.  When thinking about the future of live performance it seems difficult to imagine that we will return to indoor performances any time soon.  An announcement from the Government with a clear plan for investment would help as at least then theatres and creatives could begin making some decisions based upon the information rather than continually postponing shows with no idea of when they can return.

We have seen a relaxing of the rules for outdoor performances with social distancing measures and face masks compulsory, but this still does not solve the problem of the financial implications of a fall in revenue for the production teams.  Indoor shows seem almost impossible at the moment with the social distancing constraints affecting the theatres’ revenue.  No matter which way we look at it, the key to everything is the Government coming forward with a clear plan and until we have this, we see little chance of anything but small outdoor productions taking place.

We will continue to support and help as much as we can.  Our reviewers and area co-ordinators are volunteers and we are a not-for-profit organisation, so receive no remuneration for our work.  It is our pleasure!

Connect with the team at www.northwestend.com and follow @NorthWestEnd on Twitter.

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