• michaelabennison

My Hopes for Theatre Post-Pandemic

It's been a tough year for all performing arts industries, including theatre.

And in between binge watching videos about prehistoric life and consoling myself that a cataclysmic meteor impact would be marginally worse than the year 2020, for me the stalling of our industry has allowed for reflection.

Just as the past 10 months have been absurd in their terribleness, dreaming big about the future seems a little less pointless. So here are my hopes for the future of theatre after the pandemic.

Small scale work will be respected.

For the longest time, the work of small companies creating small-scale work for small spaces has been overlooked. And the exceptions tend to be productions that can effectively scale up.

Bigger doesn't mean better. Or more worthy. And in a world where public health means smaller gatherings, down-scaling can be a valuable asset.

In the coming months many of us will look to smaller scale productions, either locally or self-produced, for creative work. And I hope this shift in the industry landscape will cause a shift in attitude towards smaller scale work.

Unorthodox staging will gain more attention.

Often, outdoor or site-specific productions are seen by producers and critics as a gimmick, rather than 'legitimate' theatre.

But theatre isn't legitimised by four walls. Theatre's return to Europe in the Middle Ages was on the back of wagons and in town squares. Globe audiences didn't sit quietly in the dark. And again, in times of airborne disease, outdoor performances are a safer alternative for actors and audiences alike.

I wouldn't be surprised is this Spring and Summer sees an explosion in outdoor theatre productions. And, hopefully, a shift in attitude towards shows in non-traditional spaces will follow.

Focus will shift back to making theatre for communities.

There are some companies that already base their work around the communities they serve: Talawa, Graeae, Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break to name a few. And these companies tend to focus on marginalised groups.

But when it comes to theatre for the masses, community focus tends to give way to commercial success. This has lead to central locations being not just the heart of our industry but the whole of our industry. Work is rarely produced with local audiences in mind.

Instead, many regional hubs have become a vehicle for West End transfers, or a stopping point for West End tours. And whilst this isn't inherently a bad thing, the lack of any alternative leaves the theatrical landscape impoverished.

Whilst regional audiences will return to the West End once again, catering to audiences closer to home could prompt a faster industry recovery, and generate more jobs than we have seen in previous years.

We say that "necessity is the mother of invention". And we need that to be true now more than ever.

Like a meteor crashing out of the sky, adversity can bring extinction. But it can also allow the overlooked yet adaptable to flourish in its wake.

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