Theatres, whether new or old, act as a key element of social and cultural history. Why? Because they have held so many performances, encompassing numerous genres, and allowing different actors to shine. From theatres on the West End to a small local venue, the historical value they provide cannot be underestimated. Many of the world’s famous actors on screen started out on the stage.
Perhaps, however, there are no theatres more historic and iconic than Shakespeare’s Globe. The man often regarded as the greatest playwright of all time specifically wrote his plays to be performed and seen by all. Not even the 1613 Globe fire was enough to stop the plays taking place and being performed. For hundreds of years, individuals have flocked to London specifically to see, hear, laugh along to, and admire Shakespeare’s words on the stage. It doesn’t matter whether someone understands every word spoken or if the actors are new or well-established. The most important thing is that Shakespeare’s plays are meant to fully reflect the kaleidoscope of human nature.
From theatres on the West End to a small local venue, the historical value they provide cannot be underestimated
However, like all other theatres, the Globe has been closed since March 2020. I have fond memories of attending an evening showing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in summer 2019. We were standing in the pit, and with no roof on the Globe, we were able to admire the night sky and the performance with no social distancing whatsoever. To think that individuals have been denied that same experience for over 12 months is heartbreaking.
Of course, while we could all support theatre online by providing donations, that is no compensation for seeing the performances in person. Thankfully, the Globe intend to reopen for their summer 2021 season from 19 May 2021. Provided the government’s roadmap goes to plan, the Globe will reopen with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the perfect play both for the time of year and to revive the spirits of theatre-goers. Similarly, other classic Shakespeare plays like Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet will also make a revival, with Midnight Matinees allowing individuals to enjoy such an eclectic mix of Shakespeare’s words through the night.
Of course, while we could all support theatre online by providing donations, that is no compensation for seeing the performances in person
The tragic effect of coronavirus and repeated lockdowns on the theatre industry cannot be understated. This is the case both for theatre-goers, who have had to settle for second best online viewing, and actors. Their entire industry, which is built around working in a big group and performing to an even larger audience, has been ripped apart over the last year. One of the many pleasures from restrictions easing will therefore be the ability for actors to fully demonstrate their craft.
However, lockdown may have provided more time for aspiring writers. The current Globe writers-in-residence Sami Ibrahim, Laura Lomas, and Sabrina Mahfouz have created a play called Metamorphoses, which marks the first Globe writers-in-residence for over 400 years. It is so vital for the success of playwrights to get their first big break. This scheme clearly allows them the opportunity to do this.
The tragic effect of coronavirus and repeated lockdowns on the theatre industry cannot be understated
Naturally, international travel restrictions and personal assessments of risk will mean that not everyone will want to rush to the theatres immediately. While I would happily attend the Globe tomorrow, not least as it’s outside and in the open air, others may still choose to watch such shows online. The Globe plan to accommodate for precisely that, live streaming their performances to viewers at home for as little as £5.
This demonstrates the wide desire for theatre to succeed. And it can only flourish with the support of a large volume of people in person or online. Even simply spreading the word on social media, which thankfully doesn’t cost a penny, can be a great way for getting messages out there and allowing the theatre to reach new people that wouldn’t have previously considered visiting.
Whatever government support is on offer, these institutions can only survive if individuals choose to support them
The very future and survival of theatre is uncertain. While the Globe and West End theatres should hopefully be able to weather the tough economic storms ahead, smaller, independent companies have a far more uncertain future ahead of them. Whatever government support is on offer, these institutions can only survive if individuals choose to support them. Even for those who cannot attend, any extra money these theatres can access would be gratefully appreciated. It is only these sums that will ensure that companies can continue performing and expressing their ideas for generations to come.