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Clockwise from top left: Zorro the Musical, Thee Glee Club (photo by Marc Brenner), The Tempest (photo by Robert Workman) and Rockets and Blue Lights
Clockwise from top left: Zorro the Musical, Thee Glee Club (photo by Marc Brenner), The Tempest (photo by Robert Workman) and Rockets and Blue Lights
winsome pinnock

Winsome Pinnock

Writer, whose latest show Rockets and Blue Lights was in previews at Manchester’s Royal Exchange

Throughout rehearsals, the news about coronavirus had been in the background, and then on March 12, shortly before we were due to start previews, Broadway closed down. That was when I began wondering whether we would make it to press night on the 17th, and in fact whether we should.

The first previews went very well, and we were still working hard on getting the show ready for opening. But at the back of our minds we knew that it might have to be postponed. Then on the Monday, Boris Johnson did that awful thing where he said people should avoid public gatherings, but didn’t officially close theatres. We were told by the Royal Exchange team that the show would not be going ahead that night, which was absolutely the right decision.

It really upset me that all the company’s hard work would not get to be shared publicly. The play had really come into its own during previews, and I was so proud of Miranda [Cromwell, the show’s director] and the team. On what would have been press night, we performed for a few people who worked in the theatre. It was an incredible thing to be part of. We had a Zoom party recently to celebrate what would have been the final night.

My hope is that the production will be remounted at some point and people will get to see the company’s beautiful work

Rachel Graham

Rachel Graham

Deputy stage manager, was working on previews of Zorro the Musical at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre

The day that the initial restrictions were announced was our day off and I had literally just sent out the rehearsal/show call. We were still in previews and were hoping to go on for a couple more days, but very quickly it became clear that the situation was changing at a dramatic rate. The next day was rescheduled to a company meeting.

That meeting was very emotional, and afterwards we signed programmes and posters for each other and said goodbyes as people headed back to their own homes before the lockdown got stricter. Then we just left; everything is still in the theatre, as it was on what turned out to be our final show.

The first few days were almost like going through a grieving process. The fact the show had ended so suddenly, and before we had even had press night, was really upsetting. We knew we had something special and were excited to continue the run.

The company has stayed very close throughout lockdown. The love we had for this show and for each other will only grow, and feel even better the second time round. I’m sure that first round of applause will bring tears to many eyes, not least mine.

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