We have given our panellists pen names and used stock images, but their biographies reflect their real career details.
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager at venues across the UK, as well as in event management
Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television
Jenny Talbot, 39, has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with forays into
TV, film and plays
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, Annie has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer
Peter: Apart from the fact it isn’t theatre, you mean?
Adam Tricky one isn’t it? Because obviously our business relies on assemblies of people having a collective experience and that’s the beauty of it. But we have to find some solution. If we mothball theatre until a vaccine, there won’t be any theatre to go back to.
Jenny Sadly, I don’t think it can “work” online. It can persevere but it won’t be theatre.
Charlotte Why should theatre work online? I know at the moment with the pandemic we are trying to make it work – but when it opens up again, why should it work online? The beauty of it is that it is live.
Peter It’s a bit like going into a museum – interesting to see what you couldn’t otherwise – but not a true experience.
Adam So the question almost every artistic director must be asking is: ‘Given that it can’t really work online, how do we get a close approximation?’ Because otherwise we’re stuffed.
Jenny There has to be a shared experience involved in theatre, surely?
Ros Is commenting on social media during or after the performance the same thing?
Peter Even with an audience it isn’t the same on screen. I’ve watched live screenings in cinemas. The audience was laughing less than the theatre one.
‘It’s a bit like going into a museum – interesting to see what you couldn’t otherwise – but not a true experience’
Beryl So it’s actually going to be a lot of filmed plays rather than theatre?
Albert But why would you film a play? Make a film.
Adam Well, I suspect an enterprising company such as Punchdrunk could come up with something intimate using the technology platforms, which allows you to have smaller encounters as you go through a longer journey.
Albert If I’m watching something on the screen, I want to see something that has been created for the screen that takes me on magical journeys. Not a filmed piece of two actors standing in front of some cardboard.
Adam The problem is that by the time you can do film sets to create those things, you’ll be able to get back into theatres anyway.
Ros I know a lot of companies are thinking about how they can make digital content, but I’ve not heard many actually talking about creating ‘theatre’.
Charlotte That’s the way to look at it – digital content, not theatre.
Adam An exciting piece of storytelling by a theatre company wouldn’t necessarily be ‘theatre’, but it would stretch the medium.
Charlotte We already have online entertainment.
Albert I willingly suspend my disbelief when I walk into a theatre. It’s part of the contract. I don’t have to do that when watching a screen.
Jenny As an actor, I know the importance and impact of a good, well-attended auditorium. I never realised its significance as an audience member. I go to see a lot of stuff alone, but of course I’m not alone, I’m surrounded by hundreds of people.
Albert When you hear all these people screaming: ‘will theatre survive?’ It seems to be theatre owners who are really saying I want to keep my building.
Adam You could view it as: ‘How can storytelling adapt to these digital formats’. Storytelling adapted from theatre when the moving picture was invented and we got films and television.
Peter Small fringe productions would probably work best, but they are the least likely to be streamed.
Charlotte The filming of it also dictates where you look. Theatre is often so much more than the close up frame of a film. I miss being able to see the whole stage.
Annie The audience help each other understand. I was watching a Shakespeare’s Globe performance of Macbeth the other day – online, obviously. And most of the audience were young and it was probably their first experience of it. They help each other get it. Online it’s harder to share that experience. It’ll be hard to teach the next generation of theatregoers how to be present, perhaps.
Ros I think readings and so on are a great way of keeping work ticking over, but I can’t see an audience being too interested? Maybe a select audience... hardcore theatre fans.
Jon The National Theatre streams have been hugely popular, but I doubt they’ve made any converts. I think the audience is much more ‘Oh good, I missed this when it was on’.
Albert Surely the thing we should be thinking is not: ‘how do we do theatre online?’, but ‘what can we do online that will keep people interested in theatre?’
Jenny There’s a lot of theatre education happening online. Drama school graduates are putting their showcases online.
Albert I’m directing an online piece from a regional theatre – just a couple of minutes. You have to stop thinking about theatre entirely and just focus on the words to make it work. People are watching it on the phone after all.
Beryl I did a piece to camera, it was a short film, not theatre.
Annie Theatrical yes, but not theatre.
Jon There is something in the shared experience of people watching the same thing at the time it’s performed, sort of the way live telly is theatrical, but the problem with live streaming is it’s so unreliable. Even New York’s Metropolitan Opera, with all its money and technology, had glitches when it did a live gala.
Adam I wonder what the technology will make capable in the future. The way we communicate now through online formats would have been unimaginable 25 years ago. So I wonder what advancements will happen in the next 25 years. There might be a way to put everyone in the same ‘space’ together virtually that feels very real.