Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Hari Bairn is in his 20s and since graduating from drama school has worked in the West End, Off-West End and on a number of tours
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in 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
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
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
Peter Inevitably, comedy will dominate to begin with.
Charlotte Something fun and upbeat… with music.
Peter But at some point we will have to examine the politics of it all.
Jon I wonder if we’ll see a lot of productions of Happy Days. Great for social distancing! (The Beckett, I mean, I’m not talking about staying two metres away from Fonzie).
Beryl Something bold and beautiful and diverse.
Jon I think ‘bold’ and ‘diverse’ are not going to be front and centre, alas.
Ros I wonder if producers and companies will risk programming new work and instead go for shows they know will get bums on seats.
Beryl That’s the fear.
Hari I don’t think they will produce new work but, if the industry is going to move forward at all, they need to. The Jerusalem announcement really depressed me, it was the worst of both worlds – star casting and an old production, so no chance of employment. At least if they star-cast new stuff that may provide actors with opportunities.
Charlotte I think they’ll have to programme something that guarantees an income for the theatre to begin with and then, hopefully, the new work will begin.
Albert A survey published recently asked: “What have you missed most during lockdown?” Going to the theatre scored 3% and was next to the bottom.
Jon Although with a survey like that it depends what question was asked. If it’s just “miss most”, I’d say my family over theatre. Doesn’t mean I’m not desperate to have it back.
Charlotte Unfortunately, I can see a step back from the progress the industry has made with what is being programmed. But if it’s the only way those buildings and companies can survive to continue to produce in the future...
Albert No one will risk money on shows in town and subsidised theatre will have huge upheaval after furloughing staff.
Beryl New work will probably be seen as a risk.
Ros What about new-work venues like London’s Bush and the Royal Court? I guess they rely on their established audience?
Charlotte I think people do still want it. I know of several shows that are programmed for the end of the year and for which a huge amount of tickets are still being bought.
Albert Theatre seemed very unprepared for the whole thing, and the refund situation has been dreadful. People want to feed their families, not keep £210 in the coffers of ATG in the hope of seeing Pretty Woman on a date that can’t be confirmed.
Jon What’s interesting is that attendance didn’t go off a cliff in the first half of March. I was in rehearsal and we were all saying: “Who is going to the theatre?”, but people in the shows that had opened said audiences were more or less normal. I suppose people hadn’t fully grasped the danger.
Peter Depressingly, a friend wondered whether some people, having got out of the habit, will realise they don’t miss it.
Jon I don’t think there will be much hunger for shows about the pandemic.
Albert If the National does a big show about the lockdown with everyone speaking in time to iPhone recordings, I’m out.
Jenny A lot of people out there will be ready to get out of their houses and try new things. Who knows? There may even be a new audience for theatre.
I’d like to see work that cheered me up, but also that challenged me and made me realise theatre was still important
Peter I’d like to see work that cheered me up, but also that challenged me and made me realise theatre was still important.
Jenny I think there will be a lot of old-school revivals of musical comedies.
Jon Yep. Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart. Not (necessarily) complaining.
Ros All of the Shakespeare comedies.
Jon Maybe revivals of all the late apocalyptic Churchill plays, which have all basically come true.
Peter I think there will be a lot of sentimental plays too. Tear-jerkers.
Beryl Someone will come up with a genius response and we’ll all wish we’d been in it, then it’ll be back to the safe plays.
Charlotte I hope someone reminds the public that theatre isn’t just streaming, it also happens in real life and is far more exciting to watch.And that all those people who have kept us entertained during the lockdown will continue to entertain us.
Albert Well said.
Jon That’s another reason for lots of comedies, isn’t it? That communal, emotional response. Although laughter equals droplets. I’m not entirely joking.
Beryl How can it work?
Jon Yep, masks for audiences. I’ve seen isolation for cast and crew pre-rehearsal suggested too.
Jenny How can you isolate casts before rehearsals when they’ll be getting on trains and tubes to go to said rehearsals?
Jon Filming will be easier – just isolate the whole unit in a hotel. But the cost! (And the drinking, and the… never mind.)
Ros The big question about social distancing in theatre is that it’s easy for audiences, but what about us?
Charlotte I think that it will need vigilance backstage – cleaning everything and hands a lot, tests, temperature checks. We can’t be expected to keep social distance, but we can be vigilant. All backstage staff to wear masks?
Peter But no romcoms. No kissing. And no fights.
Charlotte Or just fights with long swords. And a larger number of understudies than usual – who are isolating?
Jon All of these are possible with casts that have been isolated together for longer than the incubation period. I think that’s what we’re headed for. People who’ve had it or can isolate will get to work.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email firstname.lastname@example.org