Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
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
John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film
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
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer
Charlotte Given some of the tiny wings I have worked in, I would say there are quite a few challenges. I keep having visions of me standing and throwing props at actors.
John Obviously intimate scenes are kinda off the table – shouldn’t be on a table anyway, far too raunchy.
Beryl Big venues with government help (fingers not faithfully crossed) will be okay; small venues will be screwed, right?
Annie Yes, all the new writing and experimental stuff normally takes place in a black box or pub, so it’s going to be rather tricky to work around social distancing measures.
John I’m not sure I know any theatre that can afford to open with those sorts of seat restrictions? They would surely run at a loss?
Annie Exactly. I genuinely had a bit of a breakdown in the week, where it all just hit me. I keep thinking: How is 20% capacity going to work?
Jon This industry is full of people who know how to run a 400-seater – can’t we reimagine the 1,000-seaters for a few months? Isn’t that better than nothing?
Peter The 1,000-seaters are running big musicals, with choruses and orchestras – so not safe, and not financially viable for 400.
Jon I keep thinking of things that hadn’t struck me before. Quick changes. Mic fittings.
Albert I think we’ll be doing a lot of things for ourselves. Make-up, wigs, hair, dressing, mics.
Charlotte What I am concerned about is, in order to try to keep the distance, will we do people out of jobs? Actors can do their own quick change, simpler design, so there is no need for assistant stage managers and crew. Does that then become the norm?
Jon I don’t think we’ll see wiggies or make-up artists in the theatre for a while. This brings up the question of things like The Lion King, where people really can’t do their own hair and make-up.
John That will put a lot of people in our industry out of a job. Perhaps not, actually; the experts would need to be there to make sure we aren’t messing it up (I definitely would mess it up).
‘The term socially distant needs to go when we speak about performances – it’s impossible backstage and on stage’
Albert Lots of people in other industries are going to be put out of jobs. The government is opening shops and so on, but venues are not opening in June. Yet the companies that run venues will be expected to pay an increasing percentage of the cost of furlough even though they have no income coming in. So there will be serious redundancies.
Charlotte I honestly think that the term ‘socially distant’ needs to go when we speak about performances – it’s simply impossible backstage and onstage. We need to be thinking about how we make it as safe as possible. It won’t completely stop the spread if someone has it, especially if the cast doesn’t wear masks. But if we want any sort of return to our beautiful industry and to get as many people back to work (safely) as possible, then we need to be thinking like that.
Beryl Performers will have to be apart, which means small casts – so the established names will be the go-to people.
Jon It’s interesting that the Old Vic has basically followed the football model – no live audience, income from broadcast.
Albert Does football charge £65 a seat for watching it in your own front room?
Beryl Thank you! Unsustainable. They have always charged too much and thereby have been seen as elitist already.
John Yeah, I felt that those at the Old Vic were keeping the hierarchy firmly in place. Although, what else are they supposed to do? If they have patrons who are willing to pay it to keep the place afloat, why not?
Jon Everyone’s going to pay the Old Vic a tenner though, aren’t they? Nobody’s actually going to cough up full price.
Annie Elitist audiences can donate chunks as well though. Keeps it exclusive then, doesn’t it? People love all that status BS!
Albert I don’t think trying to charge people £65 for the same view that everybody is getting for a tenner is really forward thinking. Our performance work reflects life. If we are living a socially distanced life, then that’s what we have to see on the stage. It worries me more how I’ll get through my life without being able to give people a hug rather than how I’ll get my mic fitted.
Charlotte The audience side, while it may not be financially viable by drastically reducing the number of seats, is easier as everyone can wear a mask, have their temperature checked and wash their hands.
Albert I think we will be very reliant on theatres and television companies making sure that we are safe. We’ll be focused on actually doing the job, just like the staff in supermarkets.
Jon I think people working all day in proximity to others end up less careful about the two-metre social distancing rule. I can see that happening backstage too.
Beryl Who will be the most relaxed about going back?
John I’m sure TV and film production companies have been working pretty damn hard to make sure they can get the cameras turning over again.
Jon If we take the industry as a whole, song recitals and cabarets will be the easiest to restart. No worries standing two metres from a pianist. musical theatre, opera and ballet would be the trickiest, I guess.
Charlotte In some theatres, you could keep a distance backstage – a smaller company in venues with a large number of dressing rooms and huge wings.
John I have a feeling there isn’t going to be a huge amount of work about. Smaller casts and crews. I’m starting to wish I had trained as a flyman.
Beryl It’s a bit overwhelming, right?
Jon It is, but I like the idea of trying to figure out how things will work.