Welsh theatres stir after lockdown-enforced hibernation
Welsh theatres have been dark for a long time, with their programming and management teams poised on the edge of their seats waiting for the moment they can re-open.
Behind the scenes, teams have been working flat out to make theatres safe and reassuring for the returning customer. Online ticket sales, paperless ticketing, socially distanced seating, and smaller capacity audiences have all become a reality for most theatres in Wales, as has the concept of outdoor auditoria and community engagement events.
The industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, from venue staff to actors, technicians to digs providers feeling the pinch as theatre remained low on the re-opening road map handed down by government.
Never a bunch of people to twiddle their thumbs, arts centres and theatre companies have reached for ever more innovative ways to keep delivering to their audiences while the traditional venues have been dark.
Now, on the cusp of widescale re-opening, a glance through the What’s On pages of some popular Welsh theatre websites really shows how creative the venues are being as they step back in front of the footlights.
Bloom & grow
Theatr Clwyd jumps in feet first with a three-week programme of short plays, five new plays and ten actors each week, performing in the round in the Emlyn Williams Theatre.
Alongside this they are rolling out one-man or one-woman shows, music, and children’s events on their outdoor stage.
Smaller venues, such as Torch, Taliesin and Aberystwyth Arts centre are focusing on cinema, gallery and outdoor events at first, coaxing nervous audiences back with assurance of the ‘Book in Confidence’ schemes which allow flexibility with ticket returns.
Theatr Brycheiniog has had comedy and curry nights, whereas Riverfront in Newport has taken the ingenious step of hosting a baby friendly ‘For Crying Out Loud’ season, welcoming parents and infants to a morning showing where no one will huff and puff in disapproval.
Providing the live product, touring theatre companies have bravely stepped up with solo or small cast shows targeting audiences of all ages, and musical ensembles, no doubt sick to death of Zoom rehearsals, will be getting tuned up to make our hearts sing.
The Plague, the Civil War and World War II all brought theatre to its knees.
Then, irrepressible creativity and the social and political need for the arts brought it bouncing back.
Today, with technological will and sheer bloody mindedness, we are about to see them bloom and grow once more.