As we enter a new year with a new lockdown, Theatres around the country will have been closed for over 12 months by the time productions restart with confidence.
When my daughter was agonising between going to University to pursue academic studies or audition for a 3 year full-time dance course, the advice given at the audition to all prospective theatre students was that the industry was so brutal, so competitive, that if they could think of anything they would prefer to do, they should probably do that instead.
She was successful, ignored the advice, and became part of the tiny percentage of kids that are able to take the final step towards becoming a professional dancer. A couple of the super talented, were pickup up - 1 left to do a major West End show almost immediately, others got acting work in rep theatres around the country or were off to entertain on the cruise ships, but that was all pre-covid.
The effect on the creative community is probably no larger than many other sectors. The institutions have had some respite through financial support provided by the government. However for the majority of people employed in theatres, the vast majority of whom are freelance professionals – actors, singers, dancers, stage managers , set builders, electricians, etc, it is an incredible tough time.
I know personally of incredible talented young people, inspiring creative young people, at the start of their careers but with no opportunity to showcase their talent. There is the Dance Captain for probably the biggest West End Musical who is currently working as a Deliveroo driver, an actor who got their first film job last year, alongside an all-star cast, who is working in a pizza take-away in North London. Of last year’s graduation roll, precisely none are working in the arts and the prospects for this years graduates are not looking any better. The odds that were always impossibly hard pre-covid, have just become impossible.
Theatres are doing what they can. The theatre I am involved with is taking government bail-out money and trying to use it positively within the industry. They are creating online content, using the talents of all the professionals in their network, and publishing it on youtube and Instagram. The income is tiny and in the real-world, it doesn’t make economic sense, but they can employ the artists and professionals and give them the opportunity to showcase what they can do.
So here is hoping that the vaccine arrives soon and that these super-creative, super-talented people, who have such a short professional career in normal times, get the opportunity to show their talent before their moment is passed.
In the meantime, if your Deliveroo driver arrives at your door with a 1000 megawatt smile, or walks away channelling Roxie from Chicago, then we all know what just happened.