Reopening The National Theatre and More.
The loss of London’s theatre world during the COVID-19 Crisis has, for us at London-Unattached, had more of an impact on our vibrant city than anything else. Now things are slowly but surely beginning to open up again, albeit with a new normal. We’re cautiously optimistic and looking forward to Death of England: Delroy – coming soon!
The Olivier Theatre, part of The National Theatre on London’s Southbank, is being remodelled in order to stage a season of performances in-the-round, which will achieve an audience capacity of almost 500 while maintaining social distancing for audiences. The theatre reopens on the 21 October, with Death of England: Delroy, a new play written by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, directed by Dyer and performed by Michael Balogun.
The production is the first in a season to be staged in the transformed Olivier theatre. Tickets will go on sale to the public from 2 October with over 200 tickets available at £20 for every performance.
Delroy follows on from Death of England that was performed magnificently by Rafe Spall (see our review) with the new work exploring a Black working-class man searching for truth and confronting his relationship with Great Britain. The second production the NT will stage as part of the Olivier in-the-round season will be Dick Wittington, originally commissioned by the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, which will celebrate and honour panto’s place at the heart of British theatre. Freshly updated for 2020, Ned Bennett directs this exciting new production which promises fun for everyone and will open on the South Bank in December.
Here at London Unattached, we are great supporters of the performing arts scene so we regarded it as our duty to sample the new post-lockdown performance experience on your behalf. So far, we have tried out outdoor drama, musicals and opera as well as socially-distanced indoor theatre. Probably the most normalised of the performances was the Vache Baroque Festival, a two-day outdoor celebration of the music of Henry Purcell featuring a wonderful performance of his opera Dido and Æneas. The audience was able to wander around the grounds, picnic and watch the performances unmasked. If this was the new normal it was pretty good! For theatre in more enclosed settings mask-wearing is not optional.
At both the indoor Bridge Theatre for the opening of the Alan Bennet Monologues season with its stellar cast, and at the outdoor Regent’s Park Theatre production of musical Jesus Christ Superstar we were masked up in full Zorro mode with social distancing, temperature taking and controlled movement being firmly policed. However, even with the masks, we were soon sucked into the drama and at the end were clapping maybe even a little louder than normal out of sympathy for the performers. At the Bridge, which was built very recently, they have been able to take out some of the seating giving the space a cabaret feel with small groups sitting in 2s and 3s. What you miss is the throng of people as you come in and at the bar but for some of us that might be an improvement!
A group of National Theatre actors including Haydn Gwynne and James Corrigan have set up their own outdoor theatre at Grade ll listed Stephens House and Gardens in Finchley. A simple circular platform stage is set amongst the trees, adorned with strings of lights and sets the scene for the performance of Charles Ward’s new play Renaissance. We sat in socially distanced bubbles 2 metres apart and without masks and enjoyed some great acting in this delightful and amusing new play.
Will these green shoots of artistic endeavour be sustainable or will they be seen as a false dawn, as performance art moves into a digital space? Only time will tell. But if you get the chance please go out and support performing artists where you can.
For more information and to book tickets for DEATH OF ENGLAND: DELROY, please visit nationaltheatre.org.uk.