Almost exactly a month after my first theatre trip of the Plague Times last month, which was an outdoor performance, I went to my first indoor performance!
Theatres have actually been allowed to open for a while, but most have remained closed because after being shut for so long they need time to rehearse – both the actors and the technical crew – and time to adapt their spaces to be plague-safe. For big shows in yer typical Victorian or Edwardian theatre that can take months. One man shows, however, are much cheaper (important with smaller audiences!), much less complex to put on, and the modern Bridge Theatre is a very flexible space. It was designed right from the start to be supremely adaptable. It can be a “normal” modern proscenium theatre, or configured with a thrust stage like for this performance, or for “in the round” performances with seated members of the audience in the galleries and groundlings mixing with the performers. And in that last configuration, segments of the floor can be raised and lowered on demand to form small stages, stairs, all kinds of settings. All of this means that they could easily take out ¾ of the seats to force customers to keep their distance from each other. Corridors and other circulating areas are also built on a modern scale to get people in and out as quickly as possible so there were none of the bottlenecks and crowding that you get in the vomitoria of older buildings.
The show was An Evening With An Immigrant, part of their season of twelve one-man shows, and I’ve got tickets for two more in the season next month. Inua Ellams is a playwright and poet who writes a lot about his childhood in Nigeria and his loooong journey to being finally allowed to live in the UK, beset by bureaucratic incompetence and petty cruelties, some of which is still ongoing. At one point I thought that he would lose at least some of the audience with a political rant, but I should have known better, London’s theatre goers are thoroughly liberal. He may get a rather different reception if he tours the show unchanged to some of the more backward countries of the Union, such as England.