I normally go to the theatre at least once a month, to big professional shows such as put on by the English National Opera or elsewhere in the West End, to regional theatres, to some of the tiny pub-theatres around London, and even occasionally to amateur community theatre. But my last was at the beginning of March. The big theatres are still closed. They’re allowed to open but with much reduced capacity, and a combination of that smaller capacity being loss-making and that they need lots of time to rehearse, and maybe to re-write to enable actors and technicians to work safely means that I’m only aware of one of the big theatres reopening. That exception is the Bridge Theatre, one which is exceptionally commercially driven, and even there they’re only putting on one man shows, which are much less complex to rehearse and stage.
For the last several months London has been a theatre desert, something unseen since the interregnum over 350 years ago. I have been watching theatre online, as the National Theatre put quite a bit of content on Youtube, there’s been Operavision, the Royal Opera, and Glyndebourne, and many smaller theatres have put stuff online from their back-catalogue. But there’s been no live theatre, and live theatre is always better than filmed theatre.
But today, I went to see local amateur theatre! Live! A short version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, put on in their car park after just two weeks of rehearsals by Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation with a very young cast. It was … patchy. The very brief rehearsal period accounts for much of that. Some of the dance numbers were hampered by being performed on rough Tarmac instead of a stage, and being outdoors in high wind meant that they struggled to be heard sometimes.
But none of that matters. It was live theatre, put on by a cast whose enthusiasm was infectious. I understand that theatre barely happens in state schools these days, and in a relatively deprived area like the north of Croydon many children will have hardly any opportunities to go to the theatre, never mind take part in a production. CYTO does important work to supplement education and personal development, and to train its older members in technical skills. Even if the show had been a colossal flop CYTO’s work would still be worth supporting.