As we approach the end of the disastrous year that is 2020, I can feel myself breathing a slight sigh of relief. (Not fully though, because this is still far from over.) It has been an awful year collectively for the world and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be glad to see the back of it. However, we are still facing uncertain times as we move into 2021, as we don’t quite know when life will return back to normal. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’re aching for “normal”.
This year has seen a catastrophic impact on the performance and theatre industry. The jobs that have been lost have been paramount and the impact on mental health has been undeniably horrific. We would never have foreseen anything like this coming. Only a few days ago some theatres managed to reopen for a handful of days selling at 50% capacity, to then be thrust into closure again tomorrow due to London being moved back into tier 3. It is utterly devastating. Some theatres in the country haven’t been able to open whatsoever since March and some are facing permanent closure going forwards. Theatre is one of the greatest experiences for many and to see their lights go dark is a truly heartbreaking scene. Theatre is so important as it allows a few hours of escapism and entertainment like no other. My fiancé Bobby and I had tickets to see ‘Panto at the Palladium’ (which he got for part of my 30th birthday) and we are no longer able to go as our tickets were for Wednesday night – a single day too late. Gutted!
How are theatres expected to reopen when suddenly they are shut down again days later? The theatre industry is given a green light, people’s excitement starts to build and then it’s all cruelly torn away. People’s livelihoods are at stake here. The amount of money it costs to put on a show is insane and the money lost in the process as they’re not able to make it back is soul destroying.
Now, I know I may be biased but it feels utterly offensive that theatres are being forced to close, but non-essential high street shops can remain open – despite the fact you can easily shop online. Surely the social distancing guidelines in theatres are adhered to more closely than they are in shops as customers are allowed to roam freely. Sure, there are arrows on the floor attempting to direct the flow, but people really don’t let those arrows dictate their actions, do they? I’ve seen numerous people in shops getting far too close to others. I’ve also seen more people than ever not wearing masks recently. It’s boils my blood like nothing else. It’s as if people now assume that as we have a vaccine, we no longer need to be careful. Well my friends, that really is not the case.
I don’t know if this is just me, but I feel like we are given a small piece of hope and then that hope is snatched away again in an instant. Only last week we were rejoicing as we watched 90 year old Margaret Keenan make history as the first person to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, and now we are hit with news of virus mutations and it’s all doom and gloom again. I can’t keep up and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I’m now worried that our small glimmer of Christmas hope is going to be taken away from us too. Surely it’s highly inevitable that we will be put into lockdown 3 in January. I can tell you something for certain though, I really, honestly, cannot wait to see the back of this. I just want it to be over.
Ironically, what has helped a lot of us through this piece of shit year is the wonderful film and TV industry, as we have been gifted so many amazing programmes, series and movies. (A huge part of the performance industry that was told it wasn’t viable at the beginning of the first lockdown – go figure.) As an industry, it really does go to show how much it means to the rest of the world. Without the industry there would be a lot less for people to enjoy on a daily basis. This is why it’s imperative that we save the arts and that theatre comes back with a bang. The industry is a very determined and driven sector. It’s the funding which creates the issue. The government surely cannot leave theatres floundering again, unable to survive when they mean so much. The previous thought of panto going ahead was fantastic because for a lot of children pantomime is one of their first ever experiences at the theatre and at the end of the day, it is the season for giving. So come on government, give us what we need! Help the industry survive and it will come back stronger.
This year really has taught me a lot. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on many things – good and bad. This year has taught me how to survive financially by having to think slightly out of the box and this year has also taken a lot away. It’s given me the drive to never give up, to fight for what is right and to soldier on with vigor. In the words of Steven Bartlett, the founder of The Social Chain – “2020 showed us how precious life is, so next year do not let fear win! Book that flight. Apply for that opportunity. Say “I love you” more. Read those books. Start that business. Stop procrastinating. Block that person. Learn that skill. Take that risk. Live while you can!”