BY RIDA BABAR
Theatre companies such as Old 505, Belvoir Theatre, and the Sydney Theatre Company are finally reopening and planning live shows for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Easing government restrictions in NSW have been a breath of fresh air for the arts and entertainment industries.
Old 505 theatre is holding A Murder Story, Retold from September 2 to 6. This will also be the global premiere of Sydney’s very own independent theatre company, Ninefold.
While Old 505 has been putting on live music shows since July, this will be the first theatrical performance since March.
A Murder Story, Retold is a “side spitting comedy with a dark edge”, telling the story of a revenge killing three times, each with a story that changes along with the music of each retelling.
Artistic director of Old 505, Kerri Glasscock, in an interview with City Hub, said that A Murder Story, Retold was chosen to be the ‘debut’ performance after the peak of the COVID-19 restrictions as “The Old 505 Theatre has a longstanding partnership with the Sydney Fringe Festival and A Murder Story, Retold is the first offering in their Global Fringe program.
“We have been working in partnership with Sydney Fringe since early May to lead the way in industry best practice reopening strategies, and as such were able to work with their September program producers to rework the staging of their productions to accommodate the new seating mode.”
On the financial impact of COVID-19 on Old 505, Kerri revealed, “It has been devastating. We have been able to secure JobKeeper for our bar and front of house staff. Even then, opening on reduced capacity means that we need to sell out every session to just breakeven. But it is important to open, as a sector we could have these restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, it’s not good enough to remain closed and hope for life to return to normal.
At least being open on reduced capacity means that artists are able to get back to work, contractors and suppliers can earn some revenue and we can maintain audience engagement. But it is not a viable way forward and will be impossible to maintain once JobKeeper ends and commercial rents return to prior levels.”
The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) recently announced their return to the stage with a socially distanced season of Angus Cerini’s Wonnangatta starring Wayne Blair and Hugo Weaving, commencing on the September 21.
The STC, while optimistic to roll out performances for the remainder of the 2020 theatre season, is prepared to collapse all plans if the crisis worsens in Sydney.
Despite reopening, there have been detailed COVID-safe plans implemented in all three theatres.
Speaking with Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the STC, when asked what his vision is of the STC in moving forward from the impacts of the pandemic he said, “People like going out, theatre has been around for thousands of years. I think we will bounce back, it might take a while but it will happen.
“The challenge is, it’s so wasteful if entire businesses go broke during this period because when the pandemic moves on, people are going to want to go to restaurants and theatres, and it will be so disruptive to re-invent everything. Everyone’s trying to keep their businesses afloat.”
When asked how he sees the pandemic changing the future of entertainment in Australia, Patrick said, “I think its interesting how quickly Zoom has become a part of the way we work, we might actually be more interactive on an international level now that we’ve seen how seamless Zoom can be in business. Also, we will all have different risk managements plans in place to use in future whereas in this instance everyone has scrambled to work out how to deal with it.”
Belvoir Theatre is hosting A Room Of Ones Own starring Anita Hegh and Ella Prince on September 10. This will be their first public performance in six months.
Tom Wright, an artistic associate at Belvoir revealed what a typical day of rehearsals looks like during the age of COVID.
“It’s more reserved; people sit in islands of space and time around the room! We leave the door open, only actors touch their props, and those props aren’t shared.
Everyone who enters the building is temperature-checked and only the very essential personnel are in the room. Fundamentally it’s the same process once you get working but the set-up is different. It’s introduced a new term though, when the Stage Manager calls out ‘Distance’ it means people are too close to each other.”
He also shared his thoughts on how COVID-19 will change the entertainment industry in years to come.
“It will have an impact in ways we can’t anticipate. But it has reminded us how precarious urban life is – that in a virtual age, a social media age, we’re still flesh-and-blood, all of us are fragile. No-one’s going to take for granted the privilege of being in a room with others for a while. The idea of a neighbourhood, or a community, will have subtly shifted, and theatre is a place where that is revealed and explored.”
Stay Local, Watch Global
The inaugural Global Fringe starts this week with audiences spoilt for choice. While we’re all staying local this year, there’s a great opportunity to watch performances from around the globe. Live theatre returns to the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown with the unrelentingly intense, precise and imaginatively rich Ninefold’s production of A Murder Story, Retold from Wednesday to Saturday. And for those wanting an ‘at-home’ gala extravaganza, you can live stream A Celebration Of Theatre – a triple bill of brilliant independent theatre on Wednesday from 6.30pm. The live stream features A Murder Story, Retold as well as a specially ‘shot-for-streaming’ version of physical theatre ensemble Clockfire Theatre Co.’s we, the lost people, and Queen Have & Miss Haven’t – a monstrous modernist ballet by Thick & Tight (UK).
To buy tickets or register for the free live stream head to sydneyfringe.com/whats-on.