The show must not continue: What is the future of theatre in the Corona era?


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With Neil Fassbinder

Nothing like fear spreads. That’s the tagline of Contagion, the 2011 film by Steven Soderbergh about a global pandemic and the resulting loss of social order before scientists eventually detect the virus with a new vaccine and contain it. There are few more fitting examples of toilet paper roll panic shoppers turning supermarkets into Ballardian wastelands, considering the hysteria in response to the real-life Covid 19 coronavirus pandemic in which we are currently in. Soderbergh’s film sounds like both a prophecy and a message in the current climate.

When it first came out, I skipped Contagion, but I hope to rectify that mistake by taking advantage of the new variety of free time that I have unexpectedly acquired after all the movie theaters closed this week. I’m not, as it happens, the only one eager to see the film. Contagion”Contagion”Harry Potter,”Harry Potter.”

Considering that real-time social life in the public domain is all but forbidden, there are undoubtedly worse things that you will see in the next, however long it takes us to separate ourselves collectively and distance ourselves socially. The Andromeda Strain, the 1971 film based on the novel about the ravages of an alien organism by Michael Crichton, can also appeal.

We’re sort of living in a 1970s science fiction movie, after all. On Monday afternoon, when I visited Oran Mor in Glasgow to see The Beaches of St Valery, I remembered this. The play by Stuart Hepburn, set in World War II, was a contribution to the lunchtime West End theater phenomenon “A Play, a Pie and a Pint” this week and will probably be my last gig for some time as a theater critic.

Although newspaper headlines advertised “NO PUBS” and “NO BINGO” on neglected newsstands, in the haunted Glasgow subway, billboards advertising activities at Tramway, King’s and the Pavilion resembled monuments to displays that were laid to rest before they could even open. It was the same with the multitude of posters on Great Western Road lining the walls of every cafe and bar.

The King’s and Festival Theatres in Edinburgh instantly canceled their programs that morning. The Counterflows experimental music festival pulled the plug entirely, as did the Aye Publish! literary festival! A couple of days ago in Glasgow. This week, the Edinburgh International Festival postponed the beginning of its 2020 programme, which it hopes will continue to take place in August.

All of this followed recommendations from the Scottish government that it should be limited to meetings of 500 or more people. The announcement by Creative Scotland that all current funding arrangements will be honoured, even if events are cancelled, was a fair response to be heard by the artistic community.

The advice given on Monday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could not have been more different. Johnson actually suggested staying away from them instead of demanding the necessary and legally binding blanket closure of all cultural venues. This effectively throws every theater and arts organization under the politically tinged bus of Johnson, every independent grassroots music venue, every neighborhood café and every freelance arts worker. This extends to box office, front-of-house, bar workers, artists, professional and administrative employees, and creative teams.

Arts institutions and venues have since voluntarily closed in Scotland and beyond. They remain unsure about their potential survival. Tuesday’s announcement by Exchequer Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide cash support and interest-based loans to small businesses in need would not keep venues from going under. Nor will the livelihoods of freelancers be kept from being ruined.

The Scottish Theatres Association has now come forward to speak up for its members. Although this is positive news, it is likely the harm has already been done. For instance, Pitlochry Festival Theatre gets 86% of its revenue from ticket sales. The new Barefoot production in the Park looked like it would be able to cover that and more, but after one night it had to close.

The first theatrical casualty of Covid-19 occurred two weeks ago, when the two Italians


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