The Week in Light & Sound
Tuesday, 7 December 2021
Freelancers in the Dark - The coronavirus lockdowns have had a major impact on theatre freelancers, leaving them pessimistic for the future, says the leader of a study. Dr Holly Maples, of the University of Essex. said the "stops and starts" of the lockdown prevented freelancers from being able to plan ahead. She said many did not know whether they would be able to carry on in their profession.
The first part of the report, called Freelancers in the Dark, found 72.4% of respondents felt more pessimistic about their future as a theatre freelancers. Dr Maples, a senior lecturer at the East 15 Acting School at the Colchester university, said: "The closures of theatres greatly affected people's ability to plan and to carry on with the work they had been doing. A lot of people were kind of left high and dry, both by the organizations they were working with [that] couldn't pay them with the lack of ticket sales, obviously, and a large proportion, perhaps 60% to 70%, didn't get the government protection [of furlough payments]."
She said the project, which will produce a final report in 2022, had also found that many freelancers had found new skills. "Freelancers have also been networking and organising and built up a sense of solidarity as they felt the government and the public were not necessarily valuing what they do."
Mask Plea - Audiences visiting venues across the country are being urged to wear face coverings when seeing shows, in a push by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre to limit the spread of Covid-19 among theatregoers. This is despite theatres not featuring on the list of settings in which face coverings are once again required by government.
SOLT and UK Theatre issued a statement asking audiences to "play their part" by wearing face coverings in all their member venues, which total more than 250 across the country and include the entirety of the West End. The industry bodies stopped short of mandating mask-wearing at theatres in their membership, admitting that without legislation "it is extremely difficult to enforce the mandatory wearing of face coverings across the theatre industry".
"Individual venues will make their own decisions regarding face coverings as a condition of entry (as is their right), and will ask their audiences to respect this," they said. Major organisations including the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and several West End venues have already told audiences that they must wear face coverings when attending shows.
"As Christmas approaches, it is vital that we ensure our theatres continue to be safe environments to visit and work in. In light of the latest UK government advice, we ask theatregoers to play their part in taking responsibility for their own and others’ safety by wearing face coverings throughout our buildings unless exempt (or whilst actively eating and drinking). We also ask that audiences respect our front-of-house staff, who are working tirelessly to ensure that theatres are a welcoming place for all," the statement from SOLT and UK Theatre said.
Cancellation - Cases of Covid among the cast of Moulin Rouge! The Musical forced cancellation of performances at the Piccadilly Theatre last week. A message posted on its social media site read: "Despite extremely robust measures being in place, members of our company have unfortunately tested positive for Covid. Therefore, this evening’s and tomorrow’s performances of Moulin Rouge! The Musical have sadly had to be cancelled."
It makes Moulin Rouge! The Musical the first major show in months to have to cancel because of Covid among its cast. Cancellation of the performances come following warnings earlier this week that new self-isolation rules introduced by the government could see shows having to close down again, like they did during the summer.
Prestigious Award - Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell made a rare public appearance on Sunday to receive one of the most prestigious honours in US arts. President Joe Biden also attended the Kennedy Centre Honours, after previous incumbent Donald Trump skipped proceedings during his four-year term. The ceremony saw singers including Norah Jones and Brittany Howard perform some of Mitchell's classic songs. Actress Bette Midler and Motown founder Berry Gordy were also recognised.
Thankyou for the Music - Rock musician John Miles has died at the age of 72, his family have confirmed. Born in Jarrow, he was best known for the epic ballad Music, which reached number three in the UK charts in 1976. Soon afterwards, Melody Maker named him "the brightest, freshest force in British rock".
(Jim Evans)
7 December 2021

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