As I was composing the last couple of paragraphs of my recent theatre book… – The Adventure Continues, all I had in mind was how to properly celebrate the evolution of theatre practice into the startling wonders of the Present Age. I’d lived to see theatre go from creaky and often shoddy – with flashes of star-studded brilliance – to subtle, versatile, trained expertness. The last time I’d had to look at my feet in shame and embarrassment till a miscast actor left the stage had been in 1994.
But then, as the final commas and semi-colons were debated and placed for the definitive version of THE BOOK – theatres began to close. We’d just managed to see David Mitchell in Upstart Crow in the West End – but then had to cancel our next theatre visits.
Could I end my book on an upbeat note and ignore the first gashes of Covid as it tore into live theatre? I remembered, from being in The Dream at the RSC, that Bottom had half-remembered, half-dreamt a strange experience. Could I round out the book with this sort of ambiguity? Then, I was reminded of Titania’s great speech about the world turned upside down by our… was it wickedness, anger, inattention, idleness… in any case, a plague had visited the human world, and the fairy. So, now, I have ended the book with a question, that uncertainty about where we’re going, how we’ll end up.
I am quite sure that story-telling, and therefore live theatre, will not vanish.
Already, with hardly a pause for breath, theatre has begun to inhabit laptop screens and smartphones and auditoria scattered with extempore chairs. Street and market-place theatre may make a come-back; that would be fun.
We are steadily toughening ourselves, in the face of an evolving threat, and – once more – crowding into hot, humming storytellers’ caves – not giving so much as a fig for our fate. ENJOY THE SHOW.