Last week I headed for my first post-lockdown live indoor threatre experience! I booked to see Beat The Devil at the Bridge Theatre, one of the series of monologues they are currently hosting in their socially distanced auditorium. It felt really weird and somewhat eerie to be back at the theatre, with an audience bedecked in face coverings, and a monologue surrounding the ever-present topic of coronavirus. What an experience!
I’m lucky enough to live close enough to take my bicycle down to the theatre, so can still avoid public transport most days, and the Bridge Theatre is gorgeously surrounded by amazing scenery, just opposite Tower Bridge and so close to the Thames. The social distancing measures are taken quite seriously, with all patrons asked to wear face coverings throughout their stay inside the premises, except for brief moments when eating or drinking. As far as I could see most attendees did indeed stick to these guidelines and distanced from other bubbles very well; I was still able to have a few distanced conversations with other theatre goers though, so it felt at least somewhat normal.
The auditorium looked like a freshly plucked chicken though, with about two thirds of all seats removed to provide small blocks of distanced seats. A bit of an eerie look to the sporadically beseated auditorium, and it felt like sound travelled very differently due to the minimised audience. Still, it was a delight to be back at another live performance. What used to be at least a weekly occurrence for me has turned into a rare treat that is even more cherished.
Staff worked very hard to keep the audience distanced but comfortable. The only niggle with how things were arranged would be that the auditorium didn’t open until half an hour before the show, though my time slot given to me when I booked the tickets was 50 minutes before the show. So, for twenty minutes I stood around in the foyer with other patrons waiting to be able to go to our seats. I do feel that in extraordinary times like these, it would help to open the auditorium immediately when the first entry time slot starts to everyone can make their way to their seat right away, if they wish.
The show itself documented David Hare’s experience with contracting Covid-19 just as lockdown was about to start in the UK, narrating the course of his illness alongside the political and social developments. Ralph Fiennes presents this monologue impassionately and lively, leading us through the events that lead to contracting the illness, the variety of changing symptoms throughout the progression of it, and the eventual recovery that goes along with several strong political appeals for stronger leadership and more caring decision making.
A beautifully presented perspective, very current and fascinating to hear from someone who went through it all. This show was definitely worth coming down to the theatre for and I am very much looking forward to my next visit to the Bridge in the comings weeks. A solid five out of six rainbow sloths from me, for both the monologue, as well as the distancing measures at the theatre. Thank you, Bridge Theatre!