Front Row: Theatres re-opening & online work

Last week, I (Jamie) was on Front Row. This was to discuss the reopening of theatres and who that leaves behind. There, I was able to emphasise that the closing down of opportunities for people to see shows online was going to affect far more than just disabled people.

It’s pretty gutting to slowly see shows and opportunities and possibilities disappearing, but I don’t think things are completely bleak. While theatres stream fewer shows online than at the ‘height of the pandemic’, there is definitely more than there was before the pandemic. Furthermore, the skills, knowledge, and equipment still exist.

Online theatre is an access issue for lots of groups. This includes geographically dispersed people, people with parenting and caring responsibilities, people who cannot sit through a whole show, and people who cannot afford live theatre. Losing it is something we need to unite to fight against:

To hear me on Front Row, click here [link] – 17:26-19:22 , and there is a transcript below:

Front Row interview transcript

Carolyn: With me is Jamie Hale, a disabled theatre director and playwright, who recently won the 2021 Evening Standard’s Future Theatre Fund Award for Directing and Theatre Making and he has a show starting at the Barbican Pit in London this November. You are also of course Jamie a massive theatre fan yourself but not ready to go back – why not?

Jamie: It just doesn’t feel safe to be seated in a packed auditorium for hours, for me.

Carolyn: What’s your particular reason, because you do have particular… you’re a wheelchair user and you use a ventilator, don’t you?

Jamie: Yes, I use a ventilator part time, which both increases my vulnerability to COVID but has also made me very self conscious about sitting in auditoriums previously. I always worry that something will start beeping and interrupt everyone else’s enjoyment of the show. So during lockdown, I’ve really felt far more able to experience theatre and to relax whilst doing so.

Carolyn: And what, what particularly have you watched that you just know you would have not been able to go to in real life?

Jamie: I really enjoyed Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe recently. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for me and I’m delighted to have been able to catch it. 

Carolyn: So what would you say to the people that are rushing back? Do you feel you’re being left behind? Do you feel there’s a two tier system going on here?

Jamie: I feel very concerned that as the auditoriums fill up, theatre’s will decrease the amount they offer for live streams and it will become less possible for people, people living in rural areas, people with parenting and caring responsibilities, not just disabled people like me, to access the theatre that we want to. 

Carolyn: Okay, Jamie and of course we should say that your show is going to be hybrid, it’s going to be in person and digital as well. Jamie Hale, thank you very much indeed.
Jamie: Thank you so much.