The Malta Independent 19 September 2020, Saturday

Life after Lockdown: Raising the Curtain

Wednesday, 5 August 2020, 10:42 Last update: about 3 months ago

Louis Gatt

Much of life is just pure speculation these days.

For example, just lately I have taken to wondering just how long our theatres are going to remain closed. We love an evening at the theatre, even if the play/concert we are attending is not great. It's a night out, with perhaps a bite to eat at a restaurant afterwards... so a cause for celebration, even a little celebration.

But, as we are all aware, life as we know it changed, possibly permanently, after March and COVID19. We were looking forward to Masquerade's production of Matilda, the musical and the annual MADC summer Shakespeare in San Anton Gardens. This year I believe it was going to be Polly March's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Not my favourite among the Bard's comedies, but I was interested to see what Ms March made of it.

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We are, sorry... were... very lucky here in Malta, to get to see some really excellent productions, to as near as dammit, professional standard. The dear old MADC has been churning out some pretty good stuff since, seemingly... Noah was commissioning shipwrights. And in recent years we have been regally entertained by the likes of the afore-mentioned Masquerade. And let's not forget the sometimes quirky contributions of Adrian Buckle's Unifaun Theatre Company.

Obviously not everything we get to see is worthwhile. I am reminded of, what was billed as "a one-man show" at the local theatre in Gharb Gozo, a couple of years ago. The audience comprised predominantly, a crowd of expat Brits. Most of us had no idea what to expect; what we got was a gent in clown make-up, who proceeded to mumble his way through an excruciating hour-long waste of his and everybody else's time. By the end I was extremely angry; not at the fact that this nonsense cost me money... but while I dozed through this appalling mess, I could have been doing 101 other more useful things!

To be honest I had never envisioned a time when we couldn't visit a theatre. They had always sort of been there; I mean where were they going to go? A visit to Teatru Manoel was always a bit special, but I can imagine they'll have a few problems getting back to business. Social distancing for audience members will be nigh on impossible - and whoever was responsible for removing the central aisle in the stalls really does need a good kicking. The last time we were there, obviously BC, I was forever having to stand up to let some punter struggle past me. Something tells me the abandonment of a central aisle was not really thought through.

I'm not a fan of panto, but I can't see one being staged either at the Manoel, The Catholic Institute or the Ta' Qali tent. Panto requires a lot of physical and slapstick comedy... good luck with that while social distancing... in masks... with hand sanitiser at the ready.

I see the impresario/composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is making the case for a return of live theatre, citing the reopening of cinemas and the reintroduction of air travel as similar permissible activities. And I agree with him: pray tell me, what is the difference between sitting in a cinema or airliner to that of occupying a seat in a live theatre?

 


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