What a Difference a Year Makes.
Updated: May 29
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One year ago, wide eyed and filled with the promise of new and potentially enlightening experiences, I embarked upon the Bloggers & Critics Scheme. Fast forward to the same time this year, and I’m left reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ when the Theatre Royal’s schedule was overflowing and we were blissfully unaware of what lay just beyond the dawn of the new decade.
Since being asked to write a post about the fond memories I have, and those things I miss about TRP, I’ve been reflecting, and, in all honesty, it’s hard to put into words, but I will try.
I’ve always loved the theatre, although haven’t been able to attend as much as I’d like to over the years. Recently I decided to make sure that changed, so when the B&C Scheme opened up, I jumped at the opportunity. For me, it offered a fresh avenue to learn and grow, to experience and explore, as well as to be inspired and perhaps channel my own creativity more.
During the journey, we were extremely privileged to glimpse behind the curtain of a vibrant producing theatre that paves the way for cultural development in Plymouth. Reviewing many amazing shows, attending various workshops, meeting industry professionals, and nosing about backstage were definitely hugely rewarding experiences. However, I wouldn’t want to single out any one in particular as being the ultimate highlight. Having said that, almost certainly two of my favourite shows were ones that we were unable to write about, so I’d like to give them a little extra love here and now: Chris White with his hysterically touching Moist, Moist, Moist that, at times, felt like he was addressing you directing, whilst reaching into your heartbroken and fractured soul with his clever, mesmerising talent and boyish charm. As well, as The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, a production by Theatre Royal and Told By an Idiot that was so quirky and unique it left my jaw aching from over 90 minutes of unabated grinning.
Fast forward to today and Covid-19 has almost certainly had a staggering impact on theatres worldwide. One of the saddest aspects in terms of Plymouth’s cultural perspective is the knock on effect it's had on the Mayflower 400 Commemorations. Years of hard work have been ploughed into planning this moment in history, including into shows such as This Land, TRP’s first ever international community production, which has had to drop anchor and plot a course for its new destination in 2021. It must be disheartening for those who have dedicated so much time and energy to projects only for them to be hit by the Covid storm right before opening night. But, the show must go on, and, hopefully, many events will still take place later this year or next.
So, back to the subject of what I miss. For me, far beyond one specific moment, or production, is simply leaving the theatre feeling inspired and uplifted by the wealth of creativity, talent, and teamwork, no matter how big or small the show. And when I say ‘small’, I mean purely in terms of production/cast size. Some of the most wholehearted, captivating, and emotionally charged evenings for me have taken place in The Drum, an intimate and confronting space that leaves no place to hide. And, what I long for again is the wonder of being immersed into a different world, momentarily embracing life through someone else’s eyes, finding meaning in their vulnerable narratives, then leaving with a renewed passion for digging deeper, pushing further, and striving for more authentic expression in the world around me. It’s the opportunity to simultaneously escape reality and to embrace my own more authentically and wholeheartedly.
They say time is a healer; I hope this is the case for theatres across the country. Stories are at the heart of our individual and collective journeys, and what I’ve come to appreciate more during this national hibernation is that places like TRP are exactly what give life meaning. The theatre showcases our humanity so succinctly, providing form to the expressions of our human experiences.