I went to the theatre during Covid-19

Did theatres open? When and why didn’t you know about it?

No. Unfortunately theatres are still closed, lockdown continues to be in place and we are still waiting for updates on the vaccine. However, I did go to the theatre and watched a play.

It was fantastic being there after such a long time!

Well, not fantastic based on the standards of the old normal but if you have been deprived of the theatre experience for so many months, then it was very good.

I went to a theatre in Athens and I was pretty lucky because the week after my visit a new lockdown was imposed and theatres were once again forced to close. This move leads to severe impact and adversity for art workers who receive minimum or no support whatsoever from the government.

It was also a bit weird.

Everything was different but that’s OK.

Booking our Tickets
Starting from the technical issues such as booking the ticket, which we did on the phone (you could also reserve through a ticket website) but had to pay in the venue. After we paid, they emailed us the tickets on the spot which they later scanned. This didn’t make much sense to be honest but hey, you’re in Greece after all.

Upon Arrival
We were asked to arrive an hour in advance and once the matinee was over and people headed out, the doors were kept open for extra ventilation but we were not allowed to go inside until almost 15′ before evening performance was starting

In terms of capacity, things seemed good in term of safety and social distancing but bad for business. I was in a rather small theatre which meant that having less than 50 people was still OK-ish and felt cosy but I’m not sure exactly how expenses are met. We counted 8-10 employees (including the two actors) whose salaries had to be covered. With the bar closed we kissed goodbye the usual ritual of chit chatting in the foyer with a glass of wine and instead we walked around the neighbourhood until the time we had to take our seats.

During the play
Once you are inside the room it is mandatory to wear a mask and you have to sit in your specified seat even if the rest of the theatre is empty. Of course, being in a half -empty room also means that you don’t have to worry about the person’s big hair in front of you blocking the view 😉

I watched Harold Pinter’s ‘Ash and Shadow’, the duration of which was almost 60 minutes. We appreciated that because imagine how uncomfortable it would be if one had to keep a mask on for a couple of hours non-stop. I’m not sure if the decision to host this short play was based on the special circumstances or if this was the plan all along, but in the context of Covid, we felt it was a wise decision and the play/actors were exceptional (you can read more info about it in English here).

I’m sure the actors themselves can reflect better on this but it seemed to me that having to perform in an amphitheatre where your left and right sides are almost (yet not entirely) empty and most of the audience is concentrated in the centre, is a bit challenging. However, the atmosphere was truly warm, the final applause was loud and vibrant. People enjoyed it despite everything.

Upon Departure
Forget the crowds storming out the doors once the play is over. The new rules were that each row was to leave separately following guidance from the ushers. Given that in Greece a controversial rule that does not allow people to be outside after midnight applies, as part of the Covid measures, we headed straight to the tube with no stops to grab a bite or a drink.

Thinking back on the day I have only positive feelings to share. It is indeed strange and you should not expect it to be as it was. For most of us, going to the theatre is an experience that begins by getting ready and ends with reading the programme on our train ride back home. However, this doesn’t mean that watching a play while social distancing will feel miserable. Every country has its own rules and I would argue that perhaps these exceptional circumstances allow us to pay even more attention to the actual viewing process than the rest of the activities that complement a night out. Definitely book a ticket once theatres are open again and remember that so many families in the sector are counting on our solidarity and support to survive these times.

Just make sure to sanitise your hands, wear a mask and keep a two meters distance.

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