In a New Light – European theatre in lockdown

Theatre faces an existential crisis: doors closed, auditoriums empty, stages silent. That much is obvious. But theatre, like all the performing arts, exists only in people, so it’s not just the buildings or even the businesses that are struggling, it’s millions of people. Actors, designers, stage managers, costumiers, musicians, box office staff, directors, wig-makers, set builders, electricians – in fact, it’s a whole cultural ecology that is dying for lack of oxygen. And as weeks turn into months and months threaten to become years, more and more people are leaving in search of an income, an occupation, a future. The task is no longer to reopen theatre, but to rebuild it. 

That’s the background of the conversations I’ve been having with European theatre makers during recent weeks. All are playwrights, but they are also directors, dramaturgs, actors, puppeteers, film-makers and poets. Through Fabulamundi, they were making new friends in theatres across Europe, but now, like everyone else, they are at home in various stages of lockdown, looking after children and worried about relatives, unsure when or how they’ll get back to work. That sounds grim, to be honest, but our conversations were rarely that. We did talk about the crisis, and the difficulties faced by theatre artists in countries as different as Germany, Romania, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. But we talked about how their own ideas and work were evolving, and their hopes for a better future, in theatre and in society. 

Today, Fabulamundi publish the first of those conversation, with the French playwright Lancelot Hamelin, who I first had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago, in Barcelona. And, like everyone I’ve spoken to in the second series of interviews, he was full of ideas and projects, including his work with patients in a psychiatric hospital in Caen, teaching digital comics during lockdown and questions about how to live with digital technology without being made to work inhumanly fast. You can read more about the series on the Fabulamundi website, and watch the videos on Facebook and YouTube. There’ll be a new one up each Wednesday for the next seven weeks. Still to come are interviews with  Francesca Garolla (Italy), Radosław Paczocha (Poland), Elena Vlădăreanu (Romania), Vít Peřina (Czech Republic), Kevin Rittberger (Germany), Victoria Szpunberg (Spain) and Azar Mortazavi (Austria).