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Review: Blindness, Donmar Warehouse - the intimate social distancing experience

Back at the theatre at last...to see socially distanced stand up comedy at Battersea Arts Centre

When theatres had to close in March, I thought it might be a month or two before I was back watching live performance again.

Stan fran andrew

As the weeks passed, it became obvious that it was going to be much, much longer and I stopped thinking about when I might return.

Did I imagine, that at the beginning of August I'd be sitting on a wooden bench wearing a mask with 30, socially distanced, others waiting for a live performance to being?


The live performance was a series of stand-up comedian's headlined by Ed Gamble and wooden bench was in a courtyard at Battersea Arts Centre. 

With indoor theatres still closed, it is a genius use of outdoor space which also has a balcony level where some more people could stand.

So what was the experience like?


Battersea has a sizeable bar and a big lobby area to utilise for socially distanced drinking and after hand-sanitising and reading safety notices you are allocated a table to use pre-show and during the two 30-minute intervals.

Having two long intervals is presumably to give you time for a drink as they can't be taken into the courtyard - although the bar staff will safely store your half-full glasses or bottles if you want.

Drinks are ordered on a slip of paper left on your table and are waiting for you when you return at the interval.

Once called to the courtyard we followed the one way system and then there we were sitting in front of a microphone waiting for the show to start.

BAC microphone

The strangeness of the situation was remarked up and utilised for comic effect by the comedians throughout the evening. 

With masks covering our mouths, we wondered what it was like for the performers - could they tell from our eyes who was laughing

The courtyard is only accessible from inside the building made it feel secret, the size of the audience made it feel exclusive.

Banter with the audience was sometimes funny for the fact that no-one could respond to questions - no TikTok users in the audience for instance.

It felt wonderful to be out in the evening for the first time since March, to be watching a live performance, laughing with others and forgetting about everything else for a while.

Walking home in the dark and getting in after 10.30 pm felt rebellious, like sneaking in after curfew.

It was a special experience and one I'll always remember.

There are different comedians appearing during this run at the BAC and a few tickets left for some shows, details here.

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