Interview: Theatre creativity during lockdown and its legacy - with Chloe Nelkin
Chloe Nelkin has run theatre, arts and opera PR company, Chloe Nelkin Consulting, for 10 years, and we sat down to talk about how theatres responded during lockdown and what the legacy will be. I also asked her what we should look out for and what she's most looking forward to seeing.
You can watch the full chat with Chloe on IGTV (link below).
What was it like when lockdown was announced in March 2020?
Crikey, it was devastating. Everything that we know and loved in this industry was just torn apart. The live entertainment industry, the very nature of it is all about being out and about and suddenly we were all locked inside for our own safety.
So, it was a horrible time, especially as we didn't know how long it was going to go on for and if everybody would get through it.
At the beginning of March, we'd actually celebrated CNC 10th anniversary and brought together loads of our past clients and our current clients and friends, and it was then the most bizarre thing that a week later suddenly that was all ripped away from us. So it was bittersweet as, of course, we just entered such a horrible 18 months.
What was the response from theatres like?
I think what was incredible was the resilience of so many theatres, particularly smaller theatres, who were suddenly working to get their programmes online, were working within the restrictions to try and film new work to still make things accessible.
Or were commissioning and coming up with new projects or fundraising initiatives.
Just thinking back to what we worked on, we worked on something called All The Web's A Stage for Shakespeare day last April. And loads of artists came together and just donated their time to raise money for those in the arts who were affected by the pandemic.
So they were amazing initiatives like that. We also worked with High Tide, and they commissioned five new writers to create pieces in response to what was going on: Love in the time of Corona.
So, despite everybody being stuck and all theatre doors being closed - and not to take away from an awful time - we did see amazing new work being created.
And I think all credit to the tiny, tiny theatres who managed to go online, go digital with barely any budget and previously having barely created anything in that medium because it just wasn't something that was part of everyday theatre life.
What will be the legacy for theatre of the past 18 months?
Previously, some companies were working in the digital sphere, but on the whole, people weren't properly recording shows, and we weren't making shows accessible online.
And I think that's a legacy that we can really learn from and hopefully keep; digital makes work so much more accessible to people who can't get to the theatre and international audiences. It just opens the doors to such a range of different people, enabling them to see shows.
It also enabled shows to have a longer life. Whereas lots of shows can't afford to have a three or four week run in a venue, being able to film a work and have a longer digital run certainly seems possible.
And I also think Zoom is going to do huge things for the industry as much as we have a love-hate relationship with it.
I've seen incredible collaborations between artists on the other side of the world and meetings that probably wouldn't happen for months and months because of travel restrictions because Zoom enables these conversations to actually happen.
You are never going to replace sitting in a theatre and watching something because the feeling of watching live performance on stage in front of you just cannot be replicated, and we've missed that dreadfully. But digital gives huge opportunities to change the industry in a positive way.
Now that theatres are opening again, what do you recommend?
We're looking after so much incredible work across London and the UK, and it's always so, so hard picking one thing because I love it all. But I was just working with the Pleasance on their Autumn/Winters season, and we'll be announcing that on Thursday (9 September), so I'm gonna say that is something to watch out for.
They've got a hip-hop musical, there's some Harry Potter in there, there's a new amazing drag show from incredible artists, and then there's also just some serious, meaty theatre that we're all longing for. So watch out on Thursday because we will be announcing that then.
And finally, what are you looking forward to seeing that you aren't involved with?
So in a couple of weeks, I'm going to see the new Akram Khan show Creature. That's something I had booked, I think, for last April, and then it was moved to November, and now it's moved to this September.
So after all that time, it's highly anticipated, and I'm also such a huge Akram Khan fan and Sadler's Wells fan.
And I'm also going to Frozen, which I'm so excited about and then lots more besides. It's just so nice to be booking things and rushing to see everything again.
Hope you've enjoyed this write up of what was my first Instagram Live (I'm hoping to line up some more in the coming weeks. What are you looking forward to seeing most at the theatre in the coming weeks/months?
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