Royal Shakespeare Company lifts lockdown spirits with outdoor theatre performances

RSC 'Snapshots' September 2020. Credit: @thersc on Twitter.

By Sophie Perry

Despite lockdown, hundreds of people have still been able to enjoy live theatre thanks to the world-famous Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

The company has lifted audience’s spirits with free socially distanced live outdoor performances for over 50 people a time throughout September.

The 45-minute-long ‘Snapshots’ have taken place for free in the Dell Gardens in Stratford-Upon Avon with hundreds of spectators in the audience each weekend.

The RSC’s Artistic Director Gregory Doran said: “Despite our theatres being closed for full productions until 2021, our acting company continue to work on events and activity, including our programme of outdoor Shakespeare in Stratford, which has proved incredibly popular with audiences.

“I am delighted to see Stratford audiences embracing this unique programme of socially-distanced, outdoor theatre and look forward to a time when we can welcome them back to our buildings to share the experience of live theatre with them.”

RSC ‘Snapshots’ performed in The Dell, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Credit: @thersc on Twitter.

The performances have been staged twice daily every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout September.

It follows the RSC’s popular outdoor programme of live theatre which began in August.

The shows have been delivered by actors from the RSC’s postponed summer productions of The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors.

They have featured a range of speeches and sonnets from some of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, as well as a celebration of contemporary work and new writing created during lockdown.

Audience member and Shakespeare Studies MA student at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, Abi Halden said: “It was lovely to be watching live theatre again.

“Shakespeare wrote throughout years of constant threat of plague, so it is culturally fascinating to look at Shakespeare in a time of pandemic.”

The layout of socially distanced theatre in The Dell, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Credit: @thersc on Twitter.

Fellow audience member and Co-Secretary of the British Graduate Shakespeare Conference (BritGrad), Saraya Haddad, said: “As someone who used to like to go to the theatre quite regularly there has been a real sense of withdrawal from not being able to go, and a sense of nostalgia for it.

“Theatre is many things but one of the things is a form of escapism. When we are living through a global pandemic, where lots of anxieties and worries are created, theatre is just such a brilliant opportunity to escape.”

Despite the popularity of these outdoor performances and the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts, the RSC has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RSC recently revealed that it will formally begin redundancy consultations with employees from early October. While causal workers will not be paid by the Company from November.