Tuesday 17 March 2020. One of the last theatre performances -for the foreseeable future – in the theatre capital of the world took place at London’s Old Red Lion Theatre. A historic, sobering moment, one of many during the global coronavirus crisis.
To celebrate, commemorate and commiserate, artistic director Alexander Knott brought forward by a day an already planned post-show Q&A. It was a night of closure in more ways than one.
The Old Red Lion Triptych, which had been due to run until 21 March 2020, brings together three short plays in one thematically linked production – the first revival of Nuclear War, premiered at The Royal Court Theatre in 2017 and written by Tony and Olivier Award winner Simon Stephens, and two new plays by less established writers, David Spencer‘s Buried and Max Saunders-Singer‘s Graceland.
For the post-show discussion, I was joined onstage by Alexander Knott, Simon Stephens, Max Saunders-Singer and Zoe Grain, who co-starred in Nuclear War and is artistic director of BoxLess Theatre, one of four companies that collaborated on the production.
In the room with us were the rest of the cast – James Demaine (Buried), Anthony Cozens (Graceland) and Freya Sharp (Nuclear War) – and additional creative team members, as well as other theatremakers.
My framework for this talk was to address the production and why it may provide a collaborative model for theatre when it returns and, with regards to the big issue of coronavirus, how the closure of theatres and the way it’s been handled affects independent venues like the Old Red Lion, individual theatremakers and theatregoers.
Simon Stephens also shared incredibly inspiring thoughts on the nature of art and advice on coping with both quarantine and a challenging industry – top tip, never talk about your career, but rather your working life.
An evening I’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone who came out and participated under such extraordinary circumstances. We will be back in a room together sharing the experience of live theatre when this all over. In the meantime, everyone, stay safe and healthy and keep creating your art. As Simon urged so eloquently: Don’t despair, never despair, keep working.
Event photography by Peter Jones.
Prior to its coronavirus closure, the Old Red Lion Triptych had opened to four- and five-star reviews. Production photography by Charles Flint.