I describe myself as a theatre kid without the talent that most theatre kids possess. I adore everything about a trip to the theatre, I nearly exclusively listen to show tunes, and I collect all my theatre trip programmes. If I had a lick of talent, I would have been the most unbearable kid growing up. Alas, I can’t hold a tune, nor can I dance on beat. So, I live vicariously through watching theatre productions.
Every birthday and Christmas, I would be gifted at least one trip to the theatre, whether to watch a ballet, a play, or a musical. It became a tradition for me and my mam, it was exciting, and it was fun. There was nothing like the post-show buzz where we’d be swarming out of the foyer and into the street with awed grins on our faces.
But then, of course, Covid hit and shut down theatres across the country. I’d been fortunate to have travelled to London a fortnight before the country shut down. I’d been to see Be More Chill which had only recently opened on the West End. When we went, there were only a couple of cases in England, nothing to worry about. How wrong we were.
The lockdown happened, and everything was cancelled. My flatmate and I were booked to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in June, and I’d had tickets for shows back in my home city. I was restricted to listening to the soundtracks or waiting for the professional recordings of live shows to be released. Obviously, it had to happen. But for me, and many other theatre lovers, it was a massive loss.
So, you can imagine how quick I was to book in when they started to open.
On September 1st, I was gifted tickets to see Heathers on opening night for my 21st birthday. In a week’s time, I was due to return to what felt like my second home. I couldn’t wait. As per our tradition, we made a night of it. We went out for food and a few drinks before making our way to our local theatre. Everyone was wearing masks, but I could still hear the excited chatter as we waited for the show to begin. And holy cow. What a return. My experience of Heathers was possibly one of the best audience experiences I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if that’s down to the sheer love of being back that I felt, or if it was just one of those shows. But the emotions were high, and I was close to crying with utter joy. I was buzzing afterwards, and I couldn’t stop thanking my mam for buying the tickets.
Two weeks later, I saw Six! at the Norwich Theatre Royal. It was my first time in this theatre, and it was my first time seeing this show. And wow, what a show. As with Heathers, I was moved to tears. At the end, the audience were all up dancing and it genuinely felt like coming home. It was clear to me that everyone in that audience was there because they had a genuine love for theatre, and they’d missed it during the pandemic just as much as I had. It may not have been the full theatre experience – part of the stage was blocked by the person in front of me – but it brought back a sense of comfort that was deeply missed during lockdown. I can’t wait to find myself in more audiences this year, catching up on all that was missed.
Afterall, there’s something about the arts that just makes you feel at home.