Performing in a Pandemic

Throughout 2020, like a lot of arts organisations, acta adapted its artistic programme to include everything from socially distanced doorstep visits, to animation and video, to outdoor activity trails. When the summer of 2021 arrived with its promise of rule relaxation, acta produced two shows in the Beddow Theatre with a seated live audience for the first time in over a year. While audience members wore masks and capacity was halved, the rush of performing was still evident and audiences were enthralled by a taste of normality.

Abby Hitchins, a participant of acta Company and performer in Clippies, asked some of her fellow performers what it really felt like.

What was it like performing again after so long in strange times?

How was the energy backstage?

Were there any positives that came from the experience?

Read on to hear their voices…

How did it feel being back after so long?

ABBY It was very strange and such a surreal experience. I remember standing backstage and feeling like I was in a dream – a kind of out of body experience. This has definitely been something I never knew I’d miss so much. People think performing or watching a show is just a hobby but I’d 100% say it’s also therapy. A place where you can leave the ‘outside’ outside for an hour or so and be lost in a truly amazing show!

The vibe backstage was electric. I think for all of us we were just amazed that we were performing again to a live audience as I’m sure most if not all of us thought that we wouldn’t have gotten this far. Everyone was so supportive and even though we had social distancing we still had the same level of support and love for each other!

SARAH It felt amazing, honestly as if I’d never left; it was so natural and exciting. It was also scary at the same time, the anxiety to perform again and make sure that I and everyone were being safe was, at times, overwhelming. There was lots of anxiety backstage, lots of encouragement and a flurry of people getting ready and running lines – the same as pre-Covid times!

KAT For me it had been many years. It was great to be back.

What was it like seeing audiences wearing masks, and having to follow social distancing guidelines?

KAT To be honest it’s ok; I didn’t really take much notice.

SARAH It was a little sad, a reminder that we still need to be safe; however, it was so good to see an audience again!

ABBY I didn’t notice it too much as I wasn’t looking out towards the audience much…or when I was I wasn’t trying to pay too much attention.

Can you take away any positives from performing under these circumstances?

SARAH Honestly that theatre can and will go on!

KAT How much theatre is vital for your own mental health. It’s especially important for us as performers, but also how much theatre is needed in everyone’s lives.

ABBY Yes – that I’m able to do anything I set my mind to! I’ve performed a show during Covid and survived. Sounds a tad bit silly saying it like that but I generally did think I’d either have it or have to self-isolate and it was a big worry for me during the shows. We worked really hard before Covid to make this show amazing.

What advice would you tell your past self before starting the show?

ABBY Don’t worry it’ll all be ok! Enjoy every minute and don’t worry about Covid!

SARAH That you can do it, you can learn these lines and you will smash the delivery!

KAT Believe in yourself.

How would you sum up the experience?

KAT A nervous excited feeling.

SARAH I was waaay more nervous than I usually am for performances. I think it was because it was such a hard hitting show and I just wanted to do the performance and my character justice! While it was a creative opportunity to perform in short films and rehearse online, nothing beats the physical stage! I am so proud of everyone for producing such an amazing, emotional and beautiful performance! I cannot wait to get back to it!

ABBY I’d honestly do it all over again! The whole experience has been amazing and a real rollercoaster of an experience. To perform the show before Covid [Clippies previewed in November 2019] and then after Covid was a real eye opener to what has changed. Things seemed easier before Covid but that’s possibly just me. I was incredibly proud of everyone for putting on such a great show every evening! I’m very VERY lucky to be able to work with such talented people every week.

Clippies backstage