To me, UK theatre has defined many eras of my life and I’ve been so incredibly lucky to experience as much as I have. From seeing national tours in Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre of ‘Miss Saigon‘ (Cameron Mackintosh) and ‘Funny Girl‘ (Sonia Friedman) to £10 tickets to Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus‘ at the Donmar Warehouse, featuring Tom Hiddleston, UK theatre is making giant leaps in its accessibility and inclusivity. This is what makes it so unique, and so loved. It is a huge aspect of our culture and history, and it has been starkly missed over lockdown(s).
Being an audience member, however, is only one small part of theatre. Actors, musicians, directors and producers have all found themselves out of work, as well as front of house staff, designers, stage management, lighting, sound, and AV, to name but a few.
I sat down (via Zoom, of course) with Lucinda Coyle, an actor/musician and recent graduate of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, to ask what she loves about UK theatre, and what has been lost over lockdown.
Why do we need UK theatre?
“UK theatre, at its heart, is about UK history and UK stories. It is a blanket term for so many unique aspects of the theatre scene that we are privileged to have in this country. From the historical musical ‘Six‘ (Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss) which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 and is now an international success, to the work produced by the Windrush generation, like the National Theatre At Home’s production of ‘Small Island‘ (Helen Edmundson), we are telling original stories that are unique to the people of the UK.
“Aside from the West End – nowhere is comparable to the West End – the UK is always actively trying to encourage new talent and provide accessibility. It’s a forever-work-in-progress but one that is at the forefront of world theatre.”
How has Covid-19 affected your work prospects and your experience of theatre?
“Covid-19 has changed the entire theatre industry; possibly forever. Self-taped auditions have become the new normal, open-air theatres were seen throughout summer, and theatres opened their doors with masks and social distancing in order to stay alive. In June, The Old Vic streamed ‘Lungs‘ (Duncan Macmillan), and with that came a wave of online performances and streamed productions across lockdown.
“At the moment, theatres are relying on big names to sell tickets and re-establish themselves. It is now especially difficult for new graduates to even get into the audition “room”. I personally have had concerts cancelled and am finding it especially difficult to find work.
“We are an industry that is trying to claw its way back and is being knocked down at every turn.”
What were your thoughts on the retrain campaign?
“It’s frustrating to think that our industry has been given that as an option to even consider.”
How have you been keeping busy over lockdown?
“I’ve gotten really good at painting by numbers. Does that count?
“I’ve been writing a play that was supposed to have its first workshop in November. I’m now using the time to edit and focus on casting and talks with directors.
“The evolution of technology has provided so many opportunities; I was part of a gala with RicNic, which was a virtual recording that took place in August. The availability of online theatre has meant I’ve not been completely separated from the world I love.
“I’ve not yet baked any banana bread, so there’s always that to look forward to.”
If you could play any role in any show, what would it be?
“A revival of ‘Dogfight‘ by Pasek & Paul, as Rose. It’s rarely been done in the UK but had one fabulous run at the Southwark Playhouse in 2014.”
What has been your favourite ever UK production?
“You can’t ask a theatre nerd this question! If I had to pick a top three… The National Theatre’s ‘War Horse‘ (Nick Stafford), ‘In the Heights‘ (Lin-Manuel Miranda) at King’s Cross Theatre, and just before lockdown, I saw ‘& Juliet‘ (Max Martin) and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a theatre.”
And finally, do you have any advice for those wanting to break into UK theatre?
“Just don’t stop. Write, read, watch, perform, network. We’re all just trying to get there, and we will; we just have to keep going.”
So, from every performer and every audience member to UK theatre: we miss you. We love you. We know that you’ll be different when we see you again. But in the words of the ineffable Lin-Manuel Miranda, you’ll be back.
Lucinda Coyle is a graduate of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts with a BA in Performance (Actor Musician). Her recent credits include workshops of ‘No Place to Go’ and ‘The Throwaways’ (The Other Palace). Other credits include ‘In the Heights’ (RicNic, Stockwell Playhouse) and ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ (NYMT, The Other Palace).
Image courtesy of Kilyan Sockalingum.