Lockdown review: Five4Five

What

Five4Five was streamed live on 5 June on YouTube and raised money for Acting for Others. The creatives had a two week rehearsal period to plan and develop the specially written pieces.

Hosted by Denise Welch and presented by Gaunt and Son with Tectum Theatre, it was divided into two sections: a 45 minute piece showcasing five short plays; and a discussion about the future of the arts.

Plays

If At First by Dawn Wyndham, dir Glenn Gaunt

The Wedding by Pamela Gaunt, dir Sam Gaffney

Time Difference by James Backway, dir Ben Woodhall

Lockdown by Pamela Gaunt, dir Annabelle Hollingdale

Cabin Fever by Jon Platt, dir Rebecca Marangos

Did it work?

Although three of the plays were presented in one go, we returned periodically to those featuring Harriet Thorpe (struggling with an addictive personality in a blackly comic vignette), and Annette Badland, Georgia Conlan, Mali Tudno Jones (gran seperated by lockdown from her daughter and granddaughter).

One of the plays moved into live improvisation as an actor’s camera froze – apt as it concerned a Zoom call between friends (Ros Daniel, Helen Kent, Michelle McTernan) – and another was an amusing exchange between Dona Croll and Adjoa Andoh as they discussed a wedding between elderly Uncle Fred and his young bride.

Annette Badland and Georgia Conlan
Annette Badland and Georgia Conlan

The final piece concerned a father and mother (Paul Lavers and Erin Geraghty) hiding secrets from absent daughter Stephanie Siadatan, again over Zoom.

I found the cutting between plays to be odd, and there were no on-screen credits for writers or directors (I found them on a website). The acting was generally good, but I am getting a little bored of shows on the theme of the virus, the lockdown, the isolation. These brought little to the table which was freshly observed.

Dona Croll and Adjoa Andoh
Dona Croll and Adjoa Andoh

I did find a few quotations rang true: “no rush to get back to normal”; “my life is enough without all this rushing around”; “Mr Nicotine is the love of my life”, but sadly, the brevity of the pieces worked against them.

Discussion

I found the discussion, which touched on the professional, the personal, and the political, interesting. Clearly theatre (and television) will have to change processes in the “new normal”, but is it the case that we will need dramatic explorations of current scenarios?

Julie Graham’s point about actors being resilient beings, about to communicate and be creative even in isolation, seemed a broad point when some actors and creatives have been opening up on social media about their frustrations, fears and struggles.

A short piece about finances, angels, revenue and the amount the arts raise in income asked why the industry needed to ask for handouts when it “contributes more than football”. It was noted that science and arts are treated separately; also that future uncertainties are affecting contracts. A need for new revenue streams that don’t rely disproportionately on box office income was explored.

Discussion - Harriet Thorpe, Neil Morissey, Julie Graham, Dona Croll, Denise Welch, Adjoa Andoh
Discussion – Harriet Thorpe, Neil Morissey, Julie Graham, Dona Croll, Denise Welch, Adjoa Andoh

Annette Badland’s talk of ghost sets “waiting for us where we abandoned them” and Harriet Thorpe’s observation about the immediacy of theatre, and the need for “humanity to have a reflection of their world” only made me miss theatre more. I fully appreciate Adjoa Andoh’s description of theatre as “a mental and spiritual health service”.

The discussion closed with money talk – Denise Welch talked of the right of the performer to promote themselves, and Andoh made the sobering observation that organisations with money will always survive, and smaller theatres should be helped to build their film archives, and in other ways.

Dona Croll’s suggestion of paying to watch streams of dress rehearsals was an idea which may have legs as theatres explore ways of reopening. As Julie Graham noted, funding in general needs a radical review.

LouReviews purchased a ticket to see Five4five.

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