My first indoor theatre trip for six months was to one of my local drama schools, LAMDA, who are currently staging their summer season.
As we are welcomed into the space (face coverings mandatory), there are futuristic temperature checks before we congregate in our bubbles in the foyer. The performance takes place in the Sainsbury Theatre, a new space for me after visiting the Linbury Studio last year.
Social distanced seating has been set up in the stage area for the audience, with the action taking place in the stalls and circle seating, and around us. Ghost/Light is about theatre, storytelling, music and space. About the lost connection between actor and artist.
“I see a playground for adults”, says one student actor as each is invited to describe the theatre they work in. There are love letters to the theatre, examples of innovation and imaginative use of the space. Ghost light bulbs are dotted around.
Actors fold their bodies into spaces between seats usually occupied by audience feet, bags and coats. They sit apart, place black x’s on seats, stand aloof to perform their pieces. Now and again the actors are at the side of or behind us, in strange shadows.
The theatre veverberates with the voices of performers and breathing of audience members, our masks hiding those reactions which actors feed from. There are story threads including a FOH worker being photographed for a feature, but mainly this is creative improvision, crafted with care.
There is dancing, quiet singing, comedy, and musical interludes (a whisper from Heart of Glass, anthems blaring from D:REAM and REM, and Chopin’s Etude no.3 – inspiration for Tino Rossi’s Tristesse, Jo Stafford’s No Other Love, and Serge Gainsbourg’s Lemon Incest.
The audience was even invited to join in a visualisation, which made the experience more claustrophobic, although I didn’t mind. In a way it brought us together in spirit while physically 2 metres apart.
I wouldn’t call the experience comfortable, but it was certainly emotional to be in a theatre auditorium again where the lights went down, and with a group of twenty performers at the start of their careers in a time of such uncertainty.
Ghost/Light was devised by the student cohort in collaboration with director Matt Hassall, and additional writers Simon Stephens and Imogen Knight. It was lit by Oliver Horne with sound by Laura Howard. Imogen Knight was movement director.