In 1592 London playhouses were closed down on scientific advice as plague ravaged the capital and large gatherings of ‘ne’er do wells’ were not thought responsible enough to socially distance. Yes it’s surprising isn’t it – large mass gatherings attending theatre! That lasted for about 18 months; but in 1606 and 1665 the curve hadn’t flattened, there were further spikes of the bubonic and the doors were shut again. Luckily for Shakespeare they were open more than closed or he would have wasted all those quills.
In 1642 Mr O Cromwell decided the decadence and frippery of those entertainments for the ‘ne’er do wells’ was against his plan for national austerity of fun and amusement and the shutters went up again. This time for 18 years until, thankfully, jollier times were ushered in by Charlie 2 and his laughing cavaliers, decadence and frippery returning to the stage at maximum volume.
In the last century, Wars 1 and 2 caused many theatres to close. A stout Bristolian was employed to lob any falling incendiaries off the roof of the city’s Old Vic Theatre into the nearby Avon – luckily he had a good lob. In London, notoriously, it was the Windmill Theatre that was able to play to full houses still, even if they were all male and wore raincoats. The doors did open again though and without the modern intrusion of TV and other technical interference, entertainment went live again.
And so to 2020 and Mr Johnson’s suggestion that ‘pubs, clubs and theatres’ should be avoided, leading to immediate closure and the return of actors to ‘rogue and vagabond’ status, followed by compulsory order. Keswick’s TbtL, along with all theatres, cinemas and other public entertainments for ‘ne’er do wells’, closed its doors and remains sadly with that sign still hanging forlornly about its portals.
Whenever it re-opens, and at the moment that question is work in progress determined by the whims of the Covid animal, I have suggested a look back at history to restore capacity audiences – but they feel public hanging and an all nude season may get them in trouble with Equity, the actor’s union. I am still waiting to hear about my other idea: a complete 30-week season of my one-man plays – I did add that the ‘one-man’ label referred to me and not the audience.
But when the doors do open, the conspiracy will have failed! Oh, didn’t I tell you? I have a theory that the closure of cinemas in particular, is a dastardly conspiracy to prevent my nephew’s film, shot up here last year, from ever being shown. His first film ‘Hinterland’ opened the Beijing Film Festival a few years back and the first question in the Q & A session afterwards was: “Why is your film so boring Mr. Macqueen?”. Need I say more?
It will reach the screens eventually, theatres will re-open and I will “Bah Humbug!” around village halls again. Until then send your support to TbtL and you can see some old friends of mine online (!!!) at https://spotonlancashire.co.uk/spot-on-stories/