March 2021 – One of RPfT’s Managing Partners, Adrian McLoughlin, shares his thoughts on World Theatre Day 2021
It might seem odd celebrating World Theatre Day when, in the UK at least, no theatres are open to the general public, and few have been for much of the last year. The good news is that 17th May has been tentatively put forward as the date theatres can re-open, albeit in a limited way. If successful, full theatre as we know it could be back from 21st June. Seasons are being announced and actors are being cast. So, perhaps a time of real celebration is approaching with a genuine relaunch of live theatre for the first time in months. What better day to mark that exciting prospect than World Theatre Day 2021?
Certainly, as socially deprived individuals for the past 12 months, we’ll be intoxicated by the sense of anticipation in the foyer, the buzz in the auditorium before the play begins. The tingle in the back of the neck at the realization that this might be one of those evenings that stays in the mind for many years to come. The collective gales of laughter or quiet tears, the sigh of contentment at clever and insightful words. The uplift of spirits when something wonderful happens to the characters and the deep, satisfying sound of a full house applauding madly at the end of an afternoon or evening of total absorption in a dramatist’s imaginary world.
Yet theatre is so much more than a social event, or a night of entertainment – although that’s incredibly important in itself. Theatre can reflect who we are in our normal everyday lives. Through it we can explore who we might become at our very best, or indeed at our very worst – and the myriad of points in between. Theatre invites us into the world of ordinary people being extraordinary and consequentially, opens our eyes to what is possible for us. And sometimes perhaps what is not.
Here at RPfT we are theatre people. We all began our careers as professional actors and many of us still make a living in that way, alongside our “corporate” careers. We love film, television and radio, but the vast majority of us began our professional lives in theatre. What we do as actor/facilitators, working with participants in training sessions, can have a similar impact to what we see on stage – and indeed comes from the same place. We sense the excitement during a skills practices session when we observe the scales drop from a participant’s eyes as they begin to recognize which behaviours work for them and which don’t. And we certainly share their exhilaration at the feeling of empowerment that comes with understanding they can change what they do to achieve better results. These exquisite and sometimes tiny moments can have big impacts on future lives and are no less insightful and electrifying than similar moments which we see on stage.
So, like all theatres returning to live performances, we are thrilled and excited that slowly, but surely, we are heading back to our world of face to face training. Our first live programme has already been run and others are booked. Online training, which in truthfulness started out as a substitute, actually works tremendously well; in many cases it offers definite advantages and it is certainly here to stay. However, it feels so good to usher back in the magic of face to face work and the human contact it brings with it.
Therefore, on World Theatre day 2021, we will be applauding loudly and looking forward to welcoming back theatre in all its glorious forms. Summer of 2021 is looking very good right now.