INTERVIEW: Coronavirus Theatre Club | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Before Covid-19, you could say actors were generally a placid bunch online. Maybe the odd dressing room selfie and motivational quote were shared. Now, as our entire lives are forced to be lived online and in isolation, things are changing. “Now I see a lot of fear and uncertainty, but also a lot of solidarity, pro-activeness and creativity.” Says North East writer and performer Sam Neale, as she gives me the low-down on how her new company Coronavirus Theatre Club came about.

Most of her employment comes from regional theatre in the North East. “Honestly, I would have had to sell some of my vital organs, and possibly my children, had it not been for Live Theatre and Alphabetti Theatre and their support. I love performing live, and I love writing for the stage; it’s a massive buzz. The thought that lockdown might ruin some venues and push people into hardship is absolutely devastating.”

It’s clear that our region inspires Sam, as she continues. “There’s a sense of community and collaboration that exists because it can sometimes feel like an island here. We are in that sweet spot between London and Edinburgh and therefore not really connected to either, so we do our thing and support each other and keep our scene alive because, well, we have to.”

We have a community, it will support you, and you can continue to make art if you want to. Join us!

When pal and fellow actor Brian Lonsdale tweeted on Tuesday 17th March ‘Streaming monologues from your bedroom is going to be this year’s War Horse’, it was a half-serious remark, but it started a conversation between Bri, Sam and actor and musician Michael Blair. “We started spitballing ideas of how to stay active, visible, and (perhaps most importantly) sane during isolation. Within 24 hours our new Twitter page had amassed over 1,000 followers, and we’d devised a rough plan of what we were going to do.”

Their aim is to connect writers, actors and directors at any stage in their career who wish to stay active during isolation and create short pieces of work that can be broadcast online. “We put a call out for writers to submit a 10 minute monologue to be given to an actor who learns, records and broadcasts it live from their homes.” The first screening will have taken place on Sunday 29th March, with subsequent performances following weekly screened via their Twitter page. “These may become more or less frequent depending on how quickly we receive material and can attach actors and directors to scripts.”

The response has been overwhelming; in just a few days they received 80 plays, and the submissions continue to roll in. Sam reveals: “We are seeing such a wide range of experience come through, from recent graduates to established television and West End performers. The message is clear, people want to keep busy, so we want to help them do that while creating some really interesting pieces of work that audiences will engage with.”

Creating a full-length live production with a larger cast and creative team, all done via live streams, is the goal. “We would also like to partner with theatres who wish to broadcast pre-recorded shows that have otherwise been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We have a community, it will support you, and you can continue to make art if you want to. Join us!

To get involved with the Coronavirus Theatre Club writers should send 10 minute monologues to [email protected]. Actors and directors can send their Spotlight link, CV or blurbs to the same email. Stay up to date with screenings and other news via their Twitter page @ClubCoronavirus

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