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The early days of Covid were tough for everyone. We were all stuck at home, learning remotely, working remotely and trying to get used to the new normal that was the year of Covid.
In those early days, one of the highlights was the New Theatre’s Fightback 2020 Festival which was fostered by the New Theatre and takeyourseats.ie and which was made up of 12 original plays by 12 artists. Two of my favourites were Elizabeth Moynihan’s An Unmade Bed and Tara Maria Lovett’s The one Tree.
It is hard to quantify how much this one festival contributed to the sanity of the nation but I know that it definitely helped me.
As the country began to reopen and we all got back to the gym and to work and to school, the one area that was left behind was the Theatres. Leaving the Theatres behind also meant the government were leaving the artists behind.
Blacklight Productions, in association with Performing Ireland, are protesting the exclusion of theatres from our new arts venue covid guidelines. We’ll be live streaming a ‘theatre takeover’ this weekend – showing theatre from An Táin, Dundalk, and streamed in the Lighthouse cinema.
From Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World to O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars to Marina Carr’s On Raftery’s Hill and Mirriam Needham’s Compostella writers have dealt with topics that matter: theatre has been a voice for change in this country. Theatre audiences have helped shape history.
For the most part the arts have survived in spite of, and not because of the government of the day. The quality of the performances has ensured that theatres are full but a full theatre does not equal a living wage for all of those involved in making those productions.
With theatres closed, with audiences shut out, not only are these voices being silenced, their way of life and means of earning a livelihood have been taken away.
Today, under the new government guidelines, Ireland’s theatre has been forgotten. It is not seen as valuable to the economy. The Chief Medical Officer told us that theatre was simply not considered even and that there was no discussion around distinguishing between cinema and theatre. But, this is hard to comprehend. The politicians were made aware of this and know it well.
Earlier in the year People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett put it clearly:
The long-standing failure to respect and acknowledge the huge societal importance of arts and music and the huge contribution it makes to the country’s well-being and international reputation is shameful enough but in the face of the Covid crisis it is literally a life and death matter for the sector and the livelihoods of those that work in it.
There is no doubt that the politicians knew, they just did not care enough about Irish Theatre to bring it to the CMO and NPHET. However, Irish Theatre does merit consideration.
We are pleased to see the Abbey Theatre being afforded a trial – but the conditions offered are not replicable on a smaller scale and theatres continue to perish.
There are so many contradictions in the guidelines. On the one hand, the Theatres are closed while the Cinemas are open. Once can only wonder if the Government cares more about lining the pockets of the multinational’s franchises which run the majority of Irish Cinema than catering for the homegrown and unique shows that are produced for all the small theatres around this country.
Blacklight Productions are teaming up with the Lighthouse cinema and will be streaming theatre live onto the big screen to remind our government why we deserve to be remembered. I should add that Blacklight produced one of the most powerful and memorable plays that I have seen in the last year: Masterpieces and was also the last play I saw before the lockdown kicked in.
Audiences can help with this protest and to demonstrate to the Government how important Irish Theatre is by joining Blacklight and the Lighthouse Cinema. You can join in virtually through YouTube (Link Below) or via the limited tickets which will be available at the Lighthouse Cinema (in line with current Government restrictions).
Theatre, on the big screen: Saturday 19 Dec, 12PM
#SaveTheArts #SaveTheatre #WhatAboutUs?
Writer/Director: Cliodhna McAllister
Producer: Sancha Mulcahy
Production Design: Chris Merton
Costume Design: Henrique Caliento
Videography: Steven Larkin
Composition: Jamie Bishop
Barry John Kinsella