The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has thrown a whole new light on certain plays, the ones about isolation, loneliness and surreal landscapes. So I’ve compiled a list of plays that I think reflect the current weirdness and how we might be feeling.
These aren’t plays that are for escapism but more seeing the human condition through a pandemic lense. They are also all plays I’ve actually seen.
1. Mr Burns, Almeida Theatre
This play is set in the future when for some reason there is no electricity so people spend their time trying to recall episodes from The Simpsons. The more you remember the greater currency it gives. I didn’t get on too well with it at the time but given how inventive we are having to become to entertain ourselves in lockdown it feels appropriate.
2. Pitchfork Disney, Shoreditch Town Hall
Quite a few Philip Ridley plays feel appropriate because of their dark, broken, near-future feel. But I chose Pitchfork Disney because it is about ‘outsiders’ arriving and disturbing the routine in a disconcerting and threatening way. Taken metaphorically it works for COVID-19.
3. You Stupid Darkness, Southwark Playhouse
Set in a decaying office, a group of volunteers man a helpline called Brightline for people looking for help in seeing the positives when the world outside is not in a very good state (think stormy weather and people having to wear gas masks outdoors).
4. Misterman, National Theatre
Cillian Murphy plays a man living in isolation having a series of encounters that might be real or might be imagined.
5. Waiting For Godot, Barbican
Any production would do (and I’ve seen a few) as the play is essentially about two men waiting and nothing much happens. Which feels wholly appropriate right now.
6. The Future, Battersea Arts Centre
I’ve chosen this as it explores the good and bad of AI and given we are potentially entering a period of national location monitoring, the whole idea of technology playing a more decisive role in our lives feels appropriate.
7. Twilight Zone, Almeida Theatre
Just because it does feel like we are in an episode of the Twilight Zone doesn’t it?
8. Macbeth, Trafalgar Studios
This is more to do with the setting rather than the subject matter. Jamie Lloyd chose to give Shakespeare’s play a dystopian feel, no medieval castles rather a near future when the world has seen better days.
9. X, Royal Court
A crew on a space station is waiting for craft to collect them and take them back to earth except it is late and all lines of communication have died. They start to lose all sense of time and madness starts to creep in.
10. On Bear Ridge, Royal Court
John Daniel and Noni once ran a successful village shop but then all their customers left and now they are alone on the mountain and down to their last bag of potatoes. At the time I said: “It captures the beauty of belonging and humanity whilst simultaneously describing an external world that has crumbled into war, decay and mistrust.”
This list is part of a series I’m writing to celebrate 10 years of Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog. If you have an idea for a list you’d like me to compile let me know via email or in the comments.
You might also like to read:
10th Birthday list – the best play of each year of Rev Stan’s Theatre blog (or the agony to choose list).
Q&A: Big Telly Theatre’s Zoe Seaton on the company’s new live, virtual, interactive play Operation Elsewhere.
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