Paul Kerensa: ‘The show must go on’
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The Guildford comedian looks at the future of Surrey’s theatres
It’s a tough time for many industries (every industry? Apart from maybe the hand sanitizer. I should have listened to my dad...). As a comedian and writer, my thoughts gravitate to the arts industry. It’s difficult to see how and when it can return for another curtain call.
Surrey’s theatres have been familiar to me since I was a child. I’ve enjoyed pantomimes at Camberley Theatre, Woking’s New Victoria Theatre and the Yvonne Arnaud, from the age of seven to last year.
As a performer, my first stand-up gig was at Redhill’s Harlequin Theatre. I’ve since run comedy shows at Epsom Playhouse and Guildford’s Stoke pub, and done countless pub gigs for Guildford Fringe and others. I’ve gigged at G Live, the Electric Theatre, Farnham Maltings, Cranleigh Arts Centre, Horsham’s Capitol and Windlesham Club. (I’ve been booked outside of Surrey too, but I’ll write about those in ‘Outside of Surrey Life’ magazine.)
Most theatres need at least 80 per cent capacity to break even. From the moment lockdown began, I could imagine the impact on such venues. Comedy clubs would surely be almost the last places to re-open. Who’ll spend time in a pokey comedy cellar, until the coast is as clear as my diary’s been?
Then there’s the ‘opening mouth to laugh’ factor. Someone pointed out that the secret to staging live comedy now is to book terrible comedians, so no one laughs and airborne particles stay put. My bookings still haven’t gone up though.
It would take a miracle to keep all of our venues solvent in a time like this. I don’t know how many will return, when or how.
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I have no solution alas. So why am I writing this? Well I can’t stand by and watch these buildings turn into Surrey’s biggest soft-play centres. If I can pay tribute to them in a few lines, then why not.
All I can encourage is that if you know someone who works in such a place, if you can book a ticket when things return to normal, if you can see a play or a musical or a comedy show when there’s money in your pocket and the time is right, then no need to applaud at the end – the cast will applaud you. Take a bow, audience.
The show must go on, and so must Surrey’s brilliant venues. As to when – well listen out for those lobby announcements, then please take your seats.