I have often wondered whether there is a way that theatre could engage audiences on a returning basis in the same way that television drama does. Admittedly the rise of catch-up and streaming services like iPlayer and Netflix has changed the way that TV is consumed as well, but there are still shows that air once a week and viewers tune in live to watch each episode. Is there a way that theatre could do the same? Present a six part drama over six weeks and attract audiences for each of those weeks?
It may not have been done successfully, at least to my knowledge, but one theatre company has found a unique response to the current lockdown that might just give audiences the appetite for recurring theatre.
Tramp were due to open the world premiere of Philip Ridley’s The Beast of Blue Yonder at Southwark Playhouse last week – a production I’d been looking forward to for months. With that now impossible, and all of the actors out of a job, the company’s artistic director Jack Silver spoke to Ridley to see what could be done – and the answer was a brand new series of theatrical monologues, written by the playwright specifically for the company under the title of The Beast Will Rise and set to be recorded at home by members of the cast and released weekly on social media.
“I spoke to Philip to see if we could come up with ideas to help the cast and creatives financially, and also to give them something to keep their creative juices flowing” said Silver, “and we came up with the idea of The Beast Will Rise. The cast of the play will perform the monologues each week, which will be available to watch for free online, with the audience invited to make a donation. We promised people a Philip Ridley world premiere and we’re going to give them one. It’s not the one we’d originally planned, but in a way that makes it even more exciting.”
The first piece, released last week, was Gators – starring Eastenders’ Rachel Bright and marking the first ever online world premiere for Philip Ridley. A blackly comic tale of a town apparently stalked by alligators, the show feels like a direct response to the current situation with people forced to hide in their houses and suspicious of what’s outside, but the wry collision of influences owes as much to tales of forbidden love or to vampire or zombie movies as it does to the coronavirus.
There are currently 13 more pieces planned, set to be released on Saturday evenings. With live Saturday night TV shelved for the foreseeable future, audiences could do a lot worse that paying a visit to the unique world of Philip Ridley on a weekly basis.
Find The Beast Will Rise at www.wearetramp.com
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