Sleepless brings live entertainment back to the stage

By Steve Cain

There’s no doubt that live entertainment is one of the industries to have been hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, an ambitious production of Sleepless at the Troubadour Theatre, demonstrated that it is possible for shows to return to the stage.

Harriet Thorpe, who performed in the musical, tells Steve Cain how it was done.

Based upon the recent success of Sleepless (a new musical version of the 1993 romcom Sleepless in Seattle) producers Michael Rose and Damien Sanders have proven that it is possible to put performers back to work.

“Not one member of the audience, cast or crew caught Coronavirus during the run,” said Harriet Thorpe, who played Eleanor alongside Kimberley Walsh and Jay McGuiness. “That proves it’s possible to bring back shows safely.”

To adhere to the constraints of the global pandemic, the Troubadour Theatre in Wembley Park slashed audience capacity by two thirds, tested the entire company every day, introduced a one-way access system and required audiences to wear face coverings throughout.

“I hope the show provides some sort of template for bringing back our West End,” she adds.

Harriet, who lives in north London with her two children, has extensive theatre credits but is probably best-known for her television roles as Fleur in Absolutely Fabulous and Carole in The Brittas Empire.

“I’m always busy,” she said. “As well as performing and teaching, my sister – the actress Matilda Thorpe and I run Dr Theatre, an international presentational skills coaching company. I’ve also done several pilots, concerts and fundraisers from the comfort of my own home. Then there’s The Wonderbirds four times a week, too!”

It was a warts-and-all Zoom conversation with showbiz pals Debbie Arnold, Sherrie Hewson and Dee Anderson, creators of Thunderbirds that provided the inspiration for The Wonderbirds.

“Debbie had the idea of getting some friends online, just to chat,” explains Harriet. “We ended up having so much fun that we had to share it.”


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