The show is back on! ‘Electric’ atmosphere as live performance returns to city at last

Massi Rossetti, left, of Lost in Translation Circus, and Stephen Crocker, of Norwich Theatre, togeth

Massi Rossetti, left, of Lost in Translation Circus, and Stephen Crocker, of Norwich Theatre, together in the big tent ready for Interlude at Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The sound of laughter and ripples of applause reverberated around the city for the first time in months as live performance returned to Norwich once more.

The big tent at night, ready for Interlude at Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Massi Rossetti

The big tent at night, ready for Interlude at Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Massi Rossetti - Credit: Picture: Massi Rossetti

After meticulous planning, the city’s cultural fightback against coronavirus began, with the inaugural ‘Interlude’ show held within a big top in Chapelfield Gardens – a stone’s throw away from Norwich Theatre Royal.

The innovative arrangement brought the buzz of live entertainment back for the first time since the government mandated lockdown, which grounded Norwich Theatre to a halt, with the loss of hundreds of shows and thousands of pounds.

And while yesterday’s opening night, which saw Norwich comedy hero Karl Minns perform, did not bring the kind of numbers a full theatre would be able to, it was a symbolic occasion, ringing in the start of a new adventure for the threatre.

The beginning of a six-week programme of events saw a reduced capacity show inside a big top provided by Lost In Translation, with chairs spread out to allow for social distancing and sides drawn up for additional airflow – making for a welcome and Covid-safe performance.

Karl Minns will kick off Interlude in Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich with She Go Does It In A Tent..

Karl Minns will kick off Interlude in Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich with She Go Does It In A Tent...With Friends Picture: Julia Holland/All About Photography, supplied by Norwich Theatre - Credit: Archant

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre, said: “For this to have all come together in just 24 days is fantastic and we were all running off adrenaline and excitement all day. The arrangements really worked and everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves.

“The atmosphere was truly electric and it just felt like such a joyous moment.”

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Mr Crocker said the opening night had intentionally been run with a slightly lower attendance of 175 people to allow for a smooth transition, but the main events would be worked at a capacity of 240.

He added: “We were expecting it to be a real challenge getting people in their seats, particularly in small bubbles, but everyone was very co-operative – I think they’ve grown accustomed to things like hand washing stations and queueing elsewhere so that really helped us.

Stephen Crocker. Picture: Dave Guttridge The Photographic

Stephen Crocker. Picture: Dave Guttridge The Photographic - Credit: Dave Guttridge The Photographic

“I’m really pleased with how it went and I hope that the more of these events we do the more confident people will feel about getting out to shows - as I think the longer we are without them the more nervous people will be.”

What does the future hold?

Mr Crocker said that while the focus remains on Interlude, its success did bode well for future events.

However, he warned it would likely not be until well into 2021 that the Theatre Royal itself can welcome performances again.

He said: “The longer we did not have audiences the harder it was always going to be and this working well will really restore confidence.

“However, I think it is going to be a long time before we can start thinking about indoor performances. Social distancing inside the Theatre Royal just would not work as well and large scale producers are not ready yet either.

“This is a six-week programme which we are focussed on now but we do have a few more things in the pipeline, so watch this space.

“The good thing about this is that it sends the message that we are still here, we are still vibrant and there is plenty more to come.”

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