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Survival guide of a theatre director in quarantine 

Disclaimer: This article was born out of me being stuck in a small flat in London for the past three weeks or so, having received news that most of my work has been postponed or cancelled for the foreseeable future – 100% for the best – but it did mean I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands after (what felt like an extremely busy and exciting) work period for the past few months. I guess what I’m saying is that definitely read the list below as one theatre director’s attempts on finding a routine, figuring out & rationalising their existence when suddenly their profession & the space they spent most of their time at has been suspended for an uncertain period of time. 

  1. Feel hopeful by the amount of online resources made available for anyone to watch shows from and across different countries, making the idea of theatre really being accessible to all, suddenly, a not too utopist one (that said acknowledge the privilege that you still need a laptop to access these online)
  2. Watch all the shows via those streams you were too embarrassed to admit you haven’t seen before  
  3. Time to forget about theatre for a bit 

(but keep your social distance by only playing table tennis when it’s way too windy so it’s only your flatmates and you in the park)

  1. Go for a run – for the first time in forever actually do it daily – even if some days it turns into walking
  2. Read novels that have nothing to do with plays or theatre! (I particularly recommend Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy which completely challenges the idea of character and Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights which somehow made me nostalgic about airports and reminded me of how exposed native English speakers are by not having their own ‘secret’ language to turn to) 
  3. Stare at the wall (I find this one especially difficult)

(Edward Hopper: Morning Sun, 1952)

  1. Do some baking (Or, take my example and just have flatmates who are amazing at baking and only really contribute to the eating bit)
  2. Question why you chose a profession which requires groups of people to be closely together in a shared space 
  3. Remember that theatre is a thing
  4. Read Alice Saville’s article on making art during the pandemic & remember why you are in theatre 

(HAMLET directed by Christopher Rüping at Müchner Kammerspiele streamed at https://www.muenchner-kammerspiele.de/en

  1. Feel conflicted whether creating content digitally is for you or whether waiting this out and taking a break is the way to go 
  2. Consider learning coding or German (or anything other than theatre-making at this point) 
  3. Feel anxious about the world and where things are heading
  4. Watch all (or at least, some of) the films you always wanted to see but never found the time for – be blown away by Queen & Slim & The Farewell amongst other films
  5. Actually do the work which can be done remotely
  6. Rediscover your love for – Hungarian, in my case – poetry 

(Tandori Dezső: Horror)

  1. Realise that Zoom is not really compatible with your personality 
  2. Drink your fifth cup of coffee of the day 
  3. Allow yourself to be longing for theatre, for the pub, for friends, even for the rush hour on really bad days 
  4. Call people you haven’t talked to in ages (turns out that phone calls are suddenly a thing again) 
  5. Sit down and actually do those text analysis exercises you learnt throughout your training 
  6. Don’t hate the days when nothing seem to happen and you are just fighting against time/frustration/boredom 
  7. Be reminded by your dad that you must watch Die Backhen directed by Klaus Michael Grüber because it’s only available for 6 hours on Schaubühne’s online stream 

        (Schaubühne Theatre, Berlin) (Die Backhen, director: Klaus Michael Grüber)

  1. Realise this is not at all the article that you have promised to write on “digital content and what theatre is up to during quarantine time”
  2. Hope to have your thoughts more together for the next time someone asks you to write/think about theatre 
  3. Listen to Nadia Reid’s Out of My Province album until then 

[And now, some actual digital theatre content recommendations]:

*27. Breach Theatre’s ‘It’s true, it’s true, it’s trueis available to stream for 30 days and it’s still absolutely amazing 

**28. If you only watch one thing, Philippe Quesne’s show are now available online here (i speak no French, and yet I find these videos some of the most engaging and easiest to engage with, just absolutely brilliant, such inspiring stuff)

***29. The International Online Theatre Festival is up and running between 15 April – 15 May with some of the most exciting work (including lots of Ostermeier, Katie Mitchell’s Orlando, Krzysztof Warlikowski’s (A)pollonia, and huge amounts of other work from across the world) a different show available every evening

****30. Viktor Bodó & Katona József Theatre’s hugely successful very very loose adaptation of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, ‘Ledaráklnakeltűntem’ from 2005 is now available on youtube & you should definitely give it a watch (regardless the poor quality of the recording) 

*****31. ‘Lippy’ by Dead Centre is on vimeo (i still think about their show ‘Chekov’s First Play’ which I’ve seen last year & so I can’t wait to see their take here on Beckett), the password is ‘context’

******32. The Wooster Group uploads their productions on a weekly basis which gives enough space to find the time to watch it, but still gives a timeframe making you actually watch it while it’s available

*******33. Sadler Well’s has made choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker piece ‘Rain’ performed by her company Rosas available and it’s one of the most joyous and playful pieces I have watched making me truly miss being part of an audience watching a life performance 

********34. Marathon by JAMS immerses you into a group of people trying to remember a show they have made which feels strangely comforting at a time when we are all stuck inside vaguely remembering how rehearsing and making theatre feels like

*********35. Faye Driscoll’s dance piece, Thank You For Coming: Attendance if filled with silliness and joy (Enter code: ARTATHOME20 to watch it for free)

(Breach Theatre: It’s true, it’s true, it’s true)

Written by Julia Lévai

Julia is a theatre director from Budapest currently based in London. She was recently the Jerwood Assistant Director on ‘Nora: A Doll’s House’ at the Young Vic and is currently script reading for Paines Plough’s Women’s Prize for Playwriting. She also has a website with more information about her work.