For my first post-lockdown visit to a live indoor performance I cycled through traffic-calmed streets to the Bridge Theatre, next to Tower Bridge, where they are staging a two-month season of Talking Heads (Alan Bennett) double bills. Just in itself it’s encouraging to see the theatre’s website list nightly performances, albeit small-scale ones, unfolding months into the future – rather than the odd event here and there, a more common experience at the moment.
The Bridge has very flexible seating (or perhaps very willing seat movers) so around 650 of the capacity 900 seats had been removed. We sat at a small distance from other ‘bubbles’, rather luxuriously, as if in business class. The house staff carried out all the entry-exit-mask precautions with great elegance. Nick Hytner always insists that this theatre exists entirely on its earnings, with no public or private sponsorship, so I do hope this present season will work out financially for him, as it’s such a beacon for live performance at the moment.
Even though I can feel a bit averse to Alan Bennett in the theatre (an unusual aversion I know) I thoroughly recommend this experience to those that can make the trip, based on the wonderful performances I saw, by Rochenda Sandall and Kristin Scott Thomas no less (different actors appear every night in this repertory season). An extra enjoyment was taking part in a big audience cheer and round of applause at the end. That’s also something I’ve missed over the last six months. (And in parenthesis we wondered, exiting the theatre, why the BBC diddn’t fit just a couple of hundred audience into their generally excellent live Albert Hall Proms.)