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Argent Theatre, Newark, reflects on a year of coronavirus lockdown for amateur dramatic companies




Few industries have been hit harder by the pandemic than entertainment. A year ago theatres were forced to close their doors, and have yet to re-open.

Among them were theatre and amateur dramatic groups across Newark and Sherwood.

But, the green shoots have recovery can be seen and it is hoped live performances will return within months.

Argent Theatre joins national protest for more support for theatres during the pandemic. (45302726)
Argent Theatre joins national protest for more support for theatres during the pandemic. (45302726)

“It’s been a year since theatres across the country closed their doors. A year of plays, performances and livelihoods put on hold,” said Chantelle Thornley, of Newark’s Argent Theatre.

“Globally, theatre is a major industry, providing employment to hundreds of people per production ­— actors, box-office, carpenters, dancers, electricians... the list is huge

“Due to the nature of the work, above the average number of people are self-employed in theatre and the impact the closure has had on each individual is devastating.”

Argent Theatre joins national protest for more support for theatres during the pandemic. (45302722)
Argent Theatre joins national protest for more support for theatres during the pandemic. (45302722)

In December, Chantelle organised a peaceful protest, taking a stand with theatre practitioners across Britain, including Dawn French, Beverley Knight and the West End cast of Only Fools And Horses, which stars Newark’s Oscar Conlon-Morrey.

Chantelle estimated around 30 amateur theatre productions in the Newark and surrounding areas were affected by the covid-19 closure.

She said: “We are all missing theatre. There’s the financial and emotional impact on my friends who are theatre professionals, then there’s the actual fabric and upkeep of theatre buildings.

“Argent Theatre often performs in non-theatre spaces like village halls, all of which have missed out on vital revenue.

“And then there’s the personal impact. Many of my friends and fellow am-drammers are key-workers ­— me included.

“We use theatre as our psychological stabiliser as well as our social life. The rehearsals are a twice weekly physical and mental workout.”

Argent Theatre was preparing for a production of Perks Of The Job, written by local playwright Val Wilson, when lockdown struck last year.

They are now looking at performing it two years after it was first considered.

Director John Dodd and the cast has continued with play readings via online platforms but social distancing rules means face-to-face rehearsals are still on hold.

Argent Theatre is now tentatively planning for a live performance in autumn.

Chantelle said: “Never underestimate the power of the theatre family, after all ­— the show must go on.”



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