Cultural and creative life

What it felt like when live theatre returned to Sydney

The Darlinghurst-based Griffin Theatre Company is back, with a new Covid-safe venue. We headed out to join the celebrations.

  • 201 days. That’s how long the staff, performers and subscribers of the Griffin Theatre Company had to wait for live theatre to return.

    And while the experience now is not quite the same as pre-Covid, it’s not dampening the excitement one little bit.

    The Griffin Theatre Company underwent a complete transplant to lift its curtains once again.

    Capacity restrictions meant moving from their tiny home in Kings Cross, to the much larger Seymour Centre.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • “It’s kind of like a being greeted by a bunch of ninjas,” jokes one patron.

    Black-masked staff take the temperature of the 50 or so lucky people who have secured a ticket to the sold-out performance.

    Despite the small audience, or maybe because of it, there’s a current of anticipation buzzing through the foyer. They’re here to see Superheros, a new play by young playwright Mark Rogers, who is here in the audience for opening night.

    “There’s something about live theatre that is so invigorating,” says Griffin subscriber, Paul Lyon.

    “There’s a thrill that comes with watching a live performance. Nothing is really predetermined and anything can happen, script be damned.”

    As patrons and staff trickled in ahead of the show, we asked them to explain what live theatre means to them, and how they were feeling after 201 days without it.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Suzi and Paris Touma, mother and daughter

    Suzi: This is our first live performance since Covid, which coincided with the start of the Griffin season, so we’re very excited to be here! Live theatre is very intimate, and the Griffin in particular – it’s tiny and independent. It’s where ideas flow between performance and audience. It’s invigorating.

    Paris: I don’t get the same feeling anywhere else, that human to human connection. You don’t get that interaction from film. It also means getting out and about, being in a live audience and being part of that immediate feedback.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Tabatha Mangan, ticketing manager at the Seymour Centre

    It is really exciting to have everyone back. Everyone is anxious that it will go smoothly, and that people will have a good time. But as soon as people started coming in, the energy just lifted and everyone is on a massive high. To feel the energy come through the doors is amazing.

    People are desperate to have live entertainment again, so they’re happy to accept some restrictions too. They want to do the right thing. I’m really invested in seeing theatre come back, it’s my whole life – I started on stage, I direct a lot of creative projects – I came to Seymour because I wanted to be surrounded by creative people, and I definitely found that here.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Paul and Phoebe Lyon, father and daughter

    It’s the first time back at the theatre for 9 months and it feels great to be back, enjoying that connectivity and social interaction. Live theatre is important to our family, it’s fantastic, it’s feeling and being part of something. I’m really happy to be here as part of a father and daughter team tonight, and we’re expecting a great show. Go theatre!

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Frankie Greene and Verity Hampson

    Frankie: Live theatre is my livelihood. I’m a producer and development manager, and after 201 days off, it means a lot. I think it’s going to be a totally joyous experience, even with the change of venue.

    Verity: We had a dress rehearsal this afternoon and I’ve had goosebumps since then. I don’t think we thought we’d get here, I can’t believe it.

    Frankie: Obviously ticket sales have been severely hampered with Covid, so theatres are really relying on donations to bridge that gap between tickets and government support and running costs. So please donate and keep us afloat.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Mark Rogers, playwright, and Shari Sebbens, director.

    Mark: Tonight is huge for us. It’s not only the first time back in like 200 days, but this is my first main stage play, and Shari’s first director gig. It’s nuts. So not is it Covid crazy, it’s super nerve wracking crazy weird too.

    Shari: I've been passionate about theatre since I was 8 years old, watching Bran Nue Dae in Darwin, so having this performance happen tonight is the culmination of a very long journey.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Polly Rivero and Jane Gardener

    Polly: We've been going to live theatre for decades now, in terms of entertainment it’s everything, live performance is part of our lives.

    Jane: For me, it's a chance to get together with friends and see something that’s creative and warm. I mean I love going to movies as well, but there’s something special about live performance, it’s that edge of uncertainty. We were Sydney Theatre Company subscribers previously, but we’ve subscribed to Griffin looking for something more innovative.

    Polly: I don’t know what to expect, so I’m going into tonight’s performance like I go to every show, with an open mind and hoping to be surprised.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Bianca and Glen

    Glen: It’s a bit weird to be back, but exciting. I’ve been looking forward to it but been anxious it would be cancelled, so it’s a relief to be here. Live theatre is energising, it’s exciting, I always leave feeling active and recharged.

    Bianca: We used to come ad hoc to Griffin, but we picked a good year to subscribe! It’s always been lively and great quality theatre, so it’ll be interesting to see how the change of venue of changes things.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
  • Reece Roberts

    Tonight’s not the night to ask me how I’m feeling because I’ve turned up and found out my booking was for another night! We’ve been subscribers to various theatres for a long time. We never look to see what the play is, or pick what we want to see, we just turn up and wait to be surprised. In 10 years there have maybe been a couple of duds, and I wouldn’t want to see theatre any other way.

    Credit: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney

Published 9 October 2020

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