by Hester Chillingworth
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London until the end of lockdown 2020
Durational performance running 24 hours a day. Review Mark Courtice 8th May 2020
Theatre in Britain has responded admirably to the lockdown. Showing recorded performances has meant that some of the very best work of the last ten years has been available to theatre-starved audiences. There is however not much work created for the new normal. The recent Zoom-hosted A Separate Peace felt like an attempt to do what we did before, only online.
Hester Chillingworth’s Caretaker by contrast is brilliantly current. For the duration of the lockdown a live feed shows the inside of the Royal Court, focussing on the stage still set for EV Crowe’s Shoe Lady. Lighting states change slowly, and every now and then a booming, echoing voice says something supportive. The clever thing is that the piece can only exist because of the lockdown – and when the emergency is over it’ll never happen again.
So, nothing very much happens but there is a huge amount going on. It suggests so much. You can remember wonderful shows you’ve seen here, you can imagine what might be done on the stage, with its hanging branches and lit spaces, you can lament what you are going to miss, or you can just let the power of an empty theatre work its magic. The stillness of a space where the point is action, the quietness of a space usually full of noise, and the gloom of subdued lights where normally the spotlight glares are all extremely powerful.
If nothing else, spending time here means a chance to think, in peace and surrounded by possibilities.
There is also a reflection of one of theatre’s most important gifts. Dropping in at midnight with 112 other people gave me a strange sense of community – not the same as Friday night at 7.15 in the foyer perhaps, but an important togetherness after all.
Project creator Hester Chillingworth
Shoe Lady by E.V. Crowe
Directed by Vicky Featherstone
Designed by Chloe Lamford