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Throwing Away One of the Few Silver Linings from this Pandemic


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One of the few good things to result from this pandemic has been the streaming of plays, talks and all sorts of other events over the Internet.   It has accelerated the development of digital performances as an art form in its own right.   Many companies have seen the emergency as an opportunity.   Just a few days ago I reviewed a magnificent double bill by the Dutch National Ballet for this website and there are many companies in this country that have produced some very good work over the last 18 months. 

I am therefore dismayed to read on The Guardian website that "50% of UK theatres streaming shows online during Covid revert to in-person only."   


Clearly  a digital performance is a different experience from a performance in am auditorium but it is not necessarily an inferior one.   There are things that a camera picks up that would not be spotted even by individuals in the front row of the stalls.   Choreographers, artists and others can be interviewed about the work in the intervals.

Perhaps more importantly streaming creates a new audience without losing the old.   The new audience will include some on limited means, restricted mobility or a long way from the theatre,

Last year I joined the Friends scheme of every company of which I was not already a member and upped my donations to make up for my absence from the box office;.   I shall be a lot less generous this year to companies, theatres and others that treat the relaxation of legal restrictions on social distancing as an excuse for cutting back on streaming .  Especially as the relaxation of restrictions already appears to have been premature (Nick Triggle Covid: The UK is Europe's virus hotspot - does it matter?, 9 Oct 2021 BBC website),

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Yes, I have been donating on line as much as I am able, and will think very hard about giving to a company that is going to withdraw this kind of support because after decades of theatre going I find myself no longer able to travel, and the Arts, one and all, but especially the streamed and on-line ballets have been my reason d'etre. RIP co-operation. 

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That’s a shame. I agree with you that streaming is an excellent method of ‘outreach’, probably far more effective than some of the other methods they use. As someone who was busier than usual during the pandemic (work, homeschool etc!) I haven’t watched much via streaming and seems like I’ve missed out now then! I know some have struggled with the technology but I don’t think these things necessarily have to go out live. 
this country has taken an enormous gamble with not double vaccinating under 18s, whilst encouraging high infection numbers in that age group. Whether that will pay off for society is yet to be seen, I just hope our young people don’t end up with a high number of  long term complications. 

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I suspect that the organisations concerned, if pushed, would say the costs of streaming are too high, especially when they're desperately trying to recover financially from a pandemic which may not be over yet.  For example, I get the impression that Sarasota Ballet's theatre isn't particularly large, especially if they're still applying social distancing, which I'm not sure about.  The costs of streaming may appear to be throwing more money down the drain, or alternatively require sponsorship from some well-heeled donor.  It may also be that companies are concerned that if they continue to provide streaming people won't attend in person.  But yes, I agree that it is disappointing that the streams are going to disappear in so many cases, rather than be regarded as a separate income stream.  I know at least one housebound person who appreciated being able to watch the RB's La Bayadere (admittedly, on Sky Arts rather than a streaming) the other day.

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