10 stage plays and musicals that could be performed with social distancing rules
Yesterday's announcement about the new live-stream performance of Lungs got us thinking – what other plays could feasibly be staged while performers and backstage crew abide by social distancing rules? Ones that wouldn't look too out of place if actors were spaced apart.
We decided not to allow any monologues because, that'd be too easy, but we're thinking of shows where actors can prepare most of their own props, socially distance from one another and anyone backstage.
Let us know if you have any additions!
Okay we said no monologues but this show, which *does* feature a live band, is too brilliant to pass up – Jeanette Bayardelle's powerhouse performance would be a stirring way to banish any covid blues.
The Last Five Years
With the two characters – Cathy and Jamie – only seldomly sharing stage time and rarely interacting, this musical which charts a failed relationship both start-to-finish and, in a twist, finish-to-back, could be staged. The BBC has recently shown us you can also socially distance live musical accompaniment as well, so it's possible to get this one off the ground.
Annie Baker has always created exciting, form-bending work and The Antipodes is no exception. Another relatively static play that, for the most part, involves a group of individuals sat around a table telling stories. One of them – Sandy – comes and goes a lot, but the rest sit there very still. Spread the table apart Peston style and, hey presto, it could work (it might have to be a big table…).
Documenting the correspondences between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, the show sees two actors come together and bring letters to life live on stage. In Ellen McDougall's production at the Gate there were a few bells and whistles, but these can definitely be trimmed to fit the social distancing setting.
The stage show, about the Queen's conversations with her Prime Ministers, is relatively static and involves a lot of chatting while in a very formal setting. If you mimic the NST production, you can even have all the male Prime Ministers played by the same actor. The only tricky section may be the costume changes and the presence of a younger Elizabeth, but it's definitely possible to work around this.
We could genuinely add quite a few Beckett plays to this list, but Happy Days, about a woman, Winnie, submerged up to both her waist and then neck in the ground, would definitely function in a socially distanced way. Her husband Willie spends most of the play in a cave, which we can all really relate to.
Fly By Night
It may not be possible to perform with actors in a normal way, but a show with hundreds of trained birds could definitely work! This show, which originally ran as part of LIFT in 2018, is outdoors as well so audiences can see what's going on from afar.
Bryony Lavery's gripping, intense play (which recently ran in the West End) begins with three monologues that slowly weave into one another. Aside from a couple of scenes (large tables may be useful again) it should be feasible to make sure actors stay an adequate distance from one another!
Caryl Churchill's series of monologues spliced in between a group of four women sat around in a garden should provide a form-fitting context for social distanced performances. Just spread out those deck chairs!
Gary Owen's monologue-heavy play was an award-winning smash at the Sherman Theatre and the Royal Court – so can be slickly revived.