BOAT Unlocked: Brighton Open Air Theatre
Whilst indoor entertainment venues are struggling with the complexities of opening to the public, Open Air Theatres were given the green light earlier this month. A desperate scramble ensued to rescue as much of the remaining summer season as possible.
In record time The Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) has managed to put together a wonderfully varied programme that runs until the end of September including music events, children’s shows, plays, comedy and even opera. The shows have been completely rewritten, restaged to take into account social distancing and rehearsed via zoom or in tight social bubbles.
I was honoured to attend their opening event this afternoon BOAT UNLOCKED to kick start the season.
Travelling to Brighton, feelings were mixed. Together with the usual buzz of excitement about going to see a live performance, there was also the sheer jubilation that it was the end of my 4 month hiatus of culture coupled with foreboding concerns. How safe can it be, what safety measures are in place, are masks mandatory and will I even be able to wear one all afternoon?
Clear guidelines and a 13 page Covid Risk Assessment are accessible on BOAT’s website. Only a third of the venue’s seating capacity had been put on sale to support social distancing with seating areas spray painted in clear sections for family groups to sit. There were one-way systems for entry and exit as well as the bar and toilets. The venue does recommend masks to be worn, there are plenty of hand sanitisers provided and only contactless payments are accepted. All in all, these are very small concessions to make to be able to enjoy live entertainment again.
The afternoon was compered by local Brighton entertainer Boogaloo Stu. His flamboyant hair, clothes and personality, made him the perfect choice to welcome the patrons and introduce the four varied acts taking part.
The first act of the BOAT Unlocked event was Scottish singer/songwriter McGoozer, who entertained with a mix of his own songs and a rousing version of Take on Me which showcased his impressive vocal range. He was followed by This is My Theatre Group performing the mechanicals from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a very funny interpretation from this 5 strong group (reduced from their usual size) interspersed with music.
Project Female, a Brighton based Dance Troupe dedicated to developing and empowering young dancers were the next to take the stage at BOAT Unlocked. Dance schools are another sector who have struggled with the restrictions in place due to the current pandemic, so considering they must have found it difficult to find rehearsal time and space recently and were dancing as the rain began to fall they danced exceptionally well and you could clearly see that they were enjoying being back together and were enthusiastically supported by the audience.
The Charlotte Glasson Band ended the afternoon’s session. The six piece jazz group were the first group to be sheltered by the gazebo due to excessive rainfall but this didn’t dampen spirits, the raincoat clad audience enjoyed dancing in the rain to the upbeat swing session.
Brighton Open Air Theatre is to be congratulated for putting together a lovely summer season and beginning it with aplomb. The venue is easy to travel to, the setting is lovely and the volunteer staff were attentive, helpful, friendly and were clearly delighted to be back.
Hopefully today will not be my last visit this season. Theatre is back in the most glorious way in the South East. I urge you to take a look at the programme on offer and even if an umbrella is part of your packing list you will be in for a real treat.
News about the Artists
McGoozer also has a new album “Man in the Mirror” available now.
This is My Theatre will return to the BOAT on September 6th with their new production “The Three Musketeers”. They’ll also perform this at the Hawth in Crawley, arriving August 26th.