First-ever Liverpool Theatre Festival utilised St Luke’s Bombed Out Church to ensure social distancing and audiences watched 19 performance of 12 productions. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool Theatre Festival has been hailed as a major success after attracting almost 3,000 people in nine days.
With indoor theatres still struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis, Liverpool’s St Luke’s Bombed Out Church provided the ideal location for the first-ever festival which saw 19 performance of 12 productions between September 12 and 20.
It was created by Liverpool theatre producer Bill Elms, whose mission it was to reinvigorate and boost the city’s live performance and creative arts sector after a devastating six months due to COVID-19 and lockdown, with restrictions continuing further. It could now become a annual event.
The festival ended with a comedy performance by acclaimed Liverpool actor Andrew Lancel in Swan Song from award-winning city playwright Jonathan Harvey, directed by BAFTA award-winning director Noreen Kershaw.
Swan Song was produced by Liverpool Theatre Festival, in association with Bill Elms Productions and Quarry Street. Originally written for a female lead, Jonathan Harvey adapted the play specially for Andrew Lancel to play the solo role at Liverpool Theatre Festival. The play is planning future productions across the UK to socially distanced audiences.
During the nine-day festival audiences were treated to musical theatre, drama, comedy, cabaret, monologues, and children’s shows. It opened with A Fairy Tale Journey Across The Mersey and Laughterhouse Comedy, and was followed by The Very Best Of Tommy Cooper, Sweet Mother and Shakers by John Godber.
Mr Elms said: “The festival showed the public appetite for live theatre and entertainment is strong. People used the festival as escapism from these difficult times – it was the glimmer of hope we needed.
“A truly unforgettable and magical experience, and we were blessed with fabulous weather throughout. I’d like to thank every festivalgoers for their support and spreading the word far and wide. They put their trust in us to provide a safe environment and comfortable experience, and totally shared our passion and vision to bring back live performance.”
COVID-secure measures at St Luke’s included temperature checks prior to entry; social distancing; hand sanitiser stations; reserved seating restricted to social bubble groups; and an app to order refreshments delivered to ticketholders at their seats.
Audience capacity was reduced to ensure socially-distanced seating. Shows were limited to one-act performances of no more than 75 minutes to minimise audience movement; maximum of four performers per production; cast and crew socially distanced and were temperature checked.