The city’s arts venues are once again abuzz with events and excitement. We’re welcoming them back with open arms
For over a year now, our arts and culture heavyweights have been in hibernation. The pandemic saw the curtain come crashing down on the city’s biggest venues, forcing them to wait in the wings for what would be the longest interval of our lifetimes. Thankfully, huge public support and government grants have ensured the futures of our favourite venues, despite the exceptionally challenging circumstances.
“It’s been extremely difficult since we closed our doors in March 2020,” explains Cambridge Arts Theatre marketing manager, Caitlin Clark. “Arts professionals, creatives, performers and theatre staff across the country have faced so much uncertainty, and felt such sadness for the industry we all love. Covid-19 and the subsequent national lockdowns have proven how essential the arts are to us all – to connect, inspire, educate and entertain.”
Matt Burman, artistic director at Cambridge Junction, agrees: “Arts and culture have become even more important to our lives, with music, films, books and creativity helping many to find their own way through the isolation we’ve all felt. When your business and passion is bringing people together, the necessary restrictions of lockdown feel like a genuinely existential threat.”
Adapting shows to suit a virtual audience became a necessary requirement for survival, and 2020 saw many live streams and at-home events fill the calendar. “We’ve done a lot over the past year to ensure arts and culture have remained a part of everyone’s lives,” Matt says. “Including sharing work online, making films and hosting Zoom workshops with young creatives.”
Now they’re back on the scene, it seems the city’s star players won’t be going anywhere anytime soon
This new format looks set to continue, as audiences have warmed to the virtual viewing experience. “The past year helped me understand that ‘theatre’ does not have to be limited to a specific venue, or even the medium of live performance,” says Jamie Rycroft, manager at the ADC Theatre. “We are keen to keep livestreaming some of our shows moving forward.”
Now they’re back on the scene, it seems the city’s star players won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. “The team feels wonderfully optimistic working on a reopening season, extending right through to 2022 and beyond – a sure sign we are back and ready to welcome our audiences again,” Caitlin affirms.
And it’s a fantastic reopening season, with a host of shows to tempt theatregoers. A highlight is Ralph Fiennes starring in, and directing, a world premiere production of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. “Ralph has a huge catalogue of performances under his belt, so it’s a privilege to have him visit us in Cambridge,” Caitlin says. There are also performances of the musical Blood Brothers, Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly star in new drama The Dresser, and Mischief Theatre is presenting two laugh-out loud comedies – Magic Goes Wrong and Groan Ups.
Similarly, the ADC Theatre has plenty in store over the next month. Mid-July sees Ballet Central return to the venue with another excellent dance show, and the following week welcomes a production of The Playboy of the Western World, an Irish drama that scandalised audiences when first performed in 1907. Before closing for August, there is a performance from stand-up comedian and mathematician Harry Baker, along with the play Nothing Great is Easy – the incredible true story of the first person to swim the English Channel.
The Junction is hosting a season launch celebration on 21 July, including a public outdoor performance from the fantastic Gandini Juggling in the evening, and the world premiere of a new show called Love Letters to a Liveable Future from METIS, directed by Junction associate artist, Zoë Svendsen. “I’m so looking forward to the return,” Matt enthuses. “We’ve got an amazing programme lined up, with the likes of John Grant, This Is The Kit, Shame, Snapped Ankles and Black Country, New Road. I want to go out dancing more than anything else right now, and Warning is long overdue its 25th birthday party!”
There’s no doubt it’s an exciting time for arts in the city, and it looks as though the future is only set to get brighter as restrictions ease. “It’s fabulous to have audiences back in the building,” says Matt. “When the time is right, restrictions will be lifted further, and we really hope to present larger-capacity gigs soon.”
Jamie adds: “I am as optimistic as you can be after a year where it has been impossible to predict what will happen next. I’m excited to see live theatre again and hope we are experiencing the loosening of restrictions.”
To support the venues mentioned, you can check out upcoming shows, book tickets and donate via the websites below.