ShentonSTAGE Daily for MON FEBRUARY 21

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE.

Learning to live with COVID

Last month Britain achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the seventh country to pass the milestone of 150,000 COVID-related deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the virus — after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.

And the Conservatives apparently full-hearted embrace of British exceptionalism in this regard continues with Boris Johnson today planning to formally announce a “Living with Covid Plan”, after having so triumphantly exceeded targets with his plans to “let the bodies pile high” of people dying from it.

He’s all set to declare this Thursday as “Freedom Day” (as the Mail online headline above proclaims) — the same glistening phrase that heralded the removal of many COVID restrictions last July — with self-isolation requirements now to be lifted for those who are positive, with people instead expected to show ‘personal responsibility’ by staying at home if they have Covid – just as they would if they had flu — and a proposal to soon axe free COVID testing, too.

Speaking to the BBC Sunday morning show yesterday, he said, “‘We will be testing at a much lower level. We are in a different world. It’s important people should feel confident again… people should be able to go back to work in the normal way.”

And with less than helpful timing, just as he insists on this, the Queen has tested COVID positive. Good thing she was at least still able to access a free test.

As Daily Mirror political editor (and presenter of Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster) tweeted yesterday,

Of course we all *want* to be able to move on from COVID, but we also all *want* to win the lottery. The odds are not in our favour, though, for the latter ambition. I hope that they might be somewhat better now for surviving COVID, but throwing all caution to the wind may not be the best strategy, either. 

Yes, people need to get back to their offices, to ensure the survival of Pret-a-manger as much as West End theatre and the assorted industries from restaurants to cabbies that depend on it.

But declaring it is all over right now may send entirely the wrong message. And if or when a new variant emerges, we may not even see it coming — let alone be prepared for it.

And what to make, in the light of our apparent freedom from COVID, of outbreaks that last week saw the cancellations of performances of OUR GENERATION at the National (including their press night last Thursday) and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (straight after their press night last Wednesday)?

COVID is far from over, however much Boris Johnson is trying to distract us from his own COVID rule breaking by saying it is.

SHOWS AHEAD IN LONDON AND BEYOND

My regularly updated feature on openings in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-feb-21-onwards/

There’s a bumper slate of Broadway openings in April in particular — just like the old days, as shows scramble to meet the deadline for Tony Awards eligibility.

As Howard Sherman remarked in a recent column for The Stage,

“The April logjam does result, in part, from pandemic concerns. Several shows have shunted planned March openings into April, to try to escape from the Omicron-suppressed audience figures that have prevailed for many shows, save for the stalwarts and a few new hits, like the now-closed THE LEHMAN TRILOGY and the vigorous SIX.”

There is, he notes, a downside to this rush:

“It is far harder for shows to break out of the pack when there are so many new arrivals all competing for attention using the same advertising and promotional vehicles. One barely has time to register before something else comes along, and in New York especially, television ads come fast and furious.

It is a slog for critics who help shape awareness and opinion, especially since very few outlets have more than one. And it’s possible that their response to the sixth opening in a row could be affected by simple fatigue. Shows that fail to secure awards nominations, and the Tonys aren’t the only game in town, may get lost even more quickly in the barrage.”

SEE YOU TOMORROW

You can also find regular updates on ShentonSTAGE LIVE, a rolling theatre blog that appears on my website, updated throughout the day as necessary, to reflect news updates and other observations and commentary as they occur. The landing page for this is here: http://shentonstage.com/shentonstage-live/
I can also be found regularly on Twitter,  https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/

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