Theatre innovation: ‘Order in’ theatre for the Covid-19 age, presented by Abrahamse & Meyer Productions, South Africa, from December 2020

What: Order in theatre for the COVID-19 Concept: Covid compliant theatre in venue of your choice –indoors or outdoors Where: Cape Town and surrounds Company/producer: Abrahamse & Meyer Productions Info:  On the menu: From December 15, 2020-Anton Chekhov’s The Bear The Bear info: Stars Marcel Meyer and Bianca Flanders Director: Fred Abrahamse Tickets: Depends where, audience numbers and logistics involved

If you are medically at risk (diabetes, respiratory issues etc), elderly or you don’t feel that is worth taking a measured risk to see theatre in a public venue; theatre can come to you, in the form of ‘order-in’ theatre, as conceptualised by Cape Town based, Abrahamse & Meyer Productions.

With the global pandemic of Covid-19, 2020 turned out to be a year, when live performance came to a halt for much of the year. Currently in lockdown level 1, November and going into December 2020, we are able to attend live theatre – as long as there is adherence to Covid-19 protocols – reduced seating, social/physical distancing and so on. However, for many, there is tremendous anxiety at the prospect of sitting in a confined space- and being exposed to other people and their non-compliance with mask wearing and disregard for keeping to no-touch protocols. Theatre operators are tending to be vigilant in putting Covid-19 protocols in place but compliance by patrons, is another story.

With safety in mind, Abrahamse & Meyer Productions will come to your home and set up in your lounge, garden, patio. You can experience live theatre and be in control of physical/social distancing. When the word “at home” is used in conjunction with theatre, the immediate association is that this is a filmed version of a theatre production – i.e. the digital stage. Do not freak out. We know all about “streaming fatigue”. Marcel Meyer and Fred Abrahamse are not offering the digital stage for consumption at home. They are staging live theatre at a venue of choice. The first production is Anton Chekhov’s The Bear and it stars Meyer and Bianca Flanders. The company will set up –wherever – and the production may be enjoyed at the site of choice. At the moment, it is envisaged that an ideal number of seats would be about six but a larger number could be accommodated in an outdoor setting- for example on a patio. Electrical points or extensions would be required to set up lights and sound.

As the concept stands, the company is inviting patrons to book a production at venue of choice. A package will be quoted and then the person/entity will set up the venue and arrange for people to come and watch. The company will pitch up – with props, costumes and gear. The company cannot take bookings on a ticket to ticket basis. Meyer says that there has already been interest from small towns- staging the play in small venues with seats spaced out with at least a metre apart – in the outdoors – or with ventilation. If you do not want to take on the responsibility of being an event organiser and getting a minimum of six people together, e-mail Fred Abrahamse and express your interest in attending performance. You may be notified if there is capacity at a venue.

The Bear– a two hander is a Chekhov classic and with Marcel Meyer, Bianca Flanders on stage, it is bound to be a thrilling piece of theatre. It is a new production – full-on costumes and design – very exciting – to see new work coming out in Covid.

The company relishes non-traditional theatre in non-traditional spaces and has actively embraced immersive theatre – long before Covid.  Their annual seasons of site responsive stagings of Tennessee Williams “Hotel Plays” at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands have sold out.  In these productions, they have heightened the narrative with objects in the hotel (such as mirrors, antique furniture, bedside table, phones) and structural elements (bathroom in a hotel suite). In staging The Bear in spaces – out of the ambit of a traditional theatre – elements in the venue will contribute to each staging. The Bear (1888) has a distinctly vaudeville vibe with a tussle between the sexes. Imagine this raunchy tale taking place in a suburban patio, with the braai in the corner and how the braai tongs may be used as the feisty characters sock it to each other. Each performance will take the setting into account. The audience will feed into the experience.

‘Order in’ theatre may be set up for an audience of two. Why not.  If you have the budget, go for it and you don’t have to worry about people coughing at the theatre and not wearing their masks. The concept may be pared with dining. Arrange an intimate birthday party for a small group, order in delicious food and set your parameters of “being safe”. It is an ideal theatre option for retirement homes and those who have been cooped up through lockdown and would love to experience live performance in a setting with controls in place. Think out-of-the-box of theatre. Do you have an office, set up with Perspex dividers between desks or a conference room, with partitions? That would make an ideal setting to stage this play. The audience could sit at their desks and watch. The idea is to add on a range of theatre offerings. Patrons will then be able to order off a menu of plays. It is not dissimilar to ordering from Mr Delivery or a food portal. Click and receive your delivery of theatre, at the venue of choice.

❇ Image credits: Supplied- Marcel Meyer and Bianca Flanders in the 2020 production of Anton Chekhov’s The Bear, staged by Abrahamse & Meyer Productions, Cape Town.