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Covid crapshoot

October 26, 2022

Oh, bollocks. An email yesterday afternoon from Prince Charming to inform me he had tested positive for Covid. “Crap” was my single word initial reply. Bad enough, but within minutes there was an added blow: before he took his test he’d spent an hour with Dandini working on their scenes together. No way of testing yet, but Dandini understandably wanted to err on the side of caution and isolate himself.

After cancelling the panto for the past two years we knew it was a bit of a crapshoot to try to mount one this year, but we genuinely thought we could pull it off with the right safety protocols.

Air purifier, windows and door open and, of course, masks at all times until the dress rehearsal. And not just any mask, not just the weak ass kind of mask in the sign above. No, proper N95 masks to be worn at all times whilst indoors. I did notice at Sunday’s rehearsal that one of the courtiers was wearing a basic cloth mask and thought I should say something, but didn’t. My bad. Not that she was the problem. A chat yesterday with the stage manager made clear I am not all that observant. Apparently there are other cast members who haven’t been meeting the mask standard.

A flurry of activity after receiving the news from the Prince and Dandini: an email to all cast and crew telling them to do a Covid test immediately and report back.  After an hour there had been messages back from half the people, all negative. A ring round of the others started, before I decided it was all a bit too frantic and I should just pull the plug on last night’s rehearsal. Aside from anything else, if anyone had been infected by the Prince on Sunday, they wouldn’t have any symptoms yet and probably wouldn’t test positive. Another round of tests required before Thursday’s rehearsal. Fingers crossed.

The Prince isn’t our first Covid casualty. At the beginning of last week, Evie, a minor character (easily replaced at rehearsals) woke up feeling grim and a test confirmed her suspicions.

Sunday’s music only rehearsal had confirmed what I pretty much already knew: this show was going to be great. This is the fifth panto I’ve directed and I’ve never before had so many great singers in the cast. The evil stepmother’s song is going to bring the house down. And there won’t be a dry eye in the house after the “ladies” sing their song to Evie. All the numbers are going to be fab.

We are flying without a net. I did have someone lined up to fill in at rehearsals and step in, if the worst happened performance week, but she’s had to pull out due to non-Covid health concerns. If the worst came to the worst and we lost an actor just before the shows, I could, in a pinch, stand in with script in hand. Far, far from ideal, but better than nothing and the show could go on. Of course it would depend on the actor. I could be Dandini, I could be Buttons, I could be the page, I could be Evie, I could be the baron, I could even, if I had to, be one of the ugly stepsisters, but I could absolutely not be Prince Charming or Cinderella or the evil stepmother. (I sure as hell could not sing her – or any other – song. That really would have audience members demanding refunds.) If one of those three fell by the Covid wayside, we would be well and truly fucked.

So, a stern lecture about proper masks and limiting social interactions required. And perhaps a challenge. As much as I would absolutely hate to lose a single member of this fabulous cast (nor do I have any bloody idea how I could possibly replace them at this stage), if there are any actors who feel they cannot or will not abide by these safety measures, they may have to withdraw. 

Sincerely bloody hope this does not happen. I don’t think it will. Everyone in the cast and crew absolutely loves this show and I’m pretty sure they will see and agree to the need for the utmost caution.

I am determined that Cinderella shall go to the ball!

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