Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Brian Lonsdale: Coronavirus Theatre Club

By | Published on Sunday 5 April 2020

Lots of performers and theatre companies are streaming recorded content from their archives at the moment, which is brilliant.

But I am especially interested in those projects where people are putting together and streaming new content in record time to satisfy locked-down culture-vulture audiences. And that’s how I came across the Coronavirus Theatre Club, a very new online enterprise created and run by Michael Blair, Brian Lonsdale and Sam Neale (pictured above).

CTC focuses on monologues, performed live each Sunday via Twitter. I spoke to the group’s Brian Lonsdale to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the basic framework of what you are doing?
BL: The Coronavirus Theatre Club was set up to provide a platform for creative people to come together to share their work and ideas, and to provide a place where people could access live theatrical performances as they are happening.

CM: Obviously the coronavirus is key, but what made you decide to set the Coronavirus Theatre Club up?
BL: The closing of the theatres in this country is the key reason we decided to do this, obviously. But specifically, it stemmed from the idea that “streaming monologues from your bedroom is going to be this year’s ‘Warhorse’”, which was the tweet I sent out that first sparked the conversation between myself, Michael and Sam, which in turn led to CTC being set up.

CM: How are you going about finding work for inclusion?
BL: Every week we start with a shout-out to writers, actors and directors to get in touch – and to those who’ve already been in touch we ask them to give us another nudge. Then we’ll pick out four or five monologues we’d like to see performed, cast them, and then assign a director.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the work that’s been staged so far?
BL: We’ve only had one show so far with another planned for this Sunday [5 Apr]. In our first show we had a really good mix of monologues, which ranged from two minutes long to over 20 mins. Some of those monologues have been viewed 2000 times now, which is like selling out the Soho Theatre for ten nights, so we think it’s going to be a great platform to showcase new work.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about what to expect in the weeks ahead?
BL: Coming up will be more of the same, in that it’ll be a number of monologues every Sunday evening, streamed live one after the other onto our Twitter feed. Having said that, we are learning as we go and are constantly looking to improve how we communicate the pieces.

We noticed little things on our first show that we can improve on, and I expect that to be the case for a while. We’ve been going a little over two weeks. We’re very much still learning.

CM: Tell us about yourself now: what’s your own background? What do you do when things are normal?
BL: We are all professional actors. That’s how we know each other. Sam and I have worked together a few times. In the real world my time is mainly spent checking my phone 100 times a day to see if an audition has come in.

CM: A number of people and companies are currently focusing on making streaming culture available – do you think this forced trend is one that might outlive our current conditions? Do you think this might lead to more of this kind of content being available in the future?
BL: Yes I do. I think once everything settles down and we have a little more freedom to explore this medium then we could really see it take off. I think what’s happening right now is that people are being forced to think outside the box and when that happens it doesn’t take long before we see extraordinary things.

For instance, right now we’re streaming monologues performed live into peoples homes, which is great, but I’m really interested in seeing where this goes. What about a scene between two people streamed from two different locations? I have no idea how we do that, but these are the conversations we and other people will be having.

CM: Other than keeping busy with this project, what are you doing to stay sane?
BL: I don’t know about keeping sane, but other than this project, Sam and I both have twins to contend with. Her boys and my girls are all six years old, so there’s home schooling and whatnot that needs to be done.

And wine. I’ve been drinking wine.

All of Coronavirus Theatre Club’s content is available via Twitter. Tune in to their feed on Sundays at 7.00pm for live new content. Previously broadcast monologues can also be found and viewed in the Twitter feed.