By Rhys Bailey

An Interview with Curve: The Doors Are Closed But The Show Goes On

The Curve theatre in Leicester has fought an uphill battle to stay present and prominent in its hometown. Fiona Moore, press and digital manager from the theatre reflects on how she and her colleagues have coped after over a year of the pandemic, what has been done to keep Curve present and continue creating content for people.

Theatre is one of the oldest and most highly regarded sanctums of creativity and art around the world. And yet the year 2020 dealt them a terrible blow as the Covid-19 pandemic struck. As part of the government’s attempts to stabilize the economic fallout and contain the virus, the creative industries were stopped and sidelined, with thousands of actors and artists of all creative fields being furloughed or without a stable income.

And yet the creative industries have persevered and endured during the most challenging of times. As they always have. A shining example of this resilience is Curve Theatre in Leicestershire, which has done its utmost to maintain its presence and give back to the local community.

Fiona Moore has been the press and digital manager at Curve for almost 4 years, having always worked in press and digital communications. However like the rest of the country when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, Fiona and the staff at Curve were floored by the announcement.

“It was very strange. It was very much a case of, there was no time to prepare or plan for how to adapt to being suddenly closed,” Fiona says, “We were very much like, ‘we don’t have a stage anymore. How can we stay present and continue to provide for both artists and the local community?’ And so our social media platform became our new stage.”

From her tone, it’s obvious how much Fiona and the creative teams at Curve were adamant to continue doing what they could to help keep the spirit of the theatre alive. Fiona explains it was very important that the theatre continued to work closely with and continue to showcase the acts of local artists.

The theatre even got a local award-winning poet, Jess Green, to deliver a poem titled Not Something That Other People Do In July, while Leicester was still in its own lockdown, to remind the public of the importance of what the arts contribute to the city.

“It was really important to stay in touch with the local community and local youth talent. We still wanted to be involved on an educational level, so we created content and stuff for kids and to help parents keep them entertained. We put together activity packs for them to do.” Fiona says, of some of the things the theatre did to adapt to the prolonged lockdown.

Another idea that proved to be very successful in adapting to an online format was for the theatre to make archived shows available for people to watch. It helped to keep the core of the theatre going. 

Indeed, Fiona and her peers helped organise for streamed and archived performances to keep people entertained and stimulated. The Colour Purple, The Importance of Being Earnest, My Beautiful Laundrette, and Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual are just some of the performances made available for people to watch, and most of them are online for free to view.

Another great idea for content was when Curve launched its ‘Curve in Conversation’ series of interviews. The collection of interviews, carried out by Curves artistic director for many of its productions, Nikolai Foster, showcases the talents and efforts of those who work behind-the-scenes, as well as those on stage. This includes actors, choreographers, orchestrators, and lighting directors.

“When Curve closed its doors, it led us to look at the bigger picture of what theatre can be. Having the digital platform gave us the chance to showcase the behind-the-scenes talent,” Fiona says with a flair of excitement, “There’s a collection of interviews of a lot of the creatives and individuals Curve has worked with. It’s like a celebration of all the different people and talent in the industry, there’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes and so many interesting stories to share.”

Fiona also feels that the year-long absence from public spaces and live entertainment has given people a chance to reflect and appreciate all for the hard work that is put into the arts and the work they watch, not just in theatre and dance but television and film as well.

That isn’t to say that Curve has had it easy. Despite making the best of a bad situation and through conversing with other theatres Fiona says that the entire creative sector has been devastated by the economic fallout that resulted from the pandemic.

For Curve, support came from charities such as DTAF and CAF. Through such support the theatre was able to put on productions of Sunset Boulevard – At Home. And to Fiona’s obvious delight in a turn of events, the online version of the production was able to be viewed internationally.

“The streamed version of Sunset Boulevard was amazing because it was accessible to people all around the world. It feels like Curve flew the flag for the UK arts and showed that  Curve in Leicester is capable of doing amazing things.” Fiona says, with obvious pride.

When asked if she has spoken to any other theatre teams about their efforts to keep working during the pandemic, Fiona confirms that a lot of them have employed the same tactics to stay present, while some have also taken different approaches.

Fiona says, “A lot of theatres have dug into their archives to put out content for people and keep youth communities engaged through Zoom by offering workshops and such. Some theatres have even had their costume departments creating ppe. Everyone has tried to do their best to help and keep people entertained when they’ve needed it most.

With all of the effort put in to keep the theatre strong last year, Fiona admits that she and her colleagues are very much looking forward to the theatre’s doors being open again. While she is incredibly proud of what the theatre has been able to achieve against the odds of the past year, she also feels that the theatre is very much a space for people to gather and socialise. It’ll be great for Fiona and her peers, as well as the public, to have these creative and social atmospheres back.

There are already plans in place for the theatre’s eventual reopening, including a season of content and performances to celebrate the artists and city of Leicester. There are several productions also lined up on Curves’ website, such as Dial M for Murder, Grease and Six to name a few.

Fiona herself is most looking forward to the 2021 Christmas production of A Chorus Line. “I’ve been listening to the soundtrack so much lately. I’m so excited for the show,” she says and feels it’s just the sort of production needed for Christmas time, after everything that has happened.

Throughout everything, Fiona says it was clear that Curve had to make sure it was still there and present in the city as a place of escapism. “We have always been very clear on what our purpose was. It’s about the community. It’s about creating content and entertainment for everyone.” Fiona says with an unshakeable conviction.

While the arts and creative industries may have been hit hard by the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, after speaking to Fiona, it’s clear that, as ever, in the face of adversity the arts find a way to persevere, develop, progress, and adapt. In the most unexpected ways, they have been able to flourish as well. 

When Curves doors open once again, people will find comfort, familiarity, and the joy of lavish productions, toe-tapping songs, and spell-binding performances waiting for them. The magic of theatre is still very much alive and high-kicking. As the saying goes, the show must indeed go on.