In 2022, the unchanging heroes of the Australian theater are the players who have been dubbed “COVID covers”. Doublers and “swings” are a luxury that is usually intended for commercial theater: now it is a necessity that hardly all companies can afford, but on which the performance depends.
When Bell Shakespeare played it extremely successfully Hamlet in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this year COVID-19 pursued them.
In Sydney, they canceled four shows, including a preview. Then they had a few weeks, when every night on the stage performed from two to four backups, consisting of 11 people. The four backups (for this and their other performances for the rest of the year) are unprecedented for the company.
“How sustainable it will be is something we’re just starting to struggle with,” says director Peter Evans. “Obviously it’s incredibly expensive.”
Houton says it’s impossible to study every role, in principle, having all the spare cast. “Money is barely enough to pay for one,” he says.
But the hardest part about getting COVID covers ready to take on multiple roles is that they can’t enter the rehearsal room – “the whole point is to try to keep them separate”. Usually backups work closely with the actors they follow.
MTC CEO Virginia Lawt describes it as volatile.
“If we continue to lose performances, we will lose the basic box office,” she says. But having more than one “cover” on stage – unrehearsed actors with a script in hand and poor familiarity with the character – may be a step too far.
“The goodwill of the public is extraordinary, but how far can you stretch it? Often they buy a ticket to see certain people … it’s too compromising the show.
“But when we go this winter, when every day I get tests for four or five people [positive]it’s just very difficult to move on with live theater. “
What Aldrich did was a “magical moment,” Houghton says. Based on watching several rehearsals through Zoom and performances in the “crying room” at the back of the theater, she realized enough about the show to populate the character. And studied the song, and performed.
“She absolutely went for it. I just got up and had fun. “
At the end of the night he could see what it took. “She was completely squeezed out of fear and adrenaline, she was so tired,” he says. “And then she had to do it again. You know, weird times. ”
Aldrich says: “The adrenaline was amazing. I am very proud of what I have achieved, not only for myself, but also to support the screws of this wonderful play. “
It was Thursday. She then did it again on Friday night. And two on Saturday. And then another cast member fell ill with COVID, and the show darkened by a week. It is currently planned that he will return on Monday.
Houton was just tired. But he remains an optimist. “We’ll get out of the quagmire, I think.”
– with Carl Quinn
A cultural guide to how to go out and love your city. Sign up for our Culture Fix newsletter here.