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New video starring Karen Dunbar depicts empty Perth Theatre to remind public of Covid impact

Karen Dunbar starring in the video.
Karen Dunbar in the video.

A new video released by Perth Theatre hopes to keep creativity alive, despite the reduction of in-person performances during the pandemic.

Starring actress Karen Dunbar, the poignant video explores an empty Perth Theatre: with dimmed lights, vacant seats and a deserted stage.

She wanders the theatre as if a theatre-goer, taking her seat alone in the auditorium.

And she progresses backstage, before standing alone onstage dressed as Lady Bracknell – a reference to her role in The Importance of Being Earnest which was cut short by Covid in 2020.

Karen Dunbar as Lady Bracknell in Perth Theatre's Importance of Being Earnest.
Karen Dunbar as Lady Bracknell in Perth Theatre’s Importance of Being Earnest.

Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the video comes as creative organisations say Covid has had a “devastating” impact on the sector.

But from Monday, theatres will no longer be forced to restrict the number of attendees at their venues following an announcement from the First Minister.

‘Creativity is a link to sanity’

Ms Dunbar says the video was created to help reignite the public’s passion in theatre.

“It’s to remind people that it’s there and needs support,” she said.

“This is part of what the theatre needs but also what people need as well.

Perth Theatre.
Perth Theatre.

“In a time of so much uncertainty one thing is sure – we have to make stuff.

“Creativity is a link to sanity and community and my hope is to keep creating so I can connect with myself and those around me.

“Theatre is a vital place for that sharing to exist.”

And despite having wandered around empty theatres before, for example during lunch breaks, roaming around Perth Theatre under the current circumstances was unusual for Ms Dunbar.

She added: “I really enjoy walking through the theatre, for example on lunch, so I have done that often but never due to the fact the world was shut so it was bittersweet.”

Maintaining Perth’s culture

And Perth Theatre is determined to ensure the Fair City’s culture remains alive, despite the ongoing pandemic.

It believes the theatre is imperative in helping people maintain their mental wellbeing.

Artistic director Lu Kemp said: “If ever a virus were designed to stop theatre – a shared space where we come together to tell stories, laugh together, breathe together – Covid is it. And yet it hasn’t.

Artistic Director for Perth Theatre Lu Kemp.
Artistic Director for Perth Theatre Lu Kemp.

“The last year has shown how audiences and theatre will find each other and come together against any odds and that just when you thought the doors were closed, they will open and welcome you back.

“Covid has reminded us that the arts are as vital to our collective wellbeing as friendship and food.”

How have arts venues been affected?

The pandemic has hit local arts venues hard, with thousands of jobs threatened and lost.

In June 2020, Pitlochry Festival Theatre was forced to make half of its staff redundant or face running out of money.

The redundancies took effect from August that year.

And Nick Williams, Chief Executive of Horsecross Arts said teams at Perth Theatre have continued to prove their resilience in the face of an unpredictable pandemic.

Chief Executive of Horsecross Arts Nick Williams.
Chief Executive of Horsecross Arts Nick Williams.

He said: “It goes without saying that Covid-19 continues to have a devastating impact on our organisation and the live performance sector as a whole.

“At every turn of the pandemic, our team has adapted and innovated, becoming industry pioneers along the way.

“We must champion the transformative power of the arts and the many widespread benefits this brings coming out of the pandemic rather than the perception that we are dangerous environments continually needing to be controlled.”

Changes to Covid rules

But from Monday, limits on the number of people at indoor live events, such as theatres, will be scrapped.

It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that Scotland is now past the worst of the Omicron wave.

Numbers have been limited to 100 for standing events and 200 for seated, but Ms Sturgeon now believes the country has “turned a corner”.

However, face coverings will still be mandatory.

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