Inaugural Liverpool Theatre Festival Hailed A Triumph Amid Troubled Industry
Liverpool Theatre Festival attracted almost 3,000 live performance fans across nine days for its inaugural staging – with calls for it to become an annual event.
St Luke’s Bombed Out Church in the heart of the city centre provided the perfect backdrop for the first festival, which featured 19 showstopping performances of 12 productions.
Liverpool Theatre Festival was created by Liverpool theatre producer Bill Elms, whose mission it was to reinvigorate and boost the city’s live performance and creative arts sector after a devastating six months due to Coronavirus and lockdown, with restrictions continuing further.
The Covid-secure venue followed stringent Government guidelines to ensure patrons felt safe in their surroundings.
The festival ended with a comedy performance by acclaimed Liverpool actor Andrew Lancel in Swan Song from award-winning city playwright Jonathan Harvey, directed by BAFTA award-winning director Noreen Kershaw.
Swan Song was produced by Liverpool Theatre Festival, in association with Bill Elms Productions and Quarry Street. Originally written for a female lead, Jonathan Harvey adapted the play specially for Andrew Lancel to play the solo role at Liverpool Theatre Festival. The play is planning future productions across the UK to socially distanced audiences.
Liverpool Theatre Festival ran for nine days between 12 and 20 September, with some days hosting four live performances. The inclusive programme featured musical theatre, drama, comedy, cabaret, monologues, and children’s shows.
Liverpool Theatre Festival programme opened with A Fairy Tale Journey Across The Mersey and Laughterhouse Comedy, and was followed by The Very Best Of Tommy Cooper, Sweet Mother, Shakers by John Godber, Deathly Confessions, Matinee Musical Classics, Music Of The Night, Judy & Liza, Hurrah For The Pirate King!, Something About Simon, and Swan Song.
Producer and artistic director Bill Elms commented: “The festival showed the public appetite for live theatre and entertainment is strong. People used the festival as escapism from these difficult times – it was the glimmer of hope we needed. A truly unforgettable and magical experience, and we were blessed with fabulous weather throughout. I’d like to thank every festivalgoer for their support and spreading the word far and wide. They put their trust in us to provide a safe environment and comfortable experience, and totally shared our passion and vision to bring back live performance.
“The programme was packed with Liverpool talent including writers, performers, creatives and technicians. The teams behind the 12 productions were incredible for jumping on-board at such short notice and adapting to meet festival guidelines. It wasn’t easy and the changing guidelines proved testing, stacking the odds against us, but together we made it work and collectively made the inaugural Liverpool Theatre Festival a resounding success.
“St Luke’s Bombed Out Church was the perfect setting – welcoming, fun, and dramatic at times with incredible lighting. We have been asked by festivalgoers and reviewers to make the festival an annual event so this is something we are already looking into, watch this space. Theatre is back.”
Covid-secure measures at St Luke’s included temperature checks prior to entry; social distancing; hand sanitiser stations; reserved seating restricted to social bubble groups; and an app to order refreshments delivered to ticketholders at their seats.
Audience capacity was reduced to ensure socially distanced seating; shows were limited to one-act performances of no more than 75 minutes to minimise audience movement; maximum of four performers per production; cast and crew socially distanced and were temperature checked.
Kate Jones from St Luke’s Bombed Out Church added: “We were extremely proud to host the very first Liverpool Theatre Festival. St Luke’s was showcased as a stunning backdrop for audiences of all ages to enjoy live performance in the open air, it was special to see audiences settle in, take in the atmosphere and their surroundings, and lose themselves in a variety of fantastic shows.
“I’m extremely proud of our team’s hard work to ensure our venue was completely COVID-secure. Ensuring bubbles were safely distanced, sanitising chairs before and after use, and taking drinks directly to customers all hugely contributed to making customers feel they could safely return to theatre. We thoroughly enjoyed working with Bill Elms on this hugely popular festival, and look forward to seeing more productions at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church.”