Friday, 8 May 2020

Out of Control

As we're about to enter another milestone in the Pandemic lockdown, so it seems that the conspiracy theories and speculation about what the future will look like spread quicker than the virus itself.

In the past few days alone I've heard how we're all being brainwashed by the mainstream media (or MSM as the enlightened few all seem to call it - which is ironic as that acronym alone sounds like some dodgy news channel), I've read articles both quoting and misquoting the 'people in the know' as they've fundamentally hypothesised about what the future might look at, as I've read the threads of people's reactions to these hypotheses as though they were now facts.

Similarly, I've read the opinions from my industry peers - the optimistic chant of "we'll be back stronger than before after all theatre always survives" being seen in equal measure to the "this is the death of theatre as we know it". The headlines telling us almost daily that a vaccination or a treatment is seemingly days from being mass-produced to the headlines telling us that a vaccination or treatment will never be found for this constantly mutating virus.

Right now we have a Prime Minister speaking on Wednesday in Parliament stating he's about to start to 'unlock' the lockdown almost like a trailer for his much-publicised televised speech this weekend, yet on Thursday, one day later, Scotland declared that they wouldn't be changing anything soon, quickly followed by the Boris dep of the day telling all of us during the daily briefing to not change anything until Boris says so, followed on Friday, just 2 days later, by Senedd Cymru declaring that they weren't really changing anything either.  It's like we're suddenly in the middle of a game of Boris says but they forgot to tell us the rules, scrap that, it's like they forgot to tell Boris the rules!

In other words - the world is suddenly very confusing. We're all trying to work out in the first place who to believe. We've watched the mainstream media and noted how it's not actually covering some of the horror that UK people are living through whilst gleefully giving us a good news story every day, so we've glanced at the right & left-wing propaganda in a bid for clarity, come up with a few theories of our own based on a hunch and ended up exactly where we started. . . nowhere.

So we start to look closer to home as the global picture is too vast to comprehend.  We look to our friends and families but of course, relationships are complex at the best of times. So it's somewhat alarming to see how our peers and families are dealing with the current uncertainty, plus of course, there's a strong chance that we're physically separated at the moment from our 'go-to' people. The friends and families that can talk us down when things are feeling huge. Even worse than that lots of people are locked-in with the people that pander to our acting out giving us tacit permission to be 'however' we need to be without challenging us whilst thinking that they're helping us. I would suggest that a room full of 'yes people' is exactly why we're in the mess that we're in right now. Not being challenged and binary thinking helps nobody to evolve.

For a lot of people in our industry our work also tends to be an anchor during stormy seas - but now the unthinkable has happened, the show just didn't go on. It literally stopped overnight.

Or to put all of this another way, our lives are no longer within our own control. I can't go back to work until the government tells me that I can. I can't go to my 'escape' - the theatre until the government tells the industry that we can re-open.  So whilst we're essentially freer than ever before - no time restraints for anything, we are of course straitjacketed by the pandemic.

So we speculate.

We each have a different approach to trauma - which after all, that's exactly what this is for all of us. Some people like to look at the worst-case scenario and then be pleasantly surprised when things don't end up so bad, some people need to be eternally optimistic about the future, refusing to see any liquid left in the glass at all, let alone leaving us with a glass half empty. Then there are all the people straddling optimism and pessimism in equal measure and who enjoy exploring that dichotomy aloud.

The thing that we never take into account though is how everybody else is hearing 'our process', and indeed what is the agenda of our public statements (sometimes known, sometimes subconscious)  Throw into that mix a health mix of social media bots and aggravators and we're in a heady mix of chaos right now. 

Somebody throws out their 'theory' or speculates on when the theatres will be up and running and literally everybody jumps on it. Either doing the 'I knew it' line, or doing the 'how dare you write this down line'. Yet for all the 'noise' out there (and boy is there a lot at the moment), you'll always find an opinion or a piece of speculation that will fit your current thinking, allow you to think that somebody somewhere does know what's going to happen next, and therefore you throw your social media support behind them.

The truth is scarier right now though. None of us can predict the answer. None of us truly know whether people will flock back to the theatres relieved to finally get that escape, or whether they'll stay away in their droves. We don't know if 'normality' will happen this year, next year or indeed if we'll need to adjust to a different normal from before. Already I find myself being caught off guard if I see people on the TV greeting each other with any sort of physical contact. Suddenly a handshake seems like a daring move, yet just 2 months ago this was my regular greeting and had been my entire adult life

So I guess that's the crux of it, isn't it? We will all adjust. Life (for the majority of us) will continue and we'll learn to adapt. In order to preserve our sanity maybe that's enough of a surety to help us see our way through the chaos?

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