The Show Must Go On

Two years ago, we closed the theatres - at the time, none of us knew how long for. The Edinburgh Gilbert & Sullivan Society were already days into their get-in in the King's, and months into rehearsals for their 2020 show, Patience.
Colin Harper, an EDGAS Board member, recalls those last few days.

There we were; 14 March 2020. It was the Saturday before Show Week and that means one thing: Band Call. This is the first time that the cast and the orchestra get together and it is always a great occasion - we sing through with the full orchestra rather than the piano we’ve used up until that point.


Off we go to Wardie Parish Church as usual, except it wasn’t as usual. As a newly appointed Council member, I went along early to attend an emergency Council meeting to discuss the looming presence of the novel Coronavirus. While we discussed it in detail, there was frankly very little we could do. The situation was incredibly fluid, and nobody knew from one day to the next what restrictions or guidelines may be put in place. A couple of members had reluctantly withdrawn from the production as a precaution, so our director made some adjustments. We decided to carry on as best we could. 

"The Show Must Go On, after all!"

On Sunday 15 March, our stage management team and crew took delivery of the set and got to work building it on the stage of the King’s Theatre. The costumes arrived and the cast were arriving from midday. If anyone was new to the King’s, they were treated to a tour of the theatre - the backstage nooks and crannies, the pass doors and other areas that the public don’t see – it’s all part of the magic. Then from 2pm, we climbed into our costumes to check them out.


Once it was safe to do so, we walked a few numbers on the stage to help with placement and to familiarise ourselves somewhat. Then we left the theatre at 6pm ready to come in the following day for the dress rehearsal.

"Unusually, we left no personal items in the dressing rooms, just in case we couldn’t get back into the theatre again, the situation really was that unknown."

The next morning, we got the news we were dreading: The theatre had taken the decision to close. Who could blame them? It was heart-breaking, nonetheless. That one brief sojourn on stage in costume was all there was going to be.


For our stage management team, it didn’t stop there – they did go back into the theatre to dismantle the set and sort out the costumes. Some of the cast decided to meet that night anyway and drinks were had in Bennets Bar, tantalisingly close to the King’s. But that was that. No one knew how long the theatres might be closed and we all hoped to be able to put on the show later in the year, but obviously that never happened.

What did happen was that the marketing team at Capital Theatres issued a video based on the “Ghost Light”, the light that is kept on regardless, whenever a theatre is “dark”. They toured all areas of the theatre including dressing room 2, where a few of our costumes that went back late were still hanging.

Now, two whole years later, we are going back into the King’s, this time with The Pirates of Penzance. I’m sure it will be a tad emotional - and like we have never been away.

The Pirates of Penzance comes to the King's Theatre from 22 March. Find tickets here.