Socially distanced theatre brought to patients and hospital staff
Taking on the role of Judy Garland, actress and playwright, Maria Connolly, this week invited care home residents, hospital patients and healthcare workers to “Forget Your Troubles” for a few moments and enjoy a live theatre performance brought right to their door.
The show recently received funding through the Arts Council’s Artists Emergency Programme, set up to support the work of artists and performers whose income has been badly hit by the pandemic. Thanks to investment of up to £575,000 from the Department of Communities and National Lottery, The Broads is one of over 200 projects to have been awarded funding through the emergency scheme.
The Broads is a live 50 minute musical and theatre piece, telling the stories of starlets Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler and Judy Garland but rather than taking place within the four walls of a theatre, the show has this week been touring care homes and hospital settings.
The show’s creator Maria Connolly says the idea to write a play specifically for people living in isolation originally came to her a few years ago.
She explained, “I remember watching a news programme about elderly people who are suffering desperately from isolation. These people can go for months without any human interaction and I wanted to do something to break that loneliness. It is incredible that I have received funding to do the show during this horriﬁc pandemic.”
This week, over 500 people will see the show, with slots booking up quickly when the project was announced. Featuring Maria, alongside respected actresses Christina Nelson as Bette Midler, Roisin Gallagher as Marilyn Monroe and live music from Richard Clements, the show is unlike anything any of the performers have done before. Rehearsals took place via zoom and with no conventional stage or set, hospital entrances, corridors and care homes have provided the backdrop and socially-distanced audiences for The Broads.
“The response this week has been incredible,” Maria said. “We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by how well the play has been received. Working with Belfast Trust we’ve been touring hospitals this week as well as assisted living facilities in Belfast, Bangor, Dundonald and Carrickfergus. It’s been hugely uplifting. This is a time when the world desperately needs artists to bring hope, colour and change into the world. I am so grateful we are getting to do this play now and my hope is that others will see the positive impact this project has had, that they’ll support artists and see the beneﬁt that art can bring.”
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented:
“Over the last three months I think so many of us have missed being able to get out and experience a live arts event. It’s been fantastic to see a brand new theatre piece today, out on the road, reaching new audiences, hopefully helping to bring some joy to their day and instilling that sense of personal wellbeing that only the arts can bring.
“Like many other sectors of society, our creative community has been badly hit by the pandemic but it is our hope that as a result of the Artists Emergency Programme communities across Northern Ireland will once again be able to able to come together to savour new performances, new writing, new experiences and once again celebrate the uplifting power of the arts supported by National Lottery Players and National Lottery funding.”