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Stage return for the actors who rehearsed in parks and on Zoom calls

Theatro Technis is one of first theatres to bring audiences back inside

07 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Actors Michael Claff and Hanna Luna will appear in Antony and Cleopatra [Rozeta Lami]

ACTORS are returning to one of Camden’s oldest fringe theatres in what is believed to be the country’s first series of indoor shows to be staged since the coronavirus lockdown.

The Acting Gymnasium is performing three classic European plays at Theatro Technis in Mornington Crescent over three weeks from September 14.

The troupe has been rehearsing for months in online meetings using Zoom videocalls and, since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in July, moving to Camden parks and pubs.

“We had started the process late last year and then boom – the pandemic hits,” said director Gavin McAlinden. “We were saying to each other ‘are we going to let this thing beat us, or ride it through?’ For many, the Zoom rehearsals were like a beaming light in the heart of the pandemic. It was something we all really looked forward to, and became a highlight of people’s week – a piece of therapy as well as a piece of theatre.”

Mr McAlinden recalled taking 25 actors to the park in Oakley Square to put the finishing touches to a modern take on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

“We were doing big, massive Shakespeare scenes with all of Camden going on around us – a couple of homeless guys coming over, some people getting arrested, or trying to sell you something – and the dog poo.”

“Then the rain and thunder and lightning came and so we spoke to Mary at the Cobden [pub in Camden High Street] and moved it all in there. There were guys doing their racing coupons while we were performing big death scenes in the middle of the pub.”

Rehearsals finally move inside

The cast has now found a permanent rehearsal space in the upstairs of the North Star pub in Swiss Cottage.

Mr McAlinden said: “We think we are the first week-long run to open in an indoor theatre space in the UK. We have created something remarkable, it feels like we are part of the structural fabric of British theatre history – and it is testament to the actors.”

Acting Gymnasium is staging George Buchner’s Woyzech and Ibsen’s Wild Duck before Antony and Cleopatra at the theatre in Crowndale Road.

The audience will have to wear masks and be at least three metres from the actors. There are a reduced number of seats – 40 are available. The theatre was set up by George Eugeniou more than 60 years ago and is now run by his son, Aris.

“George is like the Alex Ferguson of theatre, he knows everything,” said Mr McAlinden. “Theatro Technis is such a big part of the community there and I’m convinced people will come and will want to support us.”

Theatro Technis

One of the actors Agnes Panasiuk, a care worker who lives in South Hampstead, said: “A lot of companies got torn apart or closed down during the pandemic, but we moved online to Zoom. It was a bit weird because so much of acting is reacting. You don’t get the whole body language and the energy of being in a room with people. But it’s been working well, and there have been some really, great moments.”

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