Features Published 2 January 2020

The 2020s: A Decade in Review

Exeunt sends its writers to the dawn of the 2030s to survey a tumultuous decade in theatre.

Exeunt Staff

‘A Night at the Opera in the Year 2000’ by Albert Robida, 1882. Via wikimedia commons.

Aug 2020: Edinburgh festival finally eats itself. A second Tattoo in parade form is introduced to deal with the demand; however, this leads to a tragic confusion and a full scale drum and firework battle on Grassmarket. (Francesca Peschier) 

Oct 2020: The first casualty from eating solely £3 Meal Deals during tech week: the production company is wondering if they can fund their next show by suing. (Kate Wyver) 

Aug 2021: The Edinburgh festival is now banned, forced underground. Improv groups now perform in hushed, frightened whispers in the South Bridge Vaults, scuttling past Oxbridge students making political commentary out of Medea. The fringe survived under the new regime despite the threat of Midsommar style ritualist execution on St Arthur’s seat for anyone caught with a flyer.

Sep 2021: Everyone putting on a one-person autobiographical shows has had to abandon the fringe/festival model and start performing in each other’s homes. They’ve reached the stage of building entire seasons of bedroom shows, kitchen shows, bedsit shows, attracting bigger audiences than were ever coming to theatres. And it’s not just about watching the show: it’s also about eating together, talking together, wild planting in abandoned patches of earth together, running creches together. (Maddy Costa)

Oct 2021: Clunky representations of Twitter using projections are gone as Twitter’s gone which means theatre Twitter is also gone, which is great and means I can open my phone without feeling creeping dread! We’ve reverted to a town crier system, and if you can’t hear the person bellowing FINE ALL MY SONS, GET YOUR FINE ALL MY SONS HERE as you don’t live within the theatre’s half mile radius, you will not catch it. (Frey Kwa Hawking)

Dec 2021: All theatres are owned by Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner and those big filament bulbs currently in the Bridge Theatre’s foyer are everywhere. (FKH)

Mar 2022: The theatre etiquette people finally got their way and have removed ice cream, wine, Christmas and joy from our auditoriums. The more expensive the show, the more uncomfortable the seat is required to be. No slouching Petunia and Tarquin, this is theatre- it’s not supposed to be fun. Ok ok, here’s some silent gruel in a tube to silently imbibe whilst the people in ruffs are talking. (FP)

May 2022: As the world gets increasingly horrible, theatre begins to mine nostalgia. We completely run out of 80s superstars to squeeze jukebox musicals out of and Lizzo isn’t ready to licence the rights. Instead we get a confused Generation Z staging misty-eyed extravaganzas inspired by the early days of the internet; MSN the Musical complete with dial-up remixes, Shakespeare entirely enacted with Tamogotchis and immersive Club Penguin nights under London bridge. (FP)

Jun 2022: All West End productions are cast through The Green Room, a nightly reality TV show. The programme, a cross between How Do You Solve A Problem Called Maria and Love Island hosted by virtual superstar Fenugreek Taylor, has been credited with sky-rocketing the popularity of theatre nation-wide. (Lilith Wozniak)

Jan 2023: It’s now impossible to see any show for less than £30 (Maddy Costa)

Mar 2023: The most popular actor in the UK is Fenugreek Taylor – a Hatsuke Miku-esque virtual performer most known for his revelatory performances in the great Shakespearean roles. (LW)

Dec 2024: The Hampstead and Donmar Warehouse’s audiences are now 60% ghost. (FKH)

Jan 2025: Adaptations of classics are so mangled that only remakes of remakes of remakes are left. (EA)

Aug 2025: Embedded criticism is replaced by interjectory criticism, wherein a critic bursts unexpectedly into the rehearsal room to jeer an insult and leaves, and theoretical criticism, wherein a critic stays away from a show at all costs and then has a punt at what they think it might be about. (FKH)

Mar 2026: YouTubers complain after theatre superstars are brought in for high profile videos. “They’re not even that good at unboxing things” one is quoted as saying. “They’ve only been hired ‘cause the producers are trying to get views from their hoards of young fans – it’s unfair to those of us who have done all the proper training!” (LW)

Sep 2026: Punchdrunk’s first stay-at-home immersive VR production initially raises fears that people will fall down their own stairs while following the virtual performers. But after its premiere, concerns are focused much more on Punchdrunk’s intimate knowledge of the layout of all our houses. (LW)

Oct 2026: Because there is so much VR in theatre, a show counts as immersive if it has real life people in it. (Emily Davis)

Nov 2026: Having bought up every film and TV studio, Disney turns to theatre. It owns all of the copyright. It owns all of the actors. Tom Hiddleston isn’t allowed to do Pinter because he’s locked into a lifetime contract to play Loki on Disney+ (well, they say “lifetime”, but you all know what they do after you die. We’ve all seen Marilyn’s digitised Little Mermaid, after all, and six days out of seven you can see Brando on stage). There are live action productions of every animated Disney film on at every West End theatre. All of the time. Avengers – the Musical! – is on tour. The Globe has been turned into a permanent home for Star Wars The Show. Some people still try to resist, they do. You hear whispers of unauthorised plays staged in the relics of old NHS hospitals – but maybe, like public healthcare, that’s just some fevered dream. We can’t review those shows, anyway, because here at Exeunt, because everywhere, there is only one rating, and we give it to everything, all of the time. 5 mice out of 5. (Tracey Sinclair)

Dec 2027: A junior employee accidentally unplugs the power supply to the cryogenic facility that contains Walt Disney’s popsicle-like body, and hence his legacy on earth. In the chaos that follows, copyright is abolished, and fringe companies are finally free to do the amateur recitals of Hunchback of Notre Dame and interactive Jurassic Park remakes that audiences (me) are so vigorously demanding (Alice Saville)

Jan 2027: Rufus Norris, Nick Hytner and Rupert Goold all spontaneously decide to quit theatre – nobody knows why, but rumours are rife. The three of them have since joined forces and started a not-for-profit company dedicated to eliminating problems in the theatre experience. Their first successful project was the creation of non-noisy packaging for snacks, which has been rolled out in every theatre in the UK. (JN Benjamin)

Feb 2027: Realising they could do a better job of running the country than Boris Johnson, the Arts Emergency team and Old Boys Network storm parliament and within five years have established a socialist republic. (MC)

Mar 2027: A prophecy has been discovered that warns about the consequences of staging too many Shakespeare plays. As legend has it, the theatre building that puts on the one millionth production of one of the Bard’s works will CAUSE THE ENTIRE WORLD TO spontaneously combust at the utterance of the first line of dialogue. Fearful of the potential for destruction, every theatre across the land agreed to never program another Shakespeare play ever again. (JNB)

2028: Almost all theatres now offer free tickets to those who watch the show while riding exercise bikes that power the production’s lighting. (LW)

May 2029: Alice Birch writes the longest play ever written, which when performed in an exquisite Katie Mitchell production, runs at about 32 hours. Picnics and pillows are encouraged. (EA)

Jun 2029: a military-style coup led by Annabel Turpin of Arc and Alan Lane of Slung Low (much enabled by Alan’s stockpile of artillery and tactics learned from The A Team) has resulted in the widespread adoption of Pay What You Want and the immediate transformation of theatres into community centres (MC)

Jul 2029: The Global Association for the Appropriate Representation of All People in Entertainment have dictated that any and all theatre productions written by Black people that are specifically about Black culture and/or Black histories must be directed by Black people. (JNB)

2030: Theatre is democratised and everyone can watch the live stream of any show, wherever they want. (EA)

2030: Universal Basic Income has contributed to a blooming of creativity outside of big institutions. Barriers between professional and amateur have begun to break down. The Tunbridge Wells Community Panto wins an Olivier. (LW)

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Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

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