Updated: Mar 8, 2022
I'm walking through a thicket of trees, the sun is shining on my back, there are magical characters hiding in the surrounding woods and my walkie talkie is letting me know that a coachful of children have just arrived ready to start a day of adventures at National Trust's Box Hill.
That might sound like a dream.
And you'd be right. But the saddest thing about it? That before Covid-19 that would have been a reality!
This week the Zoo crew would have been headed to Box Hill for the first week of a three week run of In the Woods. This would have been the third consecutive year of the programme and was going to be bigger than ever with 13 schools and nearly 900 children. All the groundwork had been done - the actors cast, the schools visited, the set waterproofed, the Box Hill Rangers (but actually Flo, Roz and Laura..) briefed. We were raring to go and then...Coronavirus.
Day by day things started to change until eventually, with all National Trust parks shut, children taking their learning to their living rooms and the fact that I haven't left my parents kitchen in 4 weeks sadly we were left with no other option but to cancel.
It was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make and a position we would never have thought we would be in. In The Woods has become a staple of the Zoo Co calendar and one we look forward to (and stress about!) for months. We had the most incredible team assembled who we really hope we'll be able to work with again in the future and do so look forward to serving the children of Surrey again soon.
This programme is a huge part of our work - it includes months of planning, three weeks of shows, 4 weeks of in school engagement, employs 15 people and is about 200 days of work. To not be doing it is heartbreaking but we know we are some of the lucky ones. So many companies across the industry are facing huge financial implications from the impact of Coronavirus and I feel really fortunate to still be sitting at my laptop today working. It is fair to say we are petrified about what all this will mean for theatre in the future but we work in a truly resilient industry that has proven how brilliantly supportive it is at all times, especially in a crisis.
So for now, I will try to continue to dream and hope this nightmare comes to an end as soon as possible. Stay safe and keep in touch!