Although the pandemic is far from over, it is very exciting to start seeing the world heading towards normality. My first sense of this normality since the total unlocking of the country in July came at the weekend, with tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End.
The tickets were originally booked for some time in June, when we thought the country would unlock on the 21st June, however when this didn’t happen, the theatre pushed all performances back by a few months. While this worked very well, it felt like we were never going to get there, especially as had I booked the tickets way back in December 2020 as something to look forward to after lockdown. It almost felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it kept moving just out of reach.
"I was equal parts excited and anxious."
Anyway, at some point the show had to go on, and theatres finally reopened. With plans made to meet my mum outside the theatre, I booked my train ticket and made my way into London’s theatre district for the first time since December 2019. As a big theatre fan, I was extremely excited to be back, but also slightly nervous. After all, we’ve all spent almost a year and a half not socialising with anyone outside of our households or bubbles, and now I was travelling on a busy train to sit in a full theatre for a few hours. To be completely honest I was equal parts excited and anxious.
As Andrew Lloyd Webber writes in the show’s programme, we were “among the first audiences to be in a full theatre” post-lockdown, and I have to say it felt entirely safe. Covid wasn’t at the forefront my mind while I was in the theatre as measures had been taken to allow performances to go ahead in the safest way possible. Audience members were asked to do a lateral flow test within 48 hours of the show, a majority wore masks throughout (these were recommended but not compulsory), and apparently the theatre has invested in a new ventilation system, though I can’t say that I would know how to comment on the freshness of the air in the auditorium. On the whole, though, it felt very safe and normal to be back in a busy theatre.
Covid aside, the show was incredible. The music is beautiful, and the cast were brilliant. The cast was led by Killian Donnelly as the Phantom, Lucy St Louis as Christine Daaé, and Rhys Whitfield (a GSA alumni) as Raoul, all of whom were amazing. It was quite moving to be back in a full theatre and to be entirely invested in such a classic show. A few times I felt myself getting a bit emotional, both at the music and once during a particularly enthusiastic round of applause.
"I can definitely understand why it has been running in London for 35 years..."
Phantom is a classic for a reason, and I can definitely understand why it has been running in London for 35 years. Not only is the music beautiful and emotive, but the staging is so clever. A few times it really feels like the Phantom is behind you or moving around the auditorium in a ghostly way, and, according to the programme, they do this using over 250 speakers. The show also boasts 180 candles, 370 costumes, a remote-controlled gondola, and of course, the iconic 3-metre chandelier, all of which add immeasurably to the show’s overall impact.
"I highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance."
I think The Phantom of the Opera will always hold a special place in my heart as the first show I saw after lockdown, and just because it was amazing. I highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance. Being back in a theatre only emphasized how much I’ve missed it, and I can’t wait to book my next show. Plus, the arts have struggled considerably over the last year and a half so if I can support an industry I love while also getting to see an amazing show, then I definitely will.