By Kevin Smith
Student actors had their performance in Bognor Regis livestreamed to the sell-out audience in the first event of its kind.
Members of the cast in the musical, Guys and Dolls, danced and sang in front of an empty auditorium at the Regis Centre because of social distancing orders brought in to tackle coronavirus.
But the University of Chichester’s Triple Treat Tour Company’s show in the Alexandra Theatre, pictured right is Bognor Regis resident Ellie Kingdon, was still enjoyed by ticket holders on their computers in their homes.
The show last Friday evening was the last to take place before the venue had to close in line with a government order.
Caroline Bennett, marketing manager at the centre, said it was sad no live audience was present in the 350 seats.
“The students worked so hard all week to give a terrific performance. It was wonderful to have such an uplifting musical as our last show before temporarily closing.”
Both sell-out Saturday shows were cancelled. She said the theatre had been forced to go dark at the worst time as the centre was about to celebrate 40 years.
“With a number of sold-out events, our upcoming anniversary gala and the theatre being busier than ever, this is possibly the worst way we could celebrate the venue’s 40th birthday.
“I think one of the saddest things about our temporary closure is that we can’t provide the performance opportunities to all our local art groups.
“Groups like Art of Dance and Fitness, Arabesque School of Performing Arts and Dance House have all had to cancel shows they had been working so hard towards,” said Caroline.
The closure also affected those who gave their time to help at the centre.
“Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t have a theatre. We have over 80 of them working at the theatre, in our cafe, box office, management, front of house, charity shop and other areas.
“The value of their contribution is immeasurable and we’re so sad on their behalf that we’ve had to shut our doors,” said Caroline.
“It’s not just a business. It’s considered a lot of people’s second homes.”
It was difficult to know when the centre, run by the Arun Arts charity, would again open its doors and bring in some income.
Before then, Arun Arts was faced with paying its unavoidable bills and enabling its few paid staff to keep their jobs.
Caroline said: “It costs upwards of £15,000 each month just to stay up and running. Obviously, the longer we’re closed, the harder it will be for us to get back on our feet.
“And, although we are predominantly staffed by volunteers, we do have a handful of paid staff whose livelihoods are in the balance.”