Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Silent disco: Dancing in the streets

With West End theatres closed for the foreseeable future, getting that live-performance experience is going to require a bit more active participation. So I headed out on a stage musical-themed Silent Disco Walking Tour of London's theatres, which has been revamped with social distancing in mind - we had to wear our masks, for starters (with a mask break along the way). Cordless headphones connected us with our guide Shaun, a mind-bogglingly energetic performer who never stopped bouncing for two hours and 12,000 steps. And stewards Vicki and Tom made sure we didn't get lost along the way.

It's definitely a surreal experience to walk through crowded Soho streets full of people dining al fresco when you're listening to your own soundtrack. It was wall-to-wall music, with Shaun's commentary offering groan-worthy jokes, intriguing historical notes and instruction in whatever choreography might be required. This meant that everywhere we went we were enjoying a private joke, usually at the expense of the hapless people on the streets around us.

The music was very easy to sing along with, as it majored in bigger hits, starting with Bohemian Rhapsody (We Will Rock You), and moving through the likes of I Will Survive (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Hello (The Book of Mormon), Gravity (Wicked), You'll Be Back (Hamilton), 9 to 5, The Circle of Life (The Lion King) and medleys featuring Abba (Mamma Mia), Motown and the unlikely trio of Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi and Katy Perry (&Juliet).

We crossed three streets in raucously annoying style: walking like Egyptians (tenuously linked to The Prince of Egypt), moonwalking (Thriller) and doing full Tina Turner motions to Proud Mary (Tina). We did an Irish jig outside Come From Away and the Time Warp in honour of Rocky Horror. There were also some moody numbers from Les Miserables and Cats. And quite a lot more. We also hit a remarkable number of West End theatres from Soho to Shaftesbury Avenue to The Strand and Drury Lane - the only section skipped was St Martin's Lane / Charing Cross Road.

It was lot of fun (and good exercise too) for a glorious Sunday afternoon. And Shaun, Vicki and Tom put on a proper show themselves. So even if it sometimes feels a little like summer camp, and those who are easily embarrassed might think twice, it's also fun to shed those inhibitions and hope no one you know walks by at a particularly flamboyant moment. Here are some of my embarrassing screen grabs from the video they assemble of the tour (click to enlarge). A link to the full video is below.

For information: www.silenttours.net. Recognising the impact of the pandemic on the arts, £5 from each ticket sold is donated to the Theatre Artists' Fund, set up by the Society of London Theatres to provide emergency support for theatre workers and freelancers across the UK during lockdown. 

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