Illyria was created in 1991, and ever since has delighted audiences the length and breadth of the UK, and in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States and Canada.
Illyria has also won 4 international "Best Performance" awards and attracted numerous "5-star" and "Critics' Choice" reviews for the lively clarity of its approach to Shakespeare's plays, the high quality of its shows for Families and the refreshing originality of its English classics adaptations and Gilbert & Sullivan performances.
Illyria's mission is simply stated: to create a varied programme of outstandingly enjoyable theatre and to make it available for everyone to see. It has given more performances to more people across a wider area than any other open air touring theatre company, its presence dominates the sector and its standards set the bar high.
On 13 March 2020, 10 days before the UK-wide lockdown was announced, Illyria cancelled its entire 2020 season. It had become clear to us, through studying closely the progress of Covid in countries such as China, Italy and Spain and their respective governments’ responses, that the UK was on a similar trajectory. Every day we delayed cancellation of our season we incurred more expenses, which would simply be money lost. We were the first UK outdoor touring company to take the bold decision to cancel - but of course not the last.
UK Culture minister Oliver Dowden allowed outdoor performances to commence again from 11 July - with just 48 hours’ notice. The announcement was, on the one hand, a relief; but on the other it was too little, too late. Theatre could not spring into being in the 48 hours the industry had been given. Casting alone takes weeks, as indeed do rehearsals. By the time a show had been cast and rehearsed, there was a real risk that there simply wasn’t enough summer left to make the show viable - not to mention the challenge of doing so with far lower audience capacities due to social distancing.
Nevertheless, from 27 July - 26 September 2020 Illyria formed two acting companies, one touring the full length of the UK, the other a short rep season of two different shows. Both teams successfully performed to fully socially distanced audiences. Two weeks after each run was completed all staff and their households were still free from Covid symptoms - indicating that the measures Illyria had put in place had given them adequate protection.
Covid is still with us, and may remain so indefinitely. But Illyria has proved that theatre can still happen safely. We want others in the industry to benefit from our experience, so we are now offering a consultancy service to producers, directors, venue managers and actors. We can advise on the how to maintain the highest safety standards in audience management, touring, rehearsals and performance in a complex and changing environment - and yet minimise the effect of these measures so as to maintain a production’s viability.
If you are interested in engaging Illyria to learn more about running and hosting Covid-secure theatre productions, you can contact us to discuss your needs and our consultancy credentials and fees here.