Please, sir, I want some more!

Hello City reconnected me to the world in a tangible and familiar way

Members of the cast of Hello City by the Sea prepare for an evening of improvised comedy. Photo by Mark Robins.
Members of the cast of Hello City by the Sea prepare for an evening of improvised comedy. Photo by Mark Robins.

By my calculation, it has been 170 days since I last experienced a live theatrical performance. That’s 4,080 hours, 244,800 minutes or 14,688,000 seconds. It seems like a lifetime.

I remember it fondly. It was March 6, 2020, and we were at the opening night of Neptune Theatre’s Calendar Girls. As I sat down to write my review the next day, I declared it an “antidote we need right now.”

Little did I know that less than three weeks later, Nova Scotia, along with much of the world, would declare a state of emergency. Social distancing and self-isolation were no longer suggestions; they were mandated by the government to help stop the spread of COVID-19. It was the beginning of the end of live performances in the age of the pandemic.

As the days turned into weeks, gatherings at performance venues were quickly replaced by every manner of digital performance. YouTube, Facebook Live and the ubiquitous Zoom became the new stage. It was far from perfect, but at least it was something to keep me connected to the world that had consumed my life as a writer for the past twenty years and consumer my entire life.

But even the best digital production couldn’t replace the magic that came from sitting in a theatre, surrounded by other like-minded individuals. While many would try, the live performance could never quite be replicated in the Facebook Live productions fraught with technical difficulties or the pre-recorded shows that were never intended for broadcast.

I grew weary of the digital. Much of it was a subpar Netflix experience, quickly thrown together to create a bridge to this new norm.

Through it all, I desperately missed the sense of community and the immediacy that a live stage show generates.

That is until last weekend’s performance of Hello City by the Sea from Halifax improv comedy group Hello City who took over Cambridge Battery in Point Pleasant Park, the usual haunts of Shakespeare by the Sea before its season was cancelled because of the virus, for just two performances this month.

It may not have been an antidote, but at times it felt good. Really good. It reconnected me to the world in a tangible, but more importantly, a familiar way. I was re-energized. I could see the light at the end. My soul and mind were nourished.

And while I am immensely grateful, in the immortal words of Oliver Twist, please, sir, can I have some more?