Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin brings his Hands Free tour to Guldford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on May 11.
And he is delighted to say that simply being back on stage very much feels like normal now – even if audiences themselves are not quite back to normal yet.
“This is basically an extended tour, added dates from the tour last year. I started in September and went through until the end of November and then I did the Palladium and then finished the Palladium, went on holiday for a bit and then took the tour to Dubai for a couple of days and then we got back on the road here.
“And yes I certainly feel normal being on stage again. It feels much like it did before we had the pandemic and not many people are wearing masks. But wearing masks is a grey area, isn’t it. You can’t socially distance show because business wise it just would not work unless you are in the massive venues but I do think life has to go on. But yes we are still very aware of Covid but I think we’ve got to the point where we’ve had enough.
“We know Covid is still around and some theatres are very big on asking people to wear masks and I think where they are, you have got to respect that. But really we are at the point where life needs to carry on.
“I feel very fortunate to have avoided Covid myself, but I’m not sure how I did given the amount of contact I have had on tour and then every weekend last summer I was in Blackpool and then I was at the Palladium over Christmas and we managed not to lose a single show there which was great.”
Paul wouldn’t say the whole experience has necessarily changed his approach to the business: “I have always been very grateful to be in theatres so really this doesn’t feel particularly new now but I do think you can see a difference because the last time I was in these places I was selling out completely but that is not happening this time.
“Things do feel different in that respect, and there are so many postponed shows that are now happening and also there are lots of shows from people that have not had the chance to work for two years. I don’t think the competition has ever been as fierce as it is now and we are all vying for the same PR opportunities and I think just generally it’s harder now to get bums on seats. But what I have noticed is that the audience is a very up for it and really enjoying just being there and as I said I’m very grateful for that.”
In certain circumstances, though, you do have to work harder for people’s attention post pandemic: “I have just done a run of holiday parks last week all over, from the north-east right down the east coast and you’re going up in front of grown ups and kids and they are sitting at their tables and there are maybe a thousand of them and there’s a lot of noise going on.
“Having started in holiday parks, I think having gone back to them now I’m seeing that in some ways there isn’t quite the attention span, that there is so much more noise going on. But I’m certainly not saying that that’s the case in theatres, and as I say it’s just lovely to be back in theatres.”