Tackling lockdown loneliness with online playreading groups

Harriet Clifford
Friday, October 9, 2020

Loneliness is a problem with or without a pandemic, but lockdowns and social distancing have further fuelled the need to keep people connected. One way creatives in the UK have achieved this is through online playreading groups, providing Covid-secure entertainment and enabling people to learn new skills and interact with others.

Dramatis' online 'Wine and Wilde' playreading group proved popular
Dramatis' online 'Wine and Wilde' playreading group proved popular


At the start of lockdown in March, Dramatis Community Drama School joined many other theatre schools and companies in moving its programme online using both Zoom and YouTube. Dramatis also launched a new online adults playreading group, ‘Wine and Wilde’, which had an ‘overwhelming’ response. 

Participants, often completely new to acting or nervous about committing to a course, are pre-assigned characters in scenes from an Oscar Wilde play, which they then read through as a small group. Bringing a glass of wine (or alternative beverage) is also encouraged. The intention is that the group will continue ‘in real life’ once restrictions are lifted.

Similar projects have sprung up around the UK, including the online ‘Well Read’ playreading group from London’s Playground Theatre. During tighter lockdown, Nick Hern Books made one of their plays available online each week, which inspired the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry to launch a weekly playreading group via Zoom. In Salford, Up ‘ere Productions brought together local actors and writers for their script reading ‘Breakfast Club’.  

The government’s ‘Loneliness Annual Report 2020’ was published in January and set out to significantly reduce the number of lonely people over the next ten years.