Features/Cabaret/Music/Theatre/Visual Art

The show goes on in isolation

20 March 2020

Even in isolation there are ways to enjoy the arts. Rosalind Appleby and David Zampatti have compiled a list to get you through the weekend.

The world continues to reel from the impact of COVID-19, and in Western Australia events of all descriptions have been cancelled as the community begins self-isolation. The arts sector has been crippled by the indefinite loss of ticket sales and income and audiences are already grieving the loss of the arts.

Fortunately the creative sector is skilled at innovatively navigating challenges, and there are still plenty of opportunities for people to engage with the arts while practicing appropriate self-isolation. Seesaw is busy compiling guides for our readers and we hope our platform will help people stay connected and creative in the coming months.

Why seek out art when people are dealing with corona virus?

Freeze Frame Opera artistic director Rachel McDonald puts it beautifully in this art vs toilet paper debate:

“Toilet paper is essential. Art can be perceived as frivolous and elitist. And yet art has always flourished in hard times. We need it because it reminds us of our shared human-ness… When people are having a lot of feelings our job doesn’t get less important. It gets more important. Community story-telling, beautiful music, truthful acting, entertainment, all these things connect us up to each other while simultaneously helping us with what’s going on inside. Which is at least as valuable as toilet paper.”

Freeze Frame Opera are offering window serenades.

Freeze Frame Opera have been one of the first to adapt to the changing environment, offering window serenades starting from $200. You can book a personal operatic serenade for yourself or for someone who is lonely. You will also be keeping artists in work during this period of social isolation.

Perth Symphony Orchestra have launched #BachintheBathroom on social media, encouraging musicians to play their favourite piece of Bach in the bathroom where the reverb is incredible and the lighting is on point!

Visual Arts

There are also art galleries remaining open, within strict hygiene parameters. For an art adventure head to Art Collective WA in Cathedral Square. The current exhibitions ‘Things Past’ by Joanna Lamb and ‘From the Shadows’ by Jennifer Cochrane were described as “beautiful and spine-tingling” by Seesaw critic Jaimi Wright.

Or check out I Know My Country, a display of new paintings from remote Indigenous community art centres at Earlywork, South Fremantle. You can also visit the exhibition online, where you can request high resolution images of paintings and accompanying information.

Tina Havelock Stevens, ‘Thunderhead’, 2020. Installation view at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Photo: Bo Wong

The gallery at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art also remains open. Chalkroom virtual reality experience has been closed (if you missed it read the review here). However Hudson Valley Ruins and Thunderhead are open to the public. Follow the links to go deeper with the Seesaw reviews and don’t forget to add your emoji response and comment below each review. You may be viewing the art in isolation but the conversation continues at Seesaw!

Television and digital platforms

Unlike the poor arts lover back in the plague years, we have TV, streaming services and YouTube to while away the hours. So here we are, ringing around the rosie again; but this time we can ward off the glums with a fair selection of theatre, dance, opera and visual arts.

And who knows – you might happen upon something truly special.

Here’s a great example. There’s an online subscription service called BroadwayHD. As it’s name suggests, it gives you access to filmed performances of plays and musicals from the Great White Way. They’re currently offering a seven-day free trial (it’s normally around US ten dollars a month).

Among the many shows they’ve got available to stream is The Gabriels, Richard Nelson’s three-part magnum opus of the 2016 American election year. I saw it at the 2017 Perth Festival, with essentially the same cast, and it’s just about the best thing I’ve ever seen on stage.

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The world hasn’t quite ended for lovers of live classical music, either, thankfully. The Berliner Philharmoniker has opened its esteemed on-line portal, to everyone, for free, and will be performing special concerts without live audiences during the pandemic.

And, if you haven’t already heard it, Yo Yo Ma has a tune for you. While you’re there, check out an extraordinary new work by Tim Minchin and Perth artist Tee Ken Ng.

Free-to-air television is an arts wasteland (there’s something every now and again on ABC and SBS, but it’s a trickle not a flood) and the pay services aren’t much better (Foxtel has its semi-arts channel 103, but you have to pick through a lot of Andre Whatsisname to get to a smattering of classical music performances, ballet and very occasional drama). Stan, Amazon Prime and Netflix do have a lot of excellent television (missed Fleabag or Chernobyl? Heard about The Marvellous Mrs Maisel? Now’s your chance), but no arts programming to speak of.

Seesaw will update regularly with performing arts you can access on television or digitally. And if there’s anything you’d like us to share with other readers, please drop us a line at

These details are correct at the time of publishing. Readers are encouraged to check venue and government health websites for the latest information, and make decisions based on their personal health circumstances.

Pictured top: Yo-Yo Ma plays #SongsOfComfort on YouTube.

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Rosalind Appleby

Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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