The Ballad of Corona V: The Big House

This astute play speaks of living through a global pandemic, told through the prism of young care-leavers.

This astute play speaks of living through a global pandemic, told through the prism of young care-leavers. - Credit: The Big House/ Dylan Nolte

The Ballad of Corona V starts with Coronavirus, personified as an unhinged cowboy, interrupting my beer and conversation at the bar. His monologue is hard to grasp despite being able to hold onto names and phrases buried in his flurry of words.  

And with a sense of confusion that echoed the days preceding the pandemic and our lack of understanding of what’s to come, I am led into The Big House’s latest production which is a darkly funny and slightly unsettling performance that was as disorientating as the pandemic has been. 

The show is designed to be Covid-safe for the performers and the audience. The audience, with staggered start times and grouped in bubbles of six, is led through the promenade performance which snakes across five different spaces by various performers instructing us on where to stand and to keep our distance.   

We walk into a New Year's Eve celebration, which looks of another time, but sounds like it is set in the present day. A young woman dressed in a Victorian gown, rattles off her hopes and aspirations for the year to come to her father dressed in tails – festivals, gigs, human contact. She then gives birth to Boris Johnson.  

The audience – all three of us, which makes for a very intimate experience – are then taken through to have a chat with Coronavirus as he infects an older family member on a group chat, through to watching a case of mistaken identity, the on-goings of a Covid-ward and an incident in a park with two young people and a police officer.  

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The show’s five scenes are standalone performances (so performers could socially distance during rehearsals) connected through threads and layers and characters that circle back between each scene, creating an overall feeling that things are simultaneously linear and all over the place.  

Directed by Maggie Norris and written by David Watson, the story is based on the discussion, ideas and the perspective of the performers, who are young care leavers at risk of social exclusion, and of their experience of living through the pandemic. 

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It uses images and moments of the pandemic that are recognisable to all of us – the rainbow, the postman, BLM, panic buying, TikTok dance routines, Johnson’s hospitalisation, death, and isolating for the sake of a loved one - and turns them into situations less familiar to highlight the pandemic’s inequity.  

An exchange between a woman who mistakes a drug dealer for a postman morphs into a moment of white saviour hypocrisy; Boris Johnson (the impersonation is a joy) wants to shake my hand while a woman admitted to hospital with a broken leg dies in a Covid-ward; a young man shielding due to his mother’s health condition is confronted by a policeman saying he fits the description of a man at a scene of a crime.  

The Ballad of Corona V is a clever, youthful narrative, performed with energy and conviction. It highlights while the pandemic has happened to us all, we are not all in it together. 

Running until December 19. For bookings and more information, visit The Big House.

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