PERHAPS there was a time when we may have cast an indulgent smile in the direction of Alison Steadman on hearing the actor declare, as she did this week: "I've got a bit of stage fright now. I don't think I'm going to be doing theatre again.”

We would have been wondering how a 73-year-old who has been bold enough to deliver us big, social pole-vaulting, estuarine women throughout her career, in the likes of Abigail’s Party and Gavin and Stacey, could suddenly be too scared to go back on stage?

We would have raised an eyebrow to query how she could have an Olivier Award staring at her from the mantelpiece, for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, yet be frightened by the environment she had once been able to thrive in?

But not now. If anything, Covid has made us consider all the world is indeed a stage. And after nearly four months of waiting in the wings for our cue we may struggle to walk out there and deliver our lines.

Having been confined to a couple of rooms, with our most frequent audience being the postman, the Amazon driver, or the student who works at the Tesco till, we’ve forgotten how to make eye contact with the public at large and be confident.

And there is a real chance many of us could be suffering from Adjustment Disorder, a psychiatric condition recognised by the American Psychiatric Association. Recent research by Superdrug has found that 22 per cent of those questioned have spent so much time in one place they now feel anxious in crowded places.

The results also reveal that 21 per cent feel insecure about being sociable again – and 43 per cent are nervous about the restrictions being lifted.

Those numbers add up to a lot of concern.

What’s added to the fear of going out there again is our work stages have been dismantled. We operate from home, which is a blessing and a curse. It offers you the flexibility to work when you like. It also offers you, if you’re not careful, the chance to find yourself working at 10.30 at night.

And as the time of day becomes relatively inconsequential, the weekdays flow into weekends. As a result, the numbing ache of solitary continuity sets in, which demands little more from you than functionality.

Paradoxically, while we’ve been trapped at home and strangely accepting of the containment, we’ve also been screaming out for a stage, a place to express ourselves, to meet pals and talk and gossip and moan and rejoice. And this stage is called the pub.

But now that the day of opening is almost with us, the concerns emerge: what will it be like chatting to a group again? What will we have to talk about? Will a genuine smile of happiness emerge on friends’ faces when you point out excitedly you’ve got your car booked in for an MoT? Will there be rejoicing at the news you’ve finally learned to play James Taylor’s You Can Close Your Eyes on guitar and even managed to finish a Martin Amis novel?

There are certainly lots of challenges presented by freedom. Should we opt for a staycation? Or do we really want to check into a hotel on the Costas with the possibility it’s packed with a hen party from Leicester?

If someone close to us on the bus takes off their mask to fire an invigorating sherbet lemon into their mouth do we turn vigilante? And should we really be desperate for a haircut? (I’ve realised it’s very easy to cut it myself, if I'm happy with a 1970s David Cassidy feathercut – as if created by a three-year-old with blunt secateurs.)

There’s also the Covid concern. Walk into a bar and see a stranger sneeze and I’ll backtrack faster than Boris in his criticism of care homes. And fear of a spike. Personally, I am as confident in the UK Government’s test and track response as I am of Alison Steadman announcing she wants play Medea at the Almeida.

But we need to be confident. We need to assume that people will be interested in the mundanities of our lockdown lives. And that Covid is fast exiting Stage Left. Remember that Billy Connolly managed to overcome stage fright. As did Ian Holm.

Next week, the make-up and the costume is going on.

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