A Performer's Guide to This Weird Time
Performer Katie Redford gives her suggestions about how to keep creatively engaged during the lockdown.
By Katie Redford
Here are some great things that have happened in the last few days:
- The bees are back in town - I saw four in 15 minutes
- The birds are sounding fit
- I recorded Desert Island Discs with my Dad (over Skype, chill out.) It lasted for 2 and a half hours, which makes me think he’s been waiting for someone to ask him for years.
- My Mum’s decided to publish her first-ever book of poetry with all proceeds going to out of work performers. I told her she may as well just do a direct bank transfer to her daughter. But yeah, no, support everyone else… (Joking. Love to all)
- My boyfriend makes really great bread (but then chews it far too loudly)
- I’ve realised what I thought was bad wasn’t that bad at all.
I really hope you’re all doing okay. I know it’s weird and unsettling right now. I’m in it with you. We don’t have much control over our careers at the best of times but right now, it’s a whole other level. You might already be nailing this whole lockdown thing, but if you’re feeling slightly lost, here are a few suggestions that I hope help.
If you’ve got any existing projects that you can still continue with and improve, do [but] don’t overload yourself.
Don’t Overdo the To-do Lists
I don’t know about you but when this all kicked off, I went a bit OTT with the to-do lists. It’s great having a goal but be realistic about it. Number 3 on mine was 'Learn how to play Someone Like You by Adele on the piano'. Considering I don’t even know how to play Row Row Row Your Boat, I think it’s fair to say that’s probably not going to happen.
I’m not saying don’t learn a musical instrument but if you’ve got any existing projects that you can still continue with and improve, do. Don’t overload yourself. It’s incredible how many opportunities I’ve seen for writers and performers so far, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by feeling like you have to take them all on. For sure, keep creatively engaged by exploring them and seeing which ones feel right for you but don't feel like you have to say yes to every opportunity you see pop up on Twitter. There’ll be plenty more.
Have Some Routine
I always bang on about routine but I think it’s so important, especially to the self-employed and especially now. A good morning routine will act as your stability in this period of great instability. These can be basic things such as:
- Setting an alarm clock for the same time every morning
- Wake your body up. I recommend Yoga With Adrienne and her 30 day plan; it’s good to have something to work towards. Plus, she’s a ray of sunshine
- Breakfast - a good one that sets you up for the day (or whatever is left in Tesco)
- Get dressed. It’s easy not to when you don’t have to leave the house
- A plan of action for the next few hours. You could devise a list of directors you’d like to work with and drop them a line. I’ve seen some lovely tweets from various casting directors offering to watch actor’s showreels, so take them up on this. Don’t have a showreel? Watch others, do your research, get an idea of what you’d like in yours for when the time is right. Is there an accent you’ve always wanted to nail? Now. Is. The. Time.
By consistently doing something towards your career you will hopefully ease the anxiety of this whole thing. And then you can treat yourself to an afternoon matinee. And by that, I mean reading a play or watching Escape to the Country in your PJ’s. Whatever floats your boat.
Negativity is exhausting and our mental health needs to be protected so I limit myself to two or three social media scrolls a day
In the last 72 hours, ask yourself how much have you learned as opposed to consumed? I’m still not any closer to learning any keys to Someone Like You but I do know that Emma who I did HIIT classes with was absolutely fuming with a man in Waitrose for taking the last toilet roll.
Last week, my screen time increased by 146%. I was obsessed with what was happening. One night, I was so deep into my Twitter feed that I was oblivious to the most beautiful sunset that had left our living room in a blanket of pink.
It wasn’t just the news updates I became transfixed with, it was also what everyone else was up to. I thoroughly enjoyed the funny memes that were circulating but then I started to read angry post after angry post. Some were from actors, some were then towards actors. I get it. I’m angry too (not at actors). But digesting that negativity is exhausting and our mental health needs to be protected so I now limit myself to two or three social media scrolls a day.
There are so many wonderful things we could be doing if we weren’t glued to the crisis. My mates Dad has set up a YouTube channel for juggling called Juggle with Jon. I’ve discovered a very powerful breath class by @thebreathguy. My brother had a free Life Coach session that he said changed his life and now he’s going around like he’s the Dali Lama. My mate @annaspearpoint has become a superb quizmaster. Another friend has discovered a free hip-hop dance class. I mean, just think of the skills we’ll be able to add to the CV…
My Dad is a wise owl who loves an analogy and on Sunday I was in need of one. I, like most people in this industry, have had projects postponed or cancelled and my Dad was asking me how I was feeling about it all. I said I felt robbed. I’ve worked hard to get my first writing commission and then I did, but now it’s like it’s not there anymore. He said, “You won’t get on the 7.32 train from Euston as originally planned. You may not get on the one after that either. But you will get on the train. And you will get to your destination.” You can have that one for free.
I sometimes wonder if my time spent concerned about, and fighting for, our industry is outweighing the love I have for it. But then I think about stepping foot into a theatre after all of this is over and sitting amongst an audience full of people who have paid to see a team of people’s work that’s been born and created from sheer resilience, graft and love. And then a lump forms in my throat. And I realise I don’t need to worry about my love for it. If anything, the past few weeks have reaffirmed that we’ve got the love bit down; we’re well and truly stocked up with that.
In the meantime, enjoy Spring (when do we ever get the chance to say that?) We’ll look back at this time and, hopefully, be thankful for all of those things that kept us going; nature, books, conversations, relationships (if he keeps the chewing down) and ultimately, our own mental strength.
Stay safe and of course, distanced. And I’ll see you on the other side.
Katie is an actress and writer originally from Nottingham. Since playing the role of Carrot 2 in the local amdram's version of 'Jack and the Beanstalk', she's never looked back. She currently plays Beth in BBC's 'Still Open All Hours' and Lily Pargetter in BBC Radio 4's 'The Archers'. She won BAFTA Rocliffe TV Comedy and was also a member of the BBC Comedy Writersroom.
Image by Trent Szmolnik via Unsplash.