On the 17th March, it will be exactly one year since UK theatre came to an overnight standstill. Every day as we approach the anniversary, Theatre Bubble will be releasing personal accounts from theatre makers across all areas of the industry, telling us what this unexpected and unprecedented year has been like for them. See the full series here: Hands Face & Empty Space
Ayomide Adegun: drama student and actor
I and my entire drama school had been sent home to endure the first lockdown. I was very much preparing for the easter holidays and had already been planning theatre shows, cinema visits and extra-curricular acting workshops. Up until drama school closing the pandemic hadn’t affected me in any way, then all of a sudden I was home bound and didn’t have many outlets to experience art and creativity in the ways I had grown used to.
During the first month of lockdown I began to feel restless and pretty hopeless, looking back I definitely went through a form of existential crisis. During that time there was so much speculation about what this pandemic would mean, it was extremely overwhelming, it felt like a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from. Not being able to go and meet friends just to play FIFA or whatever didn’t make things easier either, It was as though I was stuck with in my own head 24 hours a day. I felt a pressure to keep creative by writing, watching films and filmed theatre shows, but it kind of felt contrived. There wasn’t a freedom to what medium I wanted to engage with, I didn’t cope well with the fact that I was being forced to just experience art virtually. I remember a particular time sitting in my living room being really bored and consciously trying to connect through my imagination to a time when I was in the theatre about to watch a show. I remember seeing a montage of all the great theatre I’ve witnessed from Angels in America at the National, to Misty at the Trafalgar Studios. To simple things like rehearsing scenes at drama school and watching our third year shows. It made me feel like I took all that in person, live action for granted- kind of like when you have a blocked nose and think back to when your nose wasn’t blocked and what that felt like. There’s honestly nothing like watching a piece of good theatre, it is definitely somewhat ritualistic, especially the silence just the before a show is about to begin and the respect that is shown to the actors when a show is concluded.
It was stressing me out so I decided to take a break from creativity and just focus on self-care. An actor/writer Elliot Barnes-Worrel was doing an ab workout every morning on his Instagram live during lockdown, that gave me structure in the morning and motivated me to start running every other day to keep fit and not feel trapped in a bubble at home.
A year on from the first lockdown. I can honestly say I learned so much about how important it is to be of support to your friends family, and even strangers. You never know what people are going through, and being an artist it can be easy to just focus on yourself and forget that that and thousands/millions of people in the exact same position you are in.
Normally I would brush feelings of self-doubt off or lack of motivation as just blip in my attitude. But the lockdowns have taught me it is okay to feel this way sometimes, and there’s a difference between punishing yourself and rewarding yourself. Punishing yourself is being too hard on yourself and letting what you expect of yourself get it in the way of looking after yourself.
Luckily I and my classmates at drama school were allowed back in the building in September to resume classes (socially distanced). This has been the silver lining through the pandemic because I am able to do what I enjoy again. This pandemic has also further encouraged me to be more grateful for what I have whether it be big or small.
I have great hopes for the future of the entertainment industry, which the vaccine being rolled out normality doesn’t seem all too far distant anymore. I hope that government starts to respect the impact of Art on our society a lot more and give it the support it needs to bounce back successfully. I hope that community theatre grows so that more people from different social classes and demographics find their way into the theatre and the industry continues to expand and achieve greater representation of the working class, the African, South, East and South East Asian Diaspora people.
I’m excited to see read and experience the stories that came out of lockdown. A lot of lights were dimmed during the bleakest of times but I sleep better knowing that they didn’t go out completely, they just waited patiently to shine brighter than ever.