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
Henry Regan: Actor and entrepreneur
The pandemic stopped us in our tracks, the house of cards came tumbling down and the theatre industry went into disarray. We sat in our pyjamas. 64 million of us watched Tiger King. We all slowly realised that this wasn’t going away, not for a while, some of us would have to take other jobs to keep afloat, the rest would be working hard to make sure we came out the other side with as few scars as possible, both mental and financial. A sense of community formed, respect and determination, this wasn’t going to get us down. The most resilient of these was the theatre industry. By all intents and purposes, the industry should have crumbled, but we just don’t accept that do we? Theatre companies started going virtual, actors created Zoom plays, performed in online corporate events and producers experimented with new channels. We hustled. What seemed like a well of darkness turned into a pit stop for the future. We have collectively changed the course of theatre for generations to come. Mixed media, challenging what an audience is, what theatre is, and in turn created a new path.
As an actor, I wanted a way to use this time effectively and to feel like I was contributing to the arts, aside from just paying £11.42 to equity each month. My partner in crime, Samuel Lawrence and I, (Sam is also an actor) were struggling with a specific problem so we decided to try and fix it ourselves. When faced with a casting, role or just trying to improve our CV’s, we found there were no solid resources to help us nail that audition without feeling like we were being let down by ‘putting on an accent’. We felt that we, and the rest of the industry, needed something more extensive and accurate. Searchable voice clips, from people of different ages, backgrounds, educations and definitely a more varied selection of voices representative of the beautiful diverse arts community that we now are. So we created spikizi – a global community-led accent and dialect app. We wanted to make something amazing but at the same time offer it as cheap as we possibly could so every actor had the ability use it to upskill and when the time came, to walk into an audition stronger than they did in 2019.
If you haven’t heard of us then spikizi is built around a sense of community and helping each other out. In order to join spikizi, you are asked record your own voice onto the app in order to get access to the large database of other voices and tips from our global network of Accent & Dialect coaches. All voices are categorised specific to the nearest neighbourhood, with searchable criteria including age, education, schooling, ethnicity. From there you can ‘Shout-out’ (which is the way to get someone to read a piece of text for you in the accent you’re learning) to those appropriate to your specific accent need – constructing the character’s voice with pinpoint accuracy, as well as creating private, public or cast playlists all with the ability to listen and download them offline. We have an incredible advisory board of accent experts ranging from Hollywood to The Globe, who has been a guiding hand in the development and are sharing articles and video content to help everyone further develop their skills.
We pushed ourselves, whilst working our day job, we have spent sleepless nights trying to make this as good as it possibly can be, listening to all the advice we could for what theatre really needs right now. We can’t solve it all but we’re doing our bit. We want this time to be a pit stop, to give the theatre community a resource to build for the future. To hone their craft and to stand, most importantly, hand in hand.
It’s about letting people use this time how they see fit, whether that’s to watch loads of Netflix, take in nature, do an MA, learn to sing, spend more time with their families, for us, it’s all about making sure that we’re helping them when they hit the inevitable ‘what’s next?’ and making sure they have those extra few skills that are going to book them that job. Your subscription to Netflix has gone up, sure, but so have the number of castings. The future is looking bright but we need to move forward together, as an ensemble because you can bet your bottom dollar the muggles are going to need us after this. Big smiles.