These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we’ve faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we’ll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times.
Let’s stick together, share the love and get through this as a community!
Rhiannon Chesterman was most recently seen playing Julia in The Wedding Singer at the Troubador Theatre in Wembley. Her other credits include Wendy in Peter Pan (Lyric Theatre Belfast); Regina in Rock of Ages (UK & Ireland Tour); Frenchy & Cover Rizzo and Sandy in Grease (UK Tour); the title role in Cinderella (Bristol Hippodrome); Susan in That Man (Hippodrome); Ensemble & Cover Maureen in Mrs Henderson Presents (Theatre Royal Bath & Noel Coward Theatre); Shelley & Cover Tracy in Hairspray (UK Tour); Maggie in Lend Me A Tenor (Vienna’s English Theatre); Swing in The Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe (Kensington Palace Gardens).
Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?
Well. I won’t lie. I have been busier in this lockdown period than I have been in a while. Trying to suddenly adapt and make things work has been stressful but necessary. As with most actors living in London paying extortionate rent, we don’t have emergency funds stored away for a when a global pandemic hits. Between acting jobs, I teach and gig mostly but with those options out of action, I needed to get another job. Luckily my local supermarket was looking for new staff and so myself, along with many others in the theatre community, have started to work there.
I work nights mostly, restocking shelves and also doing online shopping for people. Occasionally I work a checkout shift which is a major throwback to when I was little and set up shop in the living room with my Fisher-Price till. It’s been a lifeline money wise but it’s also nice to feel like we are helping the community during these uncertain times.
I also work for a company called Baby Broadway (@babybroadwayuk). We normally do gigs all around London for children and their parents but obviously those have had to stop too. Thankfully we have now developed a format to get those concerts online! It’s the highlight of my week as I get to sing banging show tunes and also get to see lots of smiley little faces dancing away on Zoom. The shows are every Tuesday & Friday at 11am and I do every other week. If you have little ones, please do come along. It’s an injection of joy for me and hopefully also for everyone watching at home. All info is at babybroadway.co.uk.
Whenever you log onto social media there is so much negativity circulating. How have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times?
I love social media. I think without it we would all be much lonelier during this pandemic. There is, of course, negative energy that circulates, people posting unhelpful speculation but fortunately I have a very useful filter that allows me to just ignore the unwanted drama. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt. At the same time, it’s important not to get angry at those who use social media as a negative outlet. Everyone is coping the best they can and if they need to offload into the ether, let them. If it doesn’t serve you, ignore it.
I try to keep my twitter feed light and (hopefully) funny. My new job at Sainsbury’s has exposed me to many new experiences and has provided a lot of material for my recent tweets. I’ve just coined the hashtag #SupermarketChronicles so if anything that might make people smile happens, I will be sure to document it. (Sadly some of my best work was before I thought of the hashtag so you’ll just have to scroll if you fancy reading the previous happenings. When are you going to invent and edit button Twitter?)
With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries?
There are many charities and individual theatres you can donate to at this time to keep them going but I think the main thing people can do is to please return to the theatre. Once the theatres have been allowed to reopen, that means it’s safe to go – so please go! Don’t wait. As soon as shows are back on, buy tickets to go as soon as possible. Buy multiple tickets in advance. If you can, maybe line up a show a month for a couple of months. As soon as you can buy tickets and go to shows again, please do. We need to hit the ground running getting revenue back into the industry we all love.
There are tickets available for tours next year already, instead of waiting until closer to the time, why not buy your ticket now? It’ll be something to look forward to.
Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers?
I haven’t had a lot of spare time to watch much but I have listened to a lot of cast recordings while on my night shifts. There are so many fantastic albums out there but for the past week, I have been alternating between Tina & From Here to Eternity – literally for hours on end while stacking the loo roll. If you haven’t heard these soundtracks, you should check them out. They are wonderful.
In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?!
I have done a few quizzes. I do not excel in this area so I don’t tend to seek them out. Last week, however, I did a quiz with my Peter Pan company and I came joint 4th which is honestly the best I have ever done in a quiz. I was thrilled. FaceTime, Zoom & WhatsApp video calls have become the norm and thank goodness for them all.
And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over?
I can’t wait to hug my friends & family again. I miss hugs more than anything I think. Obviously I can’t wait to be in a theatre again. I can’t wait to be sat amongst an audience with a sense of anticipation and excitement from everyone around me. I can’t wait for the announcement before a show telling me to turn my phone off because it’s finally time to watch something live.
We’d like to thank Rhiannon and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.
Other useful links for anyone needing further help:
Acting For Others – Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Help Musicians – An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need.
Industry Minds – Mental Health Support for the creative arts.
Theatre Helpline – a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.