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!
Justin-Lee Jones was most recently seen in the UK touring production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His other credits include understudy Ozzie in On the Town (Japan); understudy Tony in West Side Story (Royal Exchange); understudy Wally Strand in the original London cast of Strictly Ballroom (Piccadilly Theatre); Swing and understudy Mr Z in the original London cast of American in Paris (Dominion Theatre); understudy Mary Sunshine in Chicago (UK Tour); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (UK Tour); understudying the title role in Tarzan (Hamburg & Stuttgart) and Beauty and the Beast (Kuala Lumpur).
On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction?
I was in Woking – it was the 15-minute call and they told us to go down to stage for a talk with the producers. My housemate was in Mary Poppins and he had already text me at his warm-up that they were stopping, so I had an idea what the call to the stage was about. After they said we were stopping until further notice I wasn’t sad I was more in shock that it had actually happened – that week was supposed to be my schedule shows for my understudy performance as Felica. I had a lot of family and friends coming on the Wednesday to see me play the part so I was gutted it had all happened that week. I realised the situation but it was the last thing on my mind – I just wanted the show to come back so we could finish our 10 weeks left of the run. I felt robbed of the feeling when you perform your last show.
Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?
I have been doing ballet class a lot – the Dutch National Opera have some fab professional level classes for free on their youtube page. I do workouts like Barry’s boot camp and a couple of my own but I prefer to follow a class. I’ve been teaching – a lot of people have reached out to ask for classes at their colleges and schools which has kept me busy. I’m also a professional wig maker for Film, Theatre and TV. So I have had a few wigs to make for some film work that needed to be completed before everything stopped. Until the film work picks back up I’m making private commissions that have come through my wigs Instagram @hand.made.wigs – it’s a time-consuming job but therapeutic, so it’s been keeping me feeling calm and with purpose. I’ve done a couple of live streams for dance and wigs and have taken part in a lot of friends live streams to support their work!
There’s so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been trying to look after your mental state whilst using these platforms?
I am a positive person pretty much all the time – I don’t allow that kind of energy around me or allow it to affect me. Even positive things on social media can be interpreted in a negative way. But you have to look at it with a pinch of salt – does that post really affect my life and situation? Try and look at it with a positive spin on it.
With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries?
Share each other’s social media pages of the work they are doing. If they are doing a fitness class or dance class or anything like that – where they are offering something to the community – share it because even if you don’t need it that moment in your day, someone else might who may not already be aware of them!
Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers?
Yes, some great films on Netflix like Code 8, I Am Mother, there are so many I can’t think off the top of my head. Mandalorian (Star Wars series on Disney plus) Ozark on Netflix is a MUST!
In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?!
FaceTime is a wonderful thing and so is unlimited internet so I can call any friend and family to talk to them and check how they are doing! I’ve been apart of many quizzes which have been so fun!
And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over?
I’m looking forward to getting back to work! Going to class and the gym! I lost 1 future job to COVID but I’m extremely fortunate to have another that’s only been postponed so I am really excited to start that and just get back to the usual flow of stuff. I’m also looking forward to the industry returning to normal as my youngest sister is about to graduate and I feel sorry for her and other grads who have to enter the industry in these uncertain times!
We’d like to thank Justin 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.