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!
Alex Okoampa is currently in the London cast of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre. His other credits include Motown The Musical (UK & Ireland Tour), Babes in Arms (Ye Olde Rose and Crown).
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 my dressing room preparing for Tina Cast 3.0’s first ever dress run in costume and wigs. The wig team had popped in to tell us to come upstairs to get our wigs done, our dressers came to deliver our under garments and costumes, everything was literally in place for us to get ready and perform our first proper run before opening the show the next evening. That’s when we heard the stage manager through the tannoy asking us to come to stage.
My heart sank, I knew exactly what was happening, so I packed my bag before I went down to stage. We were anxious for about 2 weeks straight, following the updates on the virus during rehearsals at every chance we had.
Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?
Before Musical Theatre I made music. My music has been played on BBC Radio stations both up North and on Radio 1XTRA. However I wanted to fully immerse myself in the theatre world and make a name for myself, so I sort of put it on the back burner for a couple years. Since lockdown began I just found myself rediscovering the love I have for music all over again. Relearning, listening to various types of genres and albums. Music is so universal. So diverse. It tells so many stories, it has light and shade. Happiness and sadness. By doing that I rediscovered what sort of music I want to make again.
Aside from that I have been redoing my bedroom and helping my younger sister with her school studies. I genuinely forgot that I’m actually alright at Mathematics! Who would’ve thought I’d find so much joy in helping my sister with her math 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 looking after your mental state whilst using these platforms?
I pride myself in looking after my mental health and protecting my bubble of energy when need be. Instagram is an amazing platform to connect to the world. It’s also a memory bank for me with the stories and photos I post. Although, most of the time I’m scrolling to see the same things. My explore page is full of muscly and gym fit people – seeing this constantly can really damage ones self esteem. What I do to combat it is to deactivate my page for a few weeks until I’m okay to reactivate it and reconnect with my friends and more.
Reading self help books are a brilliant way to look after yourself. At the minute I’m reading ‘Good Vibes Good Life’ by Vex King. It teaches you to love yourself and trust the process of life. It touches on ‘The Law Of Attraction’ and more. If you put out positive vibrations into the universe, you will attract positive vibes back to you. It’s the sort of book that everyone needs to read because it is so easy to get lost in yourself amongst the madness. You matter. Look after yourself, the world needs you, you need you.
With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries?
Continue to watch new work online whether that be quarantine theatre or tv programmes. Donate to the theatres that need our help. Support ‘Acting for Others’ by buying their merchandise (notably The Show Must Go On merchandise that is made up of the current West End logos). Carry on protesting on social media that our industry needs government bailout and a road map to reopening. What would the world be without the Arts? It’s an escape! It can teach you many things about life. It can make you happy, make you sad and everything in between. It breaks my heart that our industry is falling apart but I know for a fact that when we do come back, we will be back with a BANG!
Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers?
I recommend the books I’m currently reading – ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****’ by Mark Manson and Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King.
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 often talk on the phone to my close friends – FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, you name it! It’s been such a blessing to reconnect with your friends. You’re always on the go but you never take the time to stop and learn each other. Talking about nothing, laughing our heads off and keeping each other sane is such a blessing in disguise. You realise how much you love them. Oh, and I’ve done COUNTLESS quizzes to the point that I never want to do another one for a good few years!
I live with my family and there’s 6 of us in the house at the moment. There are loads of things I never knew about them and vice verse. We were like passing ships because of our work patterns. I’m never really in the house anyway. I went to drama school in Manchester for 3 years, and a couple years after grafting for a job, I went on a UK & Ireland tour for almost 2 years. Just having simple conversations and discovering everyone’s habits is weird to me. I never knew how much I missed in my families lives. Especially my younger sister and watching the amazing intelligent young woman she’s growing into. It’s nice getting to know them again and for them to see the man I’ve become.
I also have 4 nephews and nieces ranging from 6 months to 13 years old. I miss them like crazy! I often speak to them on the phone and video call with them. I can’t wait to be reunited with them!
We’d like to thank Alex 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.