Thursday, 9 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Alex Lodge


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!

*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation. Please keep that in mind when reading* 

Alex Lodge is currently playing Ledoux in the touring production of Bat Out of Hell and was also most recently playing Jon in tick, tick…BOOM! at the Bridge House Theatre which earned him an Offie Nomination for Best Male Performance in a Musical. His other credits include understudy and played Elder Price in The Book Of Mormon (Prince of Wales); Jay Osmond in The Osmonds Musical (The Other Palace); Frederick Fleet in Titanic (Princess of Wales, Toronto); Bobby C in Saturday Night Fever (UK Tour); Sam in Romance Romance (Above The Stag Theatre); Straight Dave in Closer to Heaven (Union Theatre); Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees (Landor Theatre); Jess in See Rock City and Other Destinations (Union Theatre) and Herschel in Rags (Lyric theatre). 

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? 

On Bat Out of Hell, we actually found out the Friday before (coincidentally, it was Friday the 13th). Our first venue of the tour was due to be out in Atlantic City, NJ in the USA. We were in rehearsals. We were doing an evening session that day, so would have been working through until 9pm. We broke for dinner at 6pm and found out then that the Governor of New Jersey had closed all public performance spaces, which meant our first venue had to be postponed. Then, the following day on the Saturday, the President announced the travel ban on flights from the UK to the US, so we knew then we definitely weren’t going to be able to fly over the following week, as per the production schedule.

We were gutted, obviously. We’d worked our butts off to put the show together in 2 weeks before flying out to start tech. But I think a lot of us knew it was coming. As days went by and we watched as the global situation developed, it became more a matter of “when it happens” rather than “if it happens”. And as disappointing as it was to know we weren’t going, I would much rather have found out here in the UK, rather than have flown out to the US only to have the theatres & borders closed, and then face the stress and struggle of trying to get everyone home safely. Our general managers and producers were really fantastic about the situation, which has been a massive positive in a time of such uncertainty.

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing? 

I’ve managed to do a massive clear out of stuff that I’ve been intending to do for years and that felt great. I’m pretty good at finding pointless stuff to do to pass the time. I’ve written a few pub quizzes, re-organised my iTunes library, and rediscovered my love of unicycling, so that’s fun! I’m about to start a full re-watch of all the Marvel films in order, so that’ll kill at least a week. 

I really admire everyone who has been doing live streamed concerts and stuff. That kind of thing isn’t really for me but I love watching other people absolutely kill it. Some of the vocal acrobatics being displayed are seriously INSANE.

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? 

To be completely honest, I don’t really see much negativity online, but I think that’s because I choose not to. Watching the news is more terrifying by the day, and I make sure I watch it every day at 6pm to catch the latest developments, but the rest of the time I avoid it. Otherwise, I’d go insane. And I think social media is the same. I don’t follow anything that would show me content I don’t wish to see. I only really follow sports pundits, comedians, theatre news sites and generally funny pals on social media, so most of the time I find myself laughing at stupid memes or tweets rather than feeling down. The theatre community especially have shown, in a time of crisis, what a force for good in the world they can be, and it makes me feel great to know I’m a tiny part of that. I’ve also eaten a ridiculous amount of Jaffa Cakes. And that’s always a positive.

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

Artistic industries may be on pause, but the arts themselves will never be shut down. However, many spaces where the Arts are embraced and encouraged are under threat. A producer I was on the phone with a few days ago told me that the latest figures predict 17-18% of theatres that are currently closed will never open again after this crisis has passed. That’s a tragedy.

The best thing you can do? Buy a ticket for a future show or donate to your local theatre. I’m not talking about big commercial theatres owned by swanky big companies like ATG, Delfont Mackintosh, etc. They’ll take a hit - but they’ll be fine. I’m talking about your local arts centres in towns and smaller cities, especially those outside the M25. These buildings heavily rely on ticket sales, customer footfall and community support to keep them open throughout the year. Many of them are registered charities and/or run by local councils. Funding has been slashed year after year after year, and many of these venues were already struggling to keep afloat. Add the COVID-19 lockdown on top of that struggle, and it becomes near on impossible to keep the doors open.

Support them financially if you can, because we need them. 

As far as keeping the artistic part of us alive whilst in lockdown, there are so many fantastic things being put out on the internet, it’s hard to keep up. Free dance classes, workouts, singing lessons, play readings via conference call, concerts, the list is endless! Find something you like and program it into your day. It’ll make your soul smile because you’re doing it for YOU, not for applause or other gratification. 

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers? 

'Tiger King' on Netflix is fantastic. I’ve also started listening to Russell Kane’s “Evil Genius” podcast when I’m working out, which is brilliant. And of course, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES on Disney+ is an absolute must. Go Wildcats. I also love true crime stuff, especially about wrongful convictions. So if anyone has any recommendations on anything like that, hit me up. 

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?! 

My girlfriend and I have date nights on FaceTime watching movies together which is fun. And the world has suddenly discovered how great Zoom is, so we’ve done quizzes & games nights with friends via conference call. It’s far from ideal, but it’s something. And can actually be really fun when everyone gets involved. We can’t go to the pub, so we’ll bring the pub to us. 

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over? 

Number one would be seeing my girlfriend. Distance is really hard, and we have no idea how long this will all go on for, so as soon as we’re allowed to travel again, I’ll be hitting that motorway back to London. Next, I’m going to hug everyone I miss. And tell them how much I’ve missed them. It’s interesting to reflect on how much of my life is deemed “non-essential”, but one thing that is essential to me is friends. Friends are the family you chose, and times like this allow you to take stock of how lucky we are to have one and other. I’m also a really good height for hugs. Aside from that, having a sense of normality and routine back again - whatever that might look like in the post-COVID-19 world. Being able to go to the pub, go out for dinner, and get back to work. I like working and being busy. 

Uncertainty is rife right now, for everyone from every walk of life. No one has the answers, only educated guesswork. Our grandparents were called to fight in trenches. We’re being called to STAY AT HOME and sit on our sofas for our own protection. Perspective. It’s OK to not know what to feel right now. Personally, I have good days and then really bad days. One day, I’m proactive & positive, and then the next day I’m so down, even showering seems like a task I don’t have the mental energy for. The way through it is each other. The technology and content at our disposal is incredible. At a time when we’re so physically apart, staying mentally stimulated and emotionally connected is essential. 

This too shall pass. Laugh every day. Help out where you can. Be kind. Stay safe.

We'd like to thank Alex and all the other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

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.
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