Thursday, 16 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Ben Irish

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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*

Ben Irish was most recently seen playing Joe in 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End. His other credits include Rusty Charlie/ Ensemble in Guys and Dolls (The Mill at Sonning); Toxie/Melvin in The Toxic Avenger (Arts Theatre); Cover Sam Wheat/Carl in GHOST The Musical (Asia tour); Josephine in the All-Male HMS Pinafore (UK tour), Ensemble in Ultimate Broadway (Shanghai Culture Square); Ensemble/Cover Mabel in the All-Male Pirates of Penzance, Prince Charming in Cinderella (Stag Theatre); Great British Musicals (St James Theatre); West End Heroes (Dominion Theatre); 42nd Street Gala (London Palladium); Three Composers, Three Countries (Landor Theatre) and Prince Edward in Cinderella (Wakefield Theatre Royal).

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? 

When I found out that our theatre was closing we were mid-warm-up getting ready for the show. There was already a very odd vibe in the theatre as we were all very aware of what was going on elsewhere in the world. We'd completed our physical warm-up then started to get messages through from other shows saying then had been cancelled. When we got the news we were cancelled too it was a very sad atmosphere at 9to5 as we knew this probably meant some if not all of us wouldn't finish our run at the Savoy. It was recently announced that we will not be finishing.

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

Now in week four of isolation, it becomes harder as well as easier to handle. All jobs around the house have been done, love living in a show home, my housemates and I are on our third 1000 piece puzzle, we are doing lots of home workouts, baking and this week we have taken our talents to basic carpentry, collected wooden pallets and made some benches for the garden as it looks like we'll be spending far more time there! Now to learn how to make cushions for it! Also setting aside time to keep practising our craft is important, obviously, it's much harder to dance a routine in the lounge but I set aside time to sing just to keep the muscles working.

A saviour of my day is walking the dog. I try to walk her early evening as the sun is starting to go down. The views from Greenwich park at that time are beautiful and though I can't socialise it's lovely to see Pegasus (my puppy) playing.

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 have been trying to keep off social media as much as I can, even though my phone loves to remind me the increase in my screen time, but I don't want to get into a slump of just sitting on my phone. As often as we can as a household we watch the 5pm government update and I am equity deputy on my show so often have conference calls about everything they are working for, and it's so important to step away from all of that. Do anything that makes you smile, laugh and relax in a positive way. I practice mindfulness, get my own space on runs/walks, as a house we have had a fancy dress night, turned the lounge into a club and have scheduled movie nights when we aren't on our phones and don't sit day in day out in front of Disney plus. 

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

It's so important to keep supporting the arts. Sometimes it's overlooked how the arts affect us all and contribute the economy. With funding being cut more than ever it's down to the support of the fans to keep theatre-going. There are lots of online concerts going on Instagram and other social media platforms and Eugenius did a live viewing on Facebook with proceeds going to acting for others. Broadway HD has some great shows recorded on there to watch and keep listening to your favourite soundtracks. Also, I think it's a great time for all performers to be sharing stories and memories at work on our social media keeping it a positive place. 

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

Ways I have been staying connected are all of the obvious social media platforms, face times are great as well as group zoom events mainly quizzes and also group Yoga session every morning (I don't always make it). I have also signed up to play online games of Shit Head with boys I have worked with in the past, so we get on a group FaceTime and play each other like we would have done at work. We also have a beautiful old lady next door called Jill who has been posting quotes through people's doors along our road to keep spirits up, We love Jill!

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

This sounds really corny and wet but I'm most looking forward to a hug when this is all over. Before the show each day I hug everyone on stage during warm-up, just for that moment to check-in, so it's something I genuinely miss. Other than that I'm most looking forward to getting into a gym and being able to lift weights again, something I thought I would love a bit of a break from and just get fat and happy but I really really miss it, the social, mental and physical aspects. 

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

For more information please visit GOV.UK and

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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