Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jordan Cunningham

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Jordan Cunningham was most recently seen in the UK and International production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, understudying Miss Understanding and Felicia/Adam. His previous credits include Pepe/Cover Chino in West Side Story (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester); Sayid/Cover Jamie New/Cover Young Loco in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre, West End); Olivier Awards 2018 (Royal Albert Hall); Ritchie Valens in The Buddy Holly Story (UK Tour); Chino in West Side Story (Kilworth House Theatre); Tootles, The Lost Boy in Stiles and Drewe’s Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (LW Theatres). 

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 at home in London as I had unfortunately sprained my ankle pretty badly a couple of weeks before in Newcastle so I found out officially through my resident director and company manager via WhatsApp, but I was in constant communication with my other castmates, as there was a lot of confusion going on to do with what was happening. I was on Twitter slowly watching the domino effect of each West End theatre closing one by one, and predicted this would be the same for touring productions also, in which eventually it was. As saddening as I thought this was, I knew it was important for it to happen, because watching the news and keeping up with the Cover-19 updates via Twitter; I knew audiences being in close proximity to each other was a recipe for disaster and I also didn't want my friends and colleagues to get sick either. This is a real pandemic and people need to take it seriously. Isolation Is very important and as much as the arts provides enjoyment and escapism, our health and wellbeing is imperative.

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

I've actually really found a self-nurturing balance between being productive and taking the time to find peace both physically and mentally. I knew financially I wasn't going to survive on what I had in the bank. Our producers of Priscilla were very, very kind; and gave us two weeks worth of rehearsal wages to assist us as best as they could financially without negatively affecting themselves which helped massively, but I thought to myself, what is a way in which I can help myself financially and also give back to the community? So I applied for some supermarket jobs and I am now working for Waitrose in Chelsea three days a week, stacking shelves, providing good customer service, on the checkouts. Of course, it's not somewhere I envisioned I would be this month; but I've met a lovely group of people that I never would have done, the company look after you really well, and I'm just grateful there are supermarket companies out there providing help to so many people out there that have unexpectedly lost their jobs due to this pandemic. It gets me out of the house and I'm enjoying learning something new. 

I've also found a new love for yoga. I bought myself a Sweaty Betty yoga mat through the recommendation of my friend Dani, and I've been following the various yoga videos on the Deliciously Ella app. I've been cooking a lot more, meditating daily, taking Hudson (who is mine and my boyfriends cavapoo) out for daily walks and honestly just enjoying this quiet time. I'm so used to having to be somewhere all the time. it's actually been really nice to take a step back from the craziness of touring and a step back from the anxiety of auditions and just simply be more present. Its certainly provided a wealth of gratitude for the things I have, the fact I get to see my boyfriend and dog more, considering I was only seeing them one day a week, I've Facetimed my friends and family more than I usually do, got back in touch with friends I haven't spoken to in years and also spectated the fact that wildlife has come back out in the parks and the River Thames has never looked so clean! 

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? 

Honestly I just filter the negativity out. I have no time for it. I don't allow it to enter my energy field. If I see something negative, abusive or aggressive, I simply unfollow it. The recent hateful tweets towards people announcing their supermarket jobs, I thought was unnecessary. There was no malice behind the tweets, and I just feel those who were in negative states of mind were simply finding an excuse to lash out. Everything is a subject of interpretation and its how you interpret it, that decides how you live your life, positively or negatively. Social media has been helpful to keep in contact with friends, colleagues and family, seeing photos of my baby niece is the only way I see her growing up whilst I'm unable to travel out of London, so I'm grateful for it in that sense. I enjoy seeing peoples creative outlets on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and I've also really admired all the graduates who have been proactive and shared their showreels and abilities to social media in the aim to find agent interest, I applaud your tenacity! 

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

I'm a proud Ambassador for the charity Acting for Others and they are currently requesting an offer of a £4 donation to watch a recorded version of Fleabag on the Soho Theatres website and all proceeds go to various charities to help those in need within our industry! Considering tickets were selling for over £400 a ticket, £4 is a steal and its absolutely brilliant, so go ahead and treat yourself to an evening of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and also help those in need! Go and watch as many live musicals as you can! Andrew Lloyd Webber is allowing lots of his musicals to be watched via YouTube, so is the Chichester Theatre and the National - what a perfect way to support the arts from the comfort of your own living room! Also if you are working and your job hasn't been negatively affected by COVID-19, donate, donate, donate to all the charities who are helping those in need; Equity, Acting for Others, MAD Trust, and I know Paul Taylor Mills also has raised money to help those in need too; so yes! If you can, donate!

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

You have to download Apple TV and watch The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston and Reece Witherspoon. Its an acting masterclass every episode! I highly recommend it if you like fast-paced drama! Also on Apple TV, there's a documentary called Visible. which also covers the history of the LGBTQ community within the entertainment industry and how far we've come and how far we have to go - I think its a really, really important watch! We simply don't know enough as a society. 

For my spiritual practises I've read two books by the author Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now and A New Earth - I highly recommend you order both copies on Amazon, get your highlighter ready and be prepared to have your life changed! I owe my positive mental health and my ease through this pandemic to these two books - their teachings are priceless and will help you if you are struggling! I've also been watching Schitt's Creek on Netflix. It's important to laugh during these difficult times, it releases endorphins and naturally makes you feel better, and Moira Rose is guaranteed to make you howl with laughter in Schitt's Creek! If I ever feel overwhelmed or upset, (usually after watching the news) I stick an episode of Schitt's Creek on my Mac and 20 minutes later I feel so much better. 

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 and Zoom have been fantastic in connecting and reconnecting with friends past and present. It's also been the only way I can communicate with my parents, siblings and best friends. My best friends in the world that I have on one hand are so important to me, and not being able to see them for a coffee has been hard, so social media and FaceTime has been essential. I feel lucky that my boyfriend has provided his roof over my head whilst my other home is being rented out by another friend, so at least I get to see him and the dog every day! And yes! We've been doing quizzes! One of our friendship groups have been doing a Quiz every Sunday, and the winners host the next weeks one, and its been really fun! I've also been watching a lot more of The Chase, so I feel like my general knowledge is improving in these times of self-isolation! Who knew that B&Q stood for Block and Quayle! You learn something new every day! 

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

I am most looking forward to getting my coffee culture back! One of my favourite things to do is find independent coffee shops and read a good book or catch up with friends. It's definitely a first-world problem I know, but I do miss it. I'm hoping all my friends and family stay healthy. I don't know what the future is for Priscilla anymore, considering we just don't know when it's going to be safe to have thousands of people in one theatre in close proximity, but I miss being on stage, so I'm looking forward to being back on it. My agent Michael Harris at Apollo Artist Management has been amazing in giving his clients lots of opportunities to send self-tapes to different casting directors in musical theatre as well as telly and film, so I'm looking forward to having more castings come in so I can focus on more creative things. I've been lucky enough to have had a few actual self-tape auditions come in for projects happening later on in the year, so I guess I'm just looking forward to being proactive again, but like I said, I've enjoyed this enforced downtime immensely. You can either choose to let this frustrate you and cause you anxiety, or you can see it as a time for self-reflection, self-healing and self-love, a time to reconnect with nature, with friends and family and with your health. We all live life at a hundred miles an hour, perhaps this is the reset button we needed to take life with a little more presence and gratitude. 

We'd like to thank Jordan 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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