Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Kayleigh McKnight

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Kayleigh McKnight was most recently seen as one of the Vocalist in the Hugh Jackman World Tour. Her other credits include 1st cover Rhonda in Tina - The Tina Turner Musical (Aldwych Theatre); Soul girl & understudy Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre); Factory Girl/Whore in Les Misérables (Queen's Theatre); Harrier/Cover Jules in Bend It Like Beckham (Pheonix Theatre); Ensemble in The Mikado(Charing Cross Theatre); Henrietta in The Dreaming (The Union Theatre); Anna in 14-18 A Spectacular Musical (Studio 100 Belgium); Lucy Westerman in Dracula (The Canting Crew).

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 actually already working from home (when I'm not in a performing job, I'm lucky to work for a theatre company in their marketing department). Needless to say, it was a stressful day as we knew this meant we needed to reschedule all of our upcoming shows for the entirety of spring. Quite a task but we all got through it and I'm dead proud of us. Doing this job at this time has actually made me see things from the other side and shows just how much producers are going through right now too which I think is super valuable. We are all in this together, actors, producers, creatives, technical, front of house and everyone else I've definitely missed. It's an anxious time for us all but in that week that followed our little team pulled together to get all of our shows rescheduled which shows just how resilient us theatre folk are. I'm strangely proud of how well everyone is coping with what hasn't been easy at all! I was initially gutted, not just for the company I work for, but for so many friends who's shows had been cancelled, or who's new jobs weren't starting. It's horrid. But seeing how people have responded since has been nothing short of phenomenal!

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

Well, I haven't done anything on Insta Live, purely because I'd probably get in trouble for swearing or bringing Gin into the concert/class! But I've been taking fitness classes every morning through Barry's Bootcamp which has been KILLER but defo the kick up the butt that I needed. I've also been doing a meditation course and doing yoga to keep my mind calm (something I really need) but this extra time has really helped me to prioritise my health, mentally and physically which in a strange way I'm kind of grateful for? I'm also trying to learn the piano. I am AWFUL. (There's proof on Twitter, it's horrendous). But I have time so hopefully I'll be amazing by the end of this! I've also been writing more music (Which I was doing anyway) but this time has given me space to really sit with it which is nice. I am now desperate to get in a studio though! And I became a cat Mum! Not sure that counts as productive but, Juno is literally the only thing I now post about on social media so if you need cat content at this time, I am here for you. 

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 honest, I think some of the negativity comes from a real place. Ultimately, what's happening now isn't great. It's scary and it's real and we need to be confronted with this sometimes. You've got to have that balance. However, I also think that social media has been flooded with a whole heap of positivity too. So many people being creative, funny and stupidly talented. It's kind of intimidating in a way. I think for me, I'm enjoying watching it but trying not to give in to the pressure of being involved in it too much. I'm happy to try and work on my positivity for myself and then enjoy what other people have shared. I might change my mind on that but for now, I'm loving seeing other peoples work out there and enjoying from afar! Aside from that, meditation is the BEST for keeping a positive mindset. Seriously, I used to struggle with it but I've been doing it daily and it's really helping me sort my head out and get in the right frame of mind each day. Oh and also, Juno the kitten is definitely being a welcome distraction and keeping me away from the social media (unless it's to post silly videos of her!)

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

I think one way to support the arts industries is to create more art. Create responses to art you have seen. Share your opinions on live-streamed plays online. Start discussions about a play you have read, or seen, or want to see. You can still engage in the arts without necessarily seeing it live. I think anyone that's passionate about the arts will definitely be there in their droves to support when we reopen, so for now, I urge people to discover art themselves. Share it with the world. Engage in other peoples art. It's an amazing time for us to celebrate how the individual can contribute something and inspire a group of people to develop it or create responses. I'm doing a creative writing challenge at the moment which is all in responses to other peoples works and ideas and I think that's a fascinating way to discover new artists, appreciate their work and also create some of your own too! (Link here if anyone else wants to join in: http://suleikajaouad.com/the-isolation-journals) Art never stops. Even if we don't have a home for sharing it right now, the process of creating it hasn't and so I think we should continue engaging with each other on what we are producing, even if that's just creating something for yourself! 

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

Well, I put the link to Suleika Jaouad's writing challenge above which I've loved doing. I'm also a mega fan of Yoga with Adriene on Youtube and have been for a while. A little group of us have been doing her 30 day Home challenge (we just did day 23... so close!) and it's been lovely to have that to start my day. If you haven't watched Netflix's Tiger King then clearly you live under a rock but that is wild! OH and The Nest which is on Sundays on BBC. Amazing Scottish tv drama (Featuring my good pal James Harkness) about a couple who turn to a teenage girl for their surrogacy. It's really amazing! I've not spent much time on Netflix as I spend too long choosing so send me your recommendations! Otherwise I'm literally about to finish the Twilight saga again, please help a girl out. 

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

Luckily I managed to move back to my family home before things got too serious. I live by myself and to be honest, they were worried about me spending all that time alone in my flat with just my cat and my ample selection of gin. It would have been wild. So, I made it home and it's been nice to spend time with my parents and my brother again. We all have dinner together every night which is nice and I'm not taking for granted as I know how many people don't. It's my grans 80th next month and all my family are in Scotland. We were supposed to have a big party but instead, we're all going to dress up, we're all baking cakes individually and all creating a cocktail each and having a big party on Zoom across Scotland (and Essex). Should be fun! I think those things are important. For my birthday last week, so many friends facetimed to raise a glass with me and I appreciated it more than they know. It's all about the zoom and FaceTime for me right now! Oh and a joint love of The Sims 4 with so many of my mates. Revisiting my childhood has never felt so good! 

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

A MASSIVE glass of gin (or 5) with my mates to celebrate my birthday which I've decided didn't really happen, so I'll be turning 29 once lockdown is over (and not last week) so I can have a wild night out in Soho with the pals! That and going out for a REALLY boujie dinner. Not decided where yet. But I'm talking good wine, good food and good company. I am craving that badly. I can't wait to hug my friends. And I can't wait to belt in some people's faces again. That would be lovely too. Until then though, my parents will have to put up with me depleting their gin selection and listening to me singing Celine Dion's greatest hits through the walls. 

Stay safe. Stay positive. Find the humour in all that you can. And remember, the only thing that's constant is change. We will see the other side of this, and when we do, the world best be ready for the biggest party! 

We'd like to thank Kayleigh 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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