Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Lee Proud

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Lee Proud is an international, award-winning choreographer. His credits include Ghost (Stuttgart, Germany); Fiddler on the Roof (Det nyt Teatre, Denmark); Once on this Island, Allegro, Grey Garden's, Grand Hotel, Victor Victoria and Mack and Mabel (Southwark Playhouse); Matilda, The Rocky Horror Show, Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins & Billy Elliot (Reykjavik); Ghost (Stage Entertainment); Elf The Musical (Tivoli, Copenhagen); Sunset Boulevard (UK Tour); Legally Blonde (OpĂ©ra Garnier, Monaco); The Braille Legacy (Charing Cross Theatre); RENT (UK tour); The Smallest Show on Earth (UK tour); The Wind in the Willows (Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre); The Producers (UK tour); Ghost The Musical (English Theatre Frankfurt); Carousel (Arcola Theatre); The Revenge Of Sherlock Holmes (Hoxton Hall, London); Boy Meets Boy (Jermyn Street 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? 

Well, I’d just finished a 7 month period working abroad in Copenhagen, Stuttgart and Reykjavik. I had literally just opened a show in Reykjavik on the 13th March which closed on the 16th due to social gathering measures being adopted in Iceland. It was the same day that measures were also implemented in the UK so it wasn’t a surprise when this happened. You know, there’s something reassuring about the theatre: Even when you’re at home watching TV you just know that at 7.30, all those house lights are dimming and those orchestras are bursting into action. Thousands of people ready to be transported to a magical place by thousands of talented performers, musicians, stage management teams and front of house staff. There’s something very unnerving about all those beautiful empty spaces, all those empty seats. The heartbreaking and difficult thing to process is all those people with uncertain futures and opportunities which have been mercilessly taken away with no clear understanding of what the future holds, both financially and creatively. It's just unfathomably sad and confusing. 

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

Yeah, I’ve done a few online choreography workshops and I’m even contemplating singing again for a couple of fun online projects I’ve been asked about! I’ve also taken up knitting (a huge isolation blanket) eating and binge-watching! Keep promising myself I’m going to start working out properly every day but that hasn’t been quite as successful! Zoom meetings with friends have been brilliant as have online card games (Cards Against Humanity has helped to kill a few hours) I’m generally finding the time is going by fairly quickly! 

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? 

Just by taking the time to switch the news off and try to focus on other more positive things. It’s hard to not become obsessed with statistics in this time, analysing data on the virus is part of our need to gain some control but it’s also sometimes disappointing when the news is disheartening. Also, just knowing this is temporary, unprecedented as it is it won’t last forever. Thinking of the next time I see my family and my friends in the UK keeps me going too, The figures are gloomy but there are rays of hope. I’m isolating in Iceland in a very remote cabin and there’s been lots of snow. As it slowly melts it’s almost like a visual timer which conveys the very slow passing of this period. I guess when all the snow is gone there’ll be better news. There’s lots of opportunity to go on nice walks here without breaking any social distancing rules. Listening to my favourite musicals has also helped as have watching some brilliant online theatre from Shakespeare to good old fashioned classics. I’ve also been revisiting hundreds of hours of rehearsal room footage of my own shows which is heartwarming and nostalgic, all those wonderful human beings giving it their all. 

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

In any way you can. Engage with online content for sure but just remember that theatre is special because it’s LIVE - right in front of you. Make mental lists of all the shows you want to see when this is over, a time when all that amazing magic will re-emerge. 

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

Oh gosh, good question. I’ve loved the Shakespeare readings on The Show Must Go Online. I’ve watched every single Black Mirror, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Tiger King (obviously) Orphan Black, The Crown plus endless documentaries and the podcast of My Dad Wrote a Porno is an essential comedy listening. Been watching a lot of stand up one-off shows and particularly loved Sarah Millican and Bob the drag queen. Really enjoyed all the online concerts from brilliant people in their homes. I don’t normally get a lot of time to watch TV but my attention span is getting 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?! 

Yes, thank God for modern technology! Benn playing lots of Cards Against Humanity online with friends in Reykjavik and lots of Zoom and WhatsApp chats. It was recently the 15 year anniversary of the very first show of Billy Elliot the Musical so myself and other original cast members and creative team organised a Zoom party which was great fun. Reminiscing and laughing with very special people, such a tonic. 

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

The biggest party EVER with my friends and family, tackling the refurb of my house in London and of course getting on a plane to somewhere hot and away from all of this snow! 

We'd like to thank Lee 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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