Friday, 17 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Martin Dickinson

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Martin Dickinson is currently in the touring production of Mamma Mia!, in the ensemble at covers the role of Sam, Harry and Father Alexander. His other credits include Understudy Pop, Khashoggi, Rebel Leader in We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre, London); George Bernard Shaw in The Frogs (Jermyn Street Theatre, London); Karl/Kirkeby in Promises Promises (Southwark Playhouse); Dr Neville Craven in The Secret Garden (London revival); understudy and played the title role in Jekyll & Hyde (UK Tour); John Wilkes Booth in Assassins (Pleasance Theatre, London); Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet (Leicester Square Theatre); Zebulon/Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour) and Ethan in The Full Monty(Gordon Craig Theatre). 

Martin has also started an online coaching programme for students wanting and auditing for drama schools. Please contact him on social media in you'd like to find out more. 

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? 

One of the wonderful things about working in this industry is the web effect, there only has to be a hint of rumblings on the outside before we all know about it. I was at work having just applied another coat of fake tan for the island that week as Mr Johnson was making his announcement. We were at the New Theatre Hull, he advised that theatres were probably not a good idea, out of my chair I rose like a mia cat, to see what the reaction would be, hearing through various social media outlets that one theatre after another was closing. It was quite late in the day to cancel, people were had already set out to the theatre, so we went ahead with that evening's performance. After the performance, the inevitable happened and we were told that we would be closed until further notice.

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

After the initial 2 weeks of being on a peculiar type of holiday and after the first week of Lockdown, I decided that it was not sustainable to carry on the way I was and structure was required. I am now getting up every morning at 6am, doing a work out getting the body and mind woken up, at 9am I practice a daily meditation with a good friend of mine - thanks again video calling! It is so important to maintain a healthy mind. Also, I wanted to contribute some sort of help to the cause. So I am producing a weekly podcast called Teddy Time Stories, which is free to anyone, and means parents that have been at work all day or who are exhausted from homeschooling can put the tiny ones to bed and press play on a story for bedtime. I also work as a voice-over artist so that is keeping me busy sending endless self-tapes. Refining camera-acting skills is great fun too. Recording some new covers in the studio etc, I am filling days quite well at the moment and an online gig is imminent. 

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 have developed a way of shielding the negativity. We don't need it. I love, what I call the snowball effect, start your day off well and that keeps rolling, you tend to attract more positivity throughout the day. The more positivity we put out collectively the better it helps the entire community. I also have my dog, Todd who is great company and we regularly have conversations.

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

To be honest there is no replacement for live theatre or sitting in a massive cinema surrounded by a big screen. The artistic world of Theatre, Film and Television is fantastically resilient and by the most part lead by people who adapt to change and are forward-thinking. Social media has been a huge vehicle for keeping 'gigs' going and keeping people connected. From Julian Birds quick thinking and moving the 'Olivier Awards night' to Highlights of the Oliviers on TV reminding people we are still here, to The National (and others) broadcast of previous productions. The Internet has been brilliant for keeping us all connected. Creative minds please stay creative, cultivate those projects you have always wanted to, dream big, anything is possible to be ready with all of those grass route projects, so you can springboard when we resume - and resume we will!!

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

Podcasts! But there are some great selections. I haven't really paid much attention to these in the past, but if you are a parent of young children certainly give 'Teddy Time Stories' a listen. I have also watched every episode of Star Wars back to back, next up is Harry Potter (Again!).

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

Whatsapp, Facebook, Zoom are brilliant and have meant that I have been able to keep in touch with family and friends and my niece who loves to eat the phone every time –she only 11 months old. I have made plans to have movie nights with friends and charades. 

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

I’m such a hugger! Giving my friends a hug! I can't wait, but getting back to work, I love storytelling and being in front of an audience and I can't wait to be back. I am really looking forward to every theatre and cinema opening their doors again. In the meantime, I will have to settle for an online gig in a couple of weeks - more details to come! Stay safe everyone, stay creative and see you all soon!

We'd like to thank Martin 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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