Friday, 10 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Sam Lathwood



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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Sam Lathwood is currently in the cast of Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre having previously been in the show on the International tour. His other credits include Matilda: The Musical (UK and Ireland tour); Elf: The Musical (Plymouth/Manchester/Dublin); Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane); Disaster! (Charing Cross Theatre); Damn Yankees (Landor Theatre), Hairspray (UK and Ireland tours) and The Pirates of Penzance (Hackney Empire/Australian tour).

On Monday 13th 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 on stage at The Prince Edward with the rest of the Mary Poppins company, we were in the middle of the physical warm-up when our Company Manager came onto the stage to announce the cancellation of the show. I’d come into work early that day as I was on for one of my covers, Robertson Ay. I had physio, went up to the boys dressing room afterwards to get my stuff together and moved dressing rooms. I unpacked my bits and bobs (which are still in there now, sorry Jack), warmed up, clean shaved and blow-dried my hair into a rather fetching centre parting. Claire Moore (Miss Andrew) had baked 2 cakes to cheer everybody up during these weird times and this was even before we knew what was going on. I’m not embarrassed to say that I tried both. When our Company Manager walked onto the stage to give us the news there was dead silence, I would say that for 0.1 of a second there was that ‘schools out’ kinda feeling which instantly turned into this weird gut feeling of pure uncertainty. It happened to be our day off the following day and I’d have given anything to have been at work doing the show.

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

Besides eating, doing a jigsaw and playing on my Nintendo Switch? Well, I stayed in London for a couple of days before heading back home to Manchester to stay with my parents, before leaving my flat to go to the train station I grabbed my little Brompton Bicycle to bring back home with me just in case I needed to exercise (we have a cupboard full of chocolate at home and I tend to abuse it when I’m there). I’ve been cycling nearly every day since, trying to up the mileage on my one exercise venture each day. Yesterday I did 25 miles which I think is the furthest I’ve ever cycled, could barely walk the next day though. I’ve also been joining in fitness workouts hosted by other actors on Instagram which I’m really enjoying. Not only does it keep me fit but it also keeps me sane as I know loads of my friends and castmates have taken part in the same workouts too and that warm sense of community is still very alive.

I’ve been walking my dog in my extremely derelict local park and reflecting on everything going on, I miss everything about my job and performing on stage so much but I’m trying to stay positive and remind myself of all I have to be grateful for and what it will feel like when we are all reunited again. 

I’d also like to add, it is completely fine if you want to sit and do nothing, don’t feel like you have to join in every workout or online dance class just because other people are doing it. Do what makes YOU happy. If that means sitting down with coffee and cake then do so in abundance. Eat the damn cake!

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’m trying to avoid the people who have an issue with people baking banana bread, what’s with that? Or those people who are bored of actors announcing that they’ve been employed by their local supermarket, who are helping out and doing their bit whilst earning a living. Those people who have issues with the above need to log off, pour a glass of wine and stick a film on. I’m trying to stay positive by championing my friends who are all finding ways to use this time, even if they’ve joined TikTok (obsessed, by the way, can't stop watching) and are whacking on a few videos of them dancing. Great. It’s important we all support each other now, more so now than ever before. Also, if you’re not in the right frame of mind one day then stay off social media, whack your phone in a drawer for a few hours and keep it there. A little social media cleanse never hurt nobody.

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

For all those people out there who have booked tickets to see theatre, I understand this is a challenging time and financially we are all a bit unnerved, but if you can afford to then please support the Arts by calling box office and rescheduling to another date later on in the year (if the option is there) instead of asking for a refund. If not, take the money and book to see something else in a few months time, maybe? When this has all gone away, the theatre will be there for you to fall back on and to provide joy and distraction. There are also loads of shows being aired on television or YouTube etc at the moment, tune in and support the escapism. I watched One Man, Two Governors the other night which I never got the chance to see when it was on and it was honestly the perfect tonic. Keep watching the concerts provided online or on Instagram and talk/ tweet/ post about them, do your bit to help keep the theatre alive.

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

Meditating. Personally, I know that when I climb into bed at night and turn out the light my brain goes crazy and overthinks absolutely everything. So to counter that I take a bit of time for myself, every night when I get into bed I take a couple of minutes to meditate, collect my thoughts, find peace, regulate my breathing and clear my head. I honestly sleep like a baby afterwards too. If you want a series to watch, obviously ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix is an absolute win OR if you want something a little darker with incredible acting and storytelling, try ‘Unorthodox’ which is also on Netflix. Shira Haas is phenomenal and its only four episodes long. Also, if you want a little bit of a theatre fix, watch The Olivier Awards Greatest Moments on ITV catch up, you won't regret it. I cried.

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

I’ve joined the Zoom and House Party apps! I’ve had catch-ups with friends, celebrated a friends 30th birthday with the Poppins cast over a drink, I’ve joined in classes and I’m even teaching a couple of musical theatre dance classes next week as part of an Easter school! I’ve completed a mammoth 1000 piece Peter Pan jigsaw and I’ve been baking. I WhatsApp my friends nearly every day or reply to friends Instagram stories just to keep the contact flowing as it makes me feel happier, and who doesn’t want to feel happy at a time like this? This whole pandemic has made me really appreciate the technology that we have, I know that a lot of people have issues with social media and how it affects their mental health but my god has it been beneficial to me recently. I can actually see my friends without being at risk, I can keep up to date with what they’re up to and I can be a part of a group chat over WhatsApp as though we were all at work together.

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

I’m looking forward to people taking better care of themselves, each other and most importantly, the planet. I think this has taught the world a huge lesson on how to look after our planet and appreciate it/ what you have a little more. If people are being stubborn and don’t think they’ve learnt anything, I hope they’ve at least learnt to wash their hands after they’ve been to the toilet. Men, I see you! I’m also looking forward to catch-ups with friends face to face over a coffee. Hugs. Going to the gym. Going for walks and not having to stand 2 metres apart. Laughing with people in person. Going for a drink anywhere else but my living room. Bumping into friends unexpectedly in the middle of London. But most importantly, I can’t wait to get back on stage and tell the story of Mary Poppins every night surrounded by people who I miss dearly.

We'd like to thank Sam 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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