Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Shaun McCourt


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!

Shaun McCourt has just appeared in the touring company of Blood Brothers. His other credits include Adam in Imagine This (Union Theatre); Jim in The Railway Children (Kings Cross Theatre); War Horse (New London Theatre); Issachar & Cover Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (UK Tour); Ensemble in Pirates of Penzance (Kilworth House); Lord Chancellor in the All-Male Iolanthe (Wilton's Music Hall). He is also the founder and Producer of the West End Live Lounge, a cabaret company performing in venues like The Other Palace and Crazy Coqs. 

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 heard the news of theatre closures whilst on my day off from the tour (Blood Brothers). On the Saturday night there was obviously speculation amongst the cast as to whether we would continue the tour, and this was confirmed on the following Monday just before travelling to the next venue. I think like most, it didn’t fully sink in at first. The realisation of the severity of the situation only took hold after a day or two. 

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

Staying productive during these trying times is so important, but not always easy. I am used to life moving at a quick pace and juggling lots of different things at once. To suddenly have very little to do was a real shock to the system and a massive knock to my mental health. I have spent a great deal of time in the kitchen improving those culinary skills. I was finally able to find flour and sugar once people had stopped the panic buying, so there is always a cake or some cookies for my housemates to (hopefully) enjoy. Just to cancel out all the calories, I have been making sure I exercise every day- thanks Joe Wicks, your workouts allow me that extra cookie or slice of cake!

He may hate me for mentioning this, but my boyfriend and I also discovered acro-yoga! We won’t be destined for Cirque Du Soleil, but it’s fun- give it a go! 

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? 

Even before this lockdown, I have had very mixed opinions on social media. It can be used for such important causes and for a good giggle. However, it can also be a little toxic and negative at times- some people have far too much to say. To stay positive, my “mute” button is often used (sometimes “block” -sorry!). If I find it has all become a bit too negative, I just take the app off my phone for a day or two. There is nothing wrong with that, and it can be quite refreshing. I suppose it’s just a case of not being wrapped up in all the negativity and endless tirades which I often see! 

Caring for your mental health is more important than ever and I sometimes find that social media (if not used in the right way and with time restrictions) can be really detrimental-constantly clicking on refresh, the search for likes and gratification, or the need to be controversial- no thank you! But keep posting the funny videos, they are always welcome! 

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

There has never been a more vital time to be supporting the arts. We are truly seeing the community spirit in our industry and this is so important. It is very much a case of feeling “all in this together” and that will help get us through. It is amazing to see the streaming of so many theatre/arts shows now available online. I have certainly been watching lots of them. Some are free but others are raising money for the arts, so if you can support, then please do. 

Let us all keep thinking ahead to that day theatres are back up and running. The current unrest and anxiety will soon be replaced with an overwhelming excitement when the arts industry returns in full force. For now, all we can do is look after ourselves and stay positive!

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

A positive amongst all of this anxiety and uncertainty is that I have been able to catch up on a lot of Netflix/TV etc. I am ashamed to say that I had never watched ‘Line of Duty’ but have watched all 5 series in the last fortnight. I am sure you will all be reading and saying “watched it already” but if you haven’t then you must- I shouted at the screen in excitement at every single episode! 

I have been enjoying all of the theatre being streamed online. The list continues to grow of shows being made available which is a lovely escapism during all of this. I highly recommend the Chichester recording of ‘Flowers for Mrs Harris’- beautiful performances. I have also been watching the weekly highlight reels from Cirque Du Soleil (the acro- yoga we are doing fails in comparison). And don’t forget the weekly episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. A must see! Thanks Netflix. Team Heidi! 

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

My friends and family WhatsApp groups have never been busier. It is important to laugh in these uncertain times and my amazing friends and family certainly make sure I do lots of this. Endless funny videos, GIF’s and jokes make the days go a little quicker!

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

Oh, so many things- going to the theatre, eating in a restaurant, being able to use a gym. Oh and being able to have Pick & Mix again (not able to at present for obvious reasons). But most importantly, I can’t wait to be able to see all my friends and family. Just having the normality of a catch up over a drink or two in the pub, or a picnic in the park. FaceTime is great, but I want to be able to see my friends and give them a big hug! 

Now might be a good time to mention that I am sat planning the next West End Live Lounge. It is going to be a BIG event and I can’t wait to get to work on it once we are all up and running. Keep your eyes peeled!

We'd like to thank Shaun 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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