Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Tori Allen-Martin


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!

Tori Allen-Martin most recently appeared in The Season playing Robin at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton. Her other credits include Dolly in One Man, Two Guvnors (New Wolsey Theatre and Nuffield Southampton); Justice in Rock of Ages (UK Tour, Berlin); Chelsea in HR. Haitch (Shrapnel Theatre, Union Theatre and Iris Theatre); The Hardest One (The Other Palace); Amy in Wretch (Vault Festival); Lauren in Muted (The Bunker Theatre); Mimi in Rent (The Cockpit) and Ensemble and cover Dionne in Hair (European Tour). As well as performing, she is also a successful writer and producer. 

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 at home because I'd already decided to start self-isolating as much as possible. I wasn't surprised because I think the seriousness of the situation was really starting to hit home for me, but it did suddenly feel very real and I, of course, immediately felt for all of my friends in shows. I remember talking to one of them who had headed out with his cast to hit the booze in shock, and I was thinking 'go home!' but I also totally got the need to drown their sorrows! It was just such a strange time for everyone I think and the moment for me that I was like - this is definitely not a drill!

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

I've been cooking more, as have my housemates. I live with Declan Bennett and he made us the most glorious roast and I keep waking up to freshly made bread - so I'm really enjoying his lockdown antics - I also got a one on one show from him in the garage while he filmed his Leave A Light On gig - he was spectacular and I felt very special getting the whole show just to myself! In terms of me- I had been banging on about starting a youtube channel for ages so I finally got on with it - it's just a chatty channel with advice - it's called tilfu (things I learned f***ing up!) because I figured now was as good a time as any. I'd had a lot of people on Instagram say I should do it, because I'm always quite candid in my stories - and I think we're all just looking for a hand to walk us home - if my mistakes can help others not make them, or feel less alone then it's all worth it.

I've started exercising again, which was much needed - I'm really enjoying it - I'm doing Holly Dolke's 30-day challenge amongst others and it's improved my mood massively. And I'm reading a lot. I'm trying to really utilise the downtime and gather my thoughts and do things I put off - like clearing out the cupboards. I got engaged in December and by January he decided he wanted to move on so it's been hard to suddenly find myself with all this time to think and be alone - but actually, I'm really letting the feelings come, and then letting them go and I'm grateful for this fast track healing. I think this is an opportunity, a chance to regroup and think about what's important and what matters, and to sit with ourselves and work out why we do the things that we do and how we can better ourselves and I hope we'll come out of this better, kinder - grateful for the little things and for each other. Don't get me wrong, I find it hard - I have my down days, I think we all do, but it's about accepting that that is a part of it and being kind to ourselves and finding the joy wherever we can. I don't think the pressure is helpful all the time - like, 'Shakespeare wrote King Lear' and all that jazz - OK, great, some people might write a novel or set up a company, but some people might get the rest they've needed for the past two years, or they might read a book that'll inspire them later - and that's enough. I am proud of everyone for just getting through it, whatever that looks like.

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 really curate your feed right - I only follow things and people that I find inspiring and I don't follow too many news outlets, I would rather look for news from publications I trust when I'm ready for it. I find all the shouting each other down hard - twitter can be a very judgy place - but if it's getting to me I just turn my phone off. I find going for a walk always helps, or just sitting outside. So I'll take my daily exercise option if I feel myself getting into a negative spiral. We can't control what's happening or what someone else has done, we can only control how we react to it so there's no use getting in a panic or stressing out, we've just got to breathe, take a moment, and remind ourselves that whatever is going on, right now, as we sit with ourself, we're OK, and things might be tough but better days are coming. It's a bad day, not a bad life. 

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

It's tough because financially so many of us are worrying so I would, of course, say donate if you can or stream online shows that ask for a donation but I think the main thing is just to be kind to each other - check out peoples content and share it, we are so quick to share a celebrity doing something but not always our own friends work and that blows my mind, so share the work of the people you respect whether they have two, two thousand or two million followers. Or if you're really not in the mood for watching too much right now, because I get that too, I think it's just about getting back into theatres and art spaces as soon as we can, especially fringe venues because they'll be hit so, so hard. Buying plays and reading them is another way to help - my friend Anthony Welsh said to me once that he enjoyed reading plays because you knew how long it would take, the hour or hour and a half running time that they are. And it's so true! You can easily read a play in an hour, and then pass it along and if you enjoy it, spread the word. 

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

I just finished 'Such a Fun Age' by Kiley Reid and I really enjoyed it. I watched Mae Martin's sitcom 'Feel Good' and I loved it. And feel free to visit me on my social medias at @toriallenmartin (shameless plug) where I have a habit of sharing anything I think is wonderful, as well as my own musings, and lots of cat content! 

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

Do you know, I've not been on this quiz vibe - everyone is quizzing and nobody wants to quiz with me! I did one with my other housemate and her family, and her sister had made it and gone all out and we had sound clips and PowerPoint presentations and a theme tune, it was quite amazing! I was mad impressed. But that was my only go. I did play those drawing games and stuff with the lads I did One Man Two Guvnors with and we did a version of Cards Against Humanity on there which was fun, particularly because I kept winning, so I felt quite smug. We'd gone for a roast recently and we'd planned to do a weekend away, so it was nice to keep the hangout going, even from far away, we're probably due another catch up actually! Aside from quizzes, I went to drop an Easter egg and card and magazines off at my Mum's and we chatted to each other from far away and that was nice! And it's just been phone calls and WhatsApp - the usual really. The odd facetime. I am pretty good at staying in touch with my best friends anyway so not much has changed - the same daily check-ins, just a lot less to catch up on! I'm going to write some letters too - old skool. 

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

Seeing my gorgeous Mum up close and giving her the biggest cuddle - we're the very best of friends but she's in her 70s so has to self isolate for 12 weeks and that's been tough. Hugging my friends, kissing their lovely cheeks, squeezing them hard, and heading straight to the bar to ask for a double vodka diet coke and whatever they're having, and then indulging in the pub garden, sun on my face, hearing my loved ones laugh, being able to grab their hands and see them real-time, and my God I won't ever take that for granted again. I'm filming something really exciting that sadly had to get pushed back but I can't wait to get back to work, hopefully in September. I'm also really looking forward to going on a date, and maybe having a first kiss. I've lots to look forward to. We all do, and I've a feeling it'll be worth the wait.

We'd like to thank Tori and all 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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