Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Vivienne De Vil



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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Vivienne de Vil is an international Musical Theatre star. She made her West End debut in the original cast of The Phantom of the Opera. Notable roles include Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music (Royal Festival Hall); Sally Bowles in Cabaret (Donmar Warehouse, West End); Fantine in Les Miserables (Tokyo); Mary in Mary Poppins (Czech Republic); Betty Haines in White Christmas (Broadway - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical) and Harriet Hope in the gender-swapped production of The Iceman Cometh (National Theatre). She has performed with the likes of Sir Elton John, Liza Minnelli and Susan Boyle in concerts all over the world and is Patron of the Arts for the Tunbridge Wells Amateur Theatre Society. In 2018, Vivienne returned to the stage with her one-woman show With One Look, receiving rave reviews for performances around the UK, including the Underbelly Southbank. Vivienne currently resides in Holland Park.

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? 

Unfortunately, darling, I’d been tucked up in bed with mild symptoms of the you-know-what for a week! I was still recovering when the news broke that most shows would not take place that evening. I think we can all appreciate that this is an incredibly serious threat, and the cancellation of large events (including my world tour) is absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, but I felt incredibly sad. Theatre is so resilient. It keeps spirits up and provides an escape. Without that, the pandemic suddenly seems much more real.

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

It’s very difficult for me, darling, because I’m not used to being cooped up! I should be rehearsing my world tour with a 60 piece orchestra! And I was due to start a workshop for a very exciting new musical about the life of Ruth Langsford, with my good self as Ruth and John Barrowman as Eamonn Holmes, but that’s fallen through. So, I decided to get stuck in and do some housework. I’ve cleared out all my kitchen cupboards, organised my dry goods, that kind of thing. It was quite embarrassing actually, I found things you can’t even buy anymore. I’ve also been swanning around in fabulous kaftans and using this time to reconnect with people. I try and check in with somebody different each day; Julie Andrews, Meryl Streep, Denise Welch. They so enjoy hearing my voice, you see. It gives them a much-needed boost in this very difficult time. Life moves so quickly, I’m always rushed off my feet, we should look at this lockdown as kind of blessing. Slow down, gather your thoughts, bake banana bread. I’ve also finally given in to overwhelming demand, and started writing my memoirs.

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? 

During this time, our mental health is just as important as our physical health. I think the best advice I can give is that it’s ok to just get through it. There’s no pressure to learn a language, write a book, lose weight or build an extension while we’re in this lockdown. Try not to get bogged down with what other people are doing on social media. Remember that people tend only to show the best part of themselves, and they may be struggling just as much as you. I’m avoiding twitter at all costs, because you cannot screen who makes it through to your newsfeed. On Facebook and Instagram, I’m limiting my exposure, and using the mute/snooze for 30 days/unfollow buttons where necessary. I won’t see be seeing Maria Friedman’s updates for a while. The only news I am reading or watching is from the BBC, and I absolutely do not read articles from other sources, because fake news only adds to my stress levels. And talking of stress, when this is all over, I think ITV should axe Piers Morgan and have Vivienne de Vil as the first face people see in the morning instead! I don’t know how Susanna Reid puts up with it!

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

This pandemic has absolutely devastated the entertainment industry, and therefore now, more than ever, we need your support. Buy a ticket for a concert streamed from somebody’s front room, make a donation to Acting4Others, and open your windows and play my first album at full volume to spread joy! Then, when theatres re-open, buy a ticket and support us once again. Think how incredible those first few performances will be, after such a long time away. It’ll be as if we never said goodbye!

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

There’s a whole catalogue of musicals to watch on BroadwayHD, although there’s clearly been some kind of mistake, because there’s nothing starring my good self. And The National are streaming some of their productions on YouTube. I’m just gutted that my critically-acclaimed performance in the gender-swapped production of The Iceman Cometh wasn’t captured on film last Autumn, because my fans all over the world would have loved to see that. I’m really enjoying Encore on Disney+. That gorgeous little Kristen Bell rang me the other day actually, to thank me again for putting her in touch with the writers of Frozen. They originally wanted me to play Anna, but I’m much more suited to sunnier climates, rather than an ice kingdom!

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

Darling, I should buy shares in FaceTime! I’m isolating solo, you see, so it’s really gorgeous to be able to see a friendly face. I’ve taken part in a number of quizzes and dinner parties, which have really lifted my spirits. As a rule, I don’t take part in communal exercise. That’s strictly private, thank you. I also had a bit of duet the other evening with my new lover! We took it in turns to tinkle the ivories, and then to finish off, I serenaded him with songs from my illustrious career. Before we knew it, I’d been singing for three hours!

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

I shall be throwing a huge party, of course. I’ll also pay a visit to friends and family - I’ve got a very strange Aunt in Milton Keynes - and hold them close. I can’t wait to visit my favourite restaurants, go shopping, and book a holiday. I quite fancy a cruise, you know? Especially after having Jane McDonald on the phone every night this week! Obviously, I’ll have to reschedule everything in the diary, including my world tour, which I may have already mentioned. One thing is certain, my darling, Vivienne will be back!

We'd like to thank Vivienne De Vil 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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