Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Benjamin Purkiss


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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Benjamin Purkiss recently appeared as the title role in Zorro at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. His other credits include Young Gibran in Broken Wings (The Other Palace & Katara Opera House); Macheath in The Beggars Opera (Bouffes du Nord theatre & European Tour); Alternate Strat in Bat Out of Hell (Manchester Opera House & London Coliseum) and Woolhaven & Ensemble in Allegro (Southwark Playhouse). 

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 staying in Manchester on my day off just after our second preview of Zorro. To be honest, I initially didn’t think it would affect us very quickly, I still had friends and family talking to me about coming to see the show, I honestly thought we had at least a week or so, how wrong I was.

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

I’ve been keeping myself really busy. I’ve found it really useful to keep my diary full, like actually write down and structure my days (Friday night is Pizza night). It helps me to schedule my life and calm my mind in all this. But yes, been doing lots of singing and creating with my band The Songsmiths (@thesongsmithsUK) writing and filming from home, and seen lots of super cool stuff too.

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 think very carefully before I click a link and read something, and even more so before sharing any information. Outside of my online life, laughing and playing board games with my housemate's help, regular catch-ups and Zoom quizzes and I go for walks and call people, bugging all my friends to keep me company in my social distance walks. Also running, it's amazing, who knew?!

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

I’m a big fan of all this content I’m seeing. For me it's a win-win, you get to feel creative and amazing and the world gets to see what you’re up too if they like. I know some people feel like its a lot because everyone is putting content out, but I enjoy seeing it and doing it. So tag me if you want! 

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

I've basically been actually watching all those recommendations from friends on the never-ending ‘yeah I’ll definitely check it out’ list. I can't recommend ‘The Last Dance’ enough, its a Netflix series about the Chicago Bulls in the 90’s. The National Theatre YouTube channel is a MUST, they are releasing incredible productions once a week.

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 did the most amazing thing last night, a cast I was in did a Zoom chat where everybody picked a song, then we went round and introduced our own song before we played it. We then had some drinks and danced the night away, towards the end it literally felt like we were all in a nightclub together. So surreal but also such a heartwarming and fun experience. 

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

A hug from my nearest and dearest. And (fingers crossed) The Return of Zorro. 

We'd like to thank Benjamin 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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