Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Christopher Gopaul

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Christopher Gopaul will be playing Gilbert in Hairspray when it opens at the London Coliseum. His other credits include Swing in Motown the Musical (UK Tour); Beauty and The Beast (Oakengates Theatre); Peter Pan and Cinderella (Octagon Theatre, Yeovil). 

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 had just got home from my first day of rehearsals for Hairspray. I logged on to twitter to see what all my friends and those I followed had been up to for the day, and immediately my heart dropped. It was on Twitter that I found out about the closure of all shows in London. It was so gutting to see for many different reasons. Firstly, I was preparing for my West End debut which is something I had dreamed about for years, at that point, it seemed certain that it would not be happening. But aside from that, I was also heartbroken for all of my friends in the industry who I know are in shows in and around London, as well as tours across the country. Some of my friends were due to be making their debuts in shows that night, or the next day and it felt so bad knowing that all the hard work they had put in over the previous weeks was not going to come to light. But, as upsetting as this was to read about, the tone of social media and my friends changed. Everyone was quickly coming to each other's side and the strong message of “we will be back” was out there. That was so uplifting to see, and the beginning of the immense support that this industry gives to all of its family.

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

I’ve been doing as much as I can to keep myself occupied during this time. Logging onto people’s classes over Instagram and Facebook, ballet classes via Vimeo in the garden and of course, a bit of baking too. My partner had just set up his own stage school prior to the closure of everything, and so I’ve been working hard with him to set up virtual classes so that he can keep the school running online. This has been brilliant as it has kept my creative side going as well making me brush up on my own technique and basics, whilst teaching others. As part of Stage Academy we also put together a charity song and video called “Thank you NHS” which was so great to be part of, and for a wonderful cause as well! I recently got in contact with my old dance school in my hometown and did a workshop in support of the NHS, as well as setting up classes over Zoom for the schools that I regularly teach at. When things aren’t scheduled I just take each day as it comes and think to myself, what can I achieve today?

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 this whole situation is hard for everyone and it’s understandable how it can affect someone negatively. Social media is great because you get to share your thoughts and insights into your life, for everyone to see. I think it’s a great way to connect to those we can’t be with. Upon reading the negative parts, however, I just have to brush them away and not take anything personally. I have such a positive mentality and I tend to surround myself with positive people and thoughts, it’s those people I follow on social media and interact with. There is nothing wrong with unfollowing people if every time you read their posts, it gets you down.

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

Our industry has been brilliant at providing everyone with a way to keep connected. From online classes, to live streams of musicals and living room concerts. I think the best way is to find things you love and go about trying to find these things. For example, if you love commercial classes, then have a look at some studio’s Instagram profiles and Facebook schedules to see when commercial classes are on. If you believe it’s something you want to do then take part, post videos and afterwards, share and promote that person! Word of mouth is such a great tool and it’s so lovely when you see that you’re dancing with hundreds of people all around the country, and the world. Also, have a look to see if there are musicals that are streaming and have a watch, it may be something you weren’t able to watch before, or never had the chance of watching, this is that chance! I think with all this it really is a case of “every little helps”, no matter how small, you are contributing to keeping this vibrant and creative industry going.

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

I’m such a kid at heart, so Disney+ has been amazing. Reconnecting with all the films I loved as a child and all that amazing music. There’s something about when you hear the opening to “The Gospel Truth” that puts you in the best mood ever! When it comes to series’, I’m such a Netflix person. Things like “The Stranger” and “Safe” literally had me on the edge of my seat for the whole time. I do love a good Netflix binge. I think it’s great that we have these screaming platforms with hundreds of shows at our disposable. It’s brilliant to just pop a film on, turn your phone off and be transported to somewhere completely different.

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’m so grateful that we live in the age of technology as it really has helped. Lots of FaceTime and video chats with my family and friends. As well as phone calls and interacting over social media. I love a good quiz and hosted the Hairspray quiz over zoom. That was such a great laugh. Plus quizzes with my friends, and playing online games too. Me and my friends do this thing in our group chat where we give each other a scenario and we discuss all the different answers. Some completely fictional, like being stranded on a desert island with only three tools and why we would choose them, to real-life things such as your ideal birthday party. It’s just a fun way to think creatively.

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

There’s loads of things. First of all, I can’t wait to give my friends and loved ones the biggest hug ever. A good old catch up with those I haven’t seen in awhile, as well as sitting in a restaurant again. I love food! I also can’t wait to see all my friends who have put in so much work prior to theatres closing, be back in their respective shows, and I’ll be there supporting and clapping as loudly as I can for them. But above all, I can’t wait to get back on that stage again with the cast of Hairspray 2020, each and every one of them has such a kind soul and I can’t wait for us to be back together, giving everyone a show that means the world to us.

We'd like to thank Christopher 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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