Monday, 22 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Christopher Parkinson


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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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 Parkinson is currently in the London cast of & Juliet at the Shaftsbury Theatre. His other credits include Swing in Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre); Ensemble/cover Brad, Eddie, Dr Scott and Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show (International tour); Kieran in Somebody’s Son (UK Tour); Young Stormy in Moonshadow workshop, Paul in Barney’s Colourful World (UK tour), Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical workshop (Old Vic) and Jeremy Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium).

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?

The day theatres went into lockdown was a pretty rubbish day for me. I’d just got back from spending a week in America and the Caribbean visiting my friend who was doing Hairspray on Royal Caribbean. It was my first day back since my holiday and at around 1pm I found out I was going on for my principle cover for the first time. I’d waited a year to get out there and play the part so I was so ready! I rang my family and they booked the tickets and took three trains from Manchester to make the show, my agent bought a ticket and so did my partner. I headed into work early to go over the show, just to make sure I was as prepared as I could be. We went down for warm-up at 18:00, just after physical warm-up we were told the show would be closing with immediate effect. Naturally I was devastated I rang my family who’d just arrived into London and went and met them at the train station we spent the next hour in a Starbucks just reflecting on the events. I came to the realisation that everything happens for a reason and hopefully next time I get the chance to go on it will be even more special than It would of been that night! Who knows when it will be? I’ve waited a year so a few more months can’t hurt!

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

Since lockdown I’ve really gotten into my fitness! I’m the biggest fan of sitting on the couch all day in front of the television eating chocolate! I had a eureka moment about 2 weeks into lockdown. I feel like now is the perfect time to get in shape. Some might disagree but eating well is easy to do when you can’t go out for dinner and you’ve got spare time on your hands! I know what I’m eating because I’m cooking it from fresh and working out fills part of my day so it’s keeping me active. Usually I would rely on the show to replace my daily exercise routine but without it, I've had time to focus on what I want to gain with regards to my physique and my lifestyle. I got myself an online PT and so far I’m 7lb down!

There's so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been trying to look after your mental state whilst using these platforms?

Social media is a really powerful tool for our generation and I think the pros outweigh the cons. Recently a whole civil rights movement began through social media. It’s the power of the people, however, there will always be negativity in the world and it’s important to breed positivity wherever you can! Both existed before lockdown and I’ve never really let the negative get to me. I’m more of a glass half full kinda guy than a glass half empty. There is injustice in the world and we have harnessed the power of social media to make a change, everything has a beginning and everything has an end, we're maybe somewhere in the middle right now but we’re 1000% moving in the right direction because we are using our voices to question the world! From a theatre POV, it’s the first time the theatre industry has completely shut down which is scary even throughout the war the theatres stayed open. However, once this is all over there will be so much joy. People will be dying to get back to the theatre and to not be confined to there homes. Theatre makes people happy and I can’t wait for our first show back as I know it will be special. My advice is to take the time to educate yourself and ask questions and stay on the right side of what social media can do! Your mental state should always come first and if social media affects that in a negative light then turn off your phone, take a reset and begin again.

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

There are so many ways to continue to support the arts. A lot of my friends/colleagues are doing concerts, this is a fantastic way to support performers who are continuing to entertain you from your sofa at home. There are so many workshops happening every day, chances are someone is doing a workshop based on your favourite show daily so now is your chance to learn the routines and the songs and put it to use next time you find yourself on the front row! The main thing I think everyone can do without having to spend a penny is to just keep talking about your favourite shows, to friends to family and on your social media! Word of mouth is a powerful tool and if the world is still talking about it then it’s still relevant! I get messages everyday from people saying they miss the show and posting pictures and fan art and it just reminds me that our industry is special and it will be back stronger than ever. 

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

I love podcasts, I actually got myself a job at Sainsbury's just to keep myself busy in this time and to do whatever I could to help others in need. I go in at 2am and finish at 8am. I whiz around the supermarket (supermarket sweep style) picking out the online orders for people who are unable to get to the store due to being ill or social distancing. I find my shift goes so quick when I am listening to a podcast, I love the industry minds podcast which focuses on dealing with mental health plus various other issues. I’ve also taken up reading! My other half Daniel Tawse is a young adult author and last year self-published his first book on Amazon! It’s a beautiful read about a young boy just trying to find his place in the world if you are looking for a good read I’d recommend it, not just because he’s my other half, it’s a really beautiful book.

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

keeping in touch with family is a huge deal for me. I call my mum every single day anyway regardless of lockdown or not I always have and I always will. My family are all based up north so it’s hard enough at the best of times but knowing I’m actually not allowed to drive to see them makes it even harder! I have been doing a weekly quiz my group of friends called the “huns” and I’m actually much better than I thought I would be! It’s nice for us to connect once a week it usually lasts about 3 hours and I reckon 2h 45mins of that is actually is just chatting not quizzing! I’m extremely thankful for technology! FaceTime is a saviour so I catch up with as many people as I can! Not everyone is as fortunate as I am and some of my friends are isolating alone so I always check in just to make sure there coping! Since working at Sainsburys I’ve never felt so popular! If you’re looking for pasta, flour, toilet roll or anti-bac, I’m your guy!

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

As I said before there will be a time when we return to some form of normality and I think the world will be a very different place! Theatre is a place you go to escape your problems and to immerse yourself in someone else’s world all be it for an hour or two. I’m most looking forward to being able to remember what we’ve all been through and to never take for granted the time I spend with my family, friends and colleagues. All those times I 'didn’t have time' I’ll make time for! I’m looking forward to getting back to work and continuing to make the world a brighter place, one show after another 

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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