Monday, 4 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Emma Williams


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!

Emma Williams is a four-time Olivier Award-nominated actor. Her credits include Betty Haynes in White Christmas (Leicester Curve & West Yorkshire Playhouse); Paula Pokrifki in An Officer and a Gentleman (UK Tour); Alice Fitzwarren in Dick Whittington (London Palladium); Helen Walsingham in Half A Sixpence (Chichester Festival Theatre & Noel Coward Theatre); Maureen in Mrs Henderson Presents (Theatre Royal Bath & Noel Coward Theatre); Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun (UK Tour); Melinda in The Recruiting Officer (Salisbury Theatre); Jenny in Love Story (Chichester Festival Theatre & Duchess Theatre); Luisa in Zorro (Garrick Theatre); Susan in Desperately Seeking Susan (Novello Theatre); Johanna in Sweeney Todd (Royal Festival Hall); Fran in Promises, Promises (Sheffield Crucible); Shelley in Bat Boy (Shaftsbury Theatre) and Truly Scrumptious 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? 

Well, I was actually in France when they began locking down there a few days before. I’d been rehearsing South Pacific with the Opera Toulon and mass gatherings were slowly being banned. First more than 5000, then 1000, 500, so we were expecting it to happen at home too. At the Saturday evening rehearsal, we turned up and were told that was it, we couldn’t continue. It was a brilliant company so whilst there was sadness we made the most of those final few hours together and rehearsed until 11pm (in case we could get the show back on at some point), whilst my husband madly packed up our digs and on the Sunday he drove all the way back home! It was kind of crazy as overnight they closed all the restaurants and caf├ęs so we were driving up the motorways just hoping to find somewhere we could buy food!

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

Our daughter Isabelle has just turned five months old and takes up a lot of our time and focus, so productivity hasn’t been at the forefront although I’ve offered out some one to one masterclasses and I’d love to do more of that. I’ve been asked to livestream a gig but with Izzy, I think we’d be limited to renditions of Twinkle Twinkle! On a personal front, I’m trying to use her nap times to try out new fitness workouts in the garden - it’s hilarious! I have a pint of water on the windowsill next to the iPad and the baby monitor!

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’ve always had a pretty strong stance on blocking negativity as I think it’s better for my mental health. Social media is so tricky as you only see what people want to show you so it’s a biased version of reality and it’s good to keep that in mind. That said, in these unusual times I think technology, in general, gives us a lot to be grateful for. We FaceTime different members of our family every day and I use social media to keep in touch with friends and baby groups for Izzy.

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

Charitable donations will always be appreciated if you can and there are lots of theatrical charities that support the arts and artists during and after their careers, nationwide. If a financial donation isn’t feasible, and it isn’t for a lot of people, then get involved by watching some of the free live-streamed shows, spread the word about an event going on perhaps, or even just discuss past things you’ve seen and make a plan to go see something in the future with someone who doesn’t normally go.

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

I've loved slowing down a little over isolation but there are some brilliant classes for people who want to try dance. Bethany Huckle does fab tap classes for all abilities and Emily Langham's pilates class is great. They're both on the @magneticmovement_1 Instagram schedule. For actors, there've been some great one to ones with casting directors on @weaudition but you have to be patient as the waiting rooms can get very busy. Book-wise I'm trying to catch up on my reading as I've not managed much since being pregnant. I'm currently reading Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things and Tom Hanks' Uncommon Type.

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

We FaceTime different family members every day, particularly as Izzy is growing so quickly and it's sad she's missing out on seeing them. James and I are regular pub quizzers so our group have been getting together every Sunday and doing one on Zoom. We're actually hosting it this week so we've been madly writing the questions. It's great fun and gives us a bit of social time, which is particularly nice as so many of us in the group are parents and wouldn't be able to all get together in an evening normally anyway.

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

I can't wait to get to Yorkshire and hug my family. Then I'm going to go see some great theatre and have a belated wedding anniversary celebration with steak somewhere!

We'd like to thank Emma 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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