Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jonathan O'Boyle

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Jonathan O'Boyle is one of the hottest directors at the moment. His work includes The Last Five Years (Southwark Playhouse); The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit (Hope Mill Theatre); Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (Cadogan Hall); Cruel Intentions (Edinburgh Fringe); The View Upstairs (Soho Theatre); Hair (UK Tour, Hope Mill Theatre, The Vaults); Aspects of Live (Hope Mill Theatre, Southwark Playhouse); Peter Pan (Park 200); Rain Man (UK Tour); Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre, Southwark Playhouse) and Four Play (Theatre503).

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 at Southwark Playhouse where my production of The Last Five Years was playing. It was such a surreal day. We knew that the closure of theatres was coming, but it all moved very quickly. The performance went ahead that night and then closed the next day. There was a very strange atmosphere in the theatre that night. The audience knew it was likely to be the last piece of theatre they’d see for a while, so it was as if we were all soaking up every moment in front of us. The audience was so supportive, on what was an emotional night. We were able to say goodbye to everyone and have a drink together. That was the last night I spent time with friends. It’s also surreal to think that the set and all the props are still in the Large at Southwark Playhouse, waiting for us all to return.

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

I spent the first two weeks cleaning my flat from top to bottom. I found it strangely therapeutic and also realised how much of a mess it was! It’s now a spotless haven. I’ve been reading lots, which I love doing but never have the time. I’ve read some brilliant books including Hillary Clinton’s autobiography What Happened and a book given to me by Andy Mientus called Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran. Both highly recommended. As well as all that, I’ve been doing some online Q&A’s with emerging directors and some online teaching for Arts Ed. Like everybody, we have to find new ways to work and connect with each other, which is challenging in an industry that relies on human contact. However, we’re a resilient bunch, and I know we’ll come through this stronger and more empathetic for each other.

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? 

Absolutely! Social media, in many ways, is coming into its own during this time. We can connect with friends and loved ones incredibly easily, and it’s lovely to see everyone doing loads of different things during the lockdown. It makes us feel closer to each other in these difficult times. I think now is the time to ignore negativity online - staying well-informed and using social media as a tool for positive change.

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

I watched the live stream of One Man, Two Guvnors the other week and was blown away by how many people watched it and then donated to the National Theatre. I think these online theatre outlets are fantastic, from every angle. It’s hard as we’re all suffering at the moment, particularly financially, but if you can donate to the theatre source or the charity that is attached to the show, then please do. The industry is precarious and we need all the support we can get right now. Other places that need our support are the smaller regional and fringe venues that are the beating heart of our industry. Engage with your local theatre, in whatever way you can.

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

Netflix and Amazon Prime are saviours. I’m loving Pose on Netflix, The Americans on Amazon and of course Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The National Theatre live streamings are excellent. Southwark Playhouse (a venue very dear to me) has released some of their archive online. The Royal Opera House has some fantastic productions on their website and Facebook pages, including the excellent The Metamorphosis with Ed Watson. There are lots of different independent productions out there online too, so keep an eye out, as I’m sure there will be more to come. Also, some amazing art galleries are offering free online virtual tours, including the Louvre in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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

My Dad is 81, so he is at home alone in Derbyshire, and my sister is helping support him. The one thing I wish for is being able to go back and see family. We’re keeping in touch through Face Time, which is great. I’m speaking to friends most days on Zoom or Face Time and it’s so lovely seeing their smiling faces. I miss them all! 

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

I can’t wait to see my friends and family again! I live alone, so it’s going to be a real treat to see everyone. I can’t wait to get back to work and make some theatre, and indeed to sit in a theatre and see a show. And I can’t wait for a proper coffee!

We'd like to thank Jonathan and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and

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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