Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Norman Bowman


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!

Norman Bowman's credits include Pat Denning and Understudy Julian Marsh in 42nd Street (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane); Michael in Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre); Cornwall in King Lear (Royal Exchange); Slim in Of Mice and Men (Birmingham Rep); Nym/Williams in Henry V (Noel Coward Theatre); Ross in Macbeth (Manchester International Festival & New York Armoury); PG Wodehouse in Finding Neverland (Leicester Curve); Mack Sennett in Mack and Mabel (Southwark Playhouse); Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales Theatre); Tom Watson/Officer Starnes in Parade (Donmar Warehouse); Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (Donmar Warehouse/Piccadilly Theatre); Curio & understudy Feste in Twelfth Night (Donmar West End/Wyndhams Theatre); Billy Bigelow in Carousel (Chichester Festival Theatre); Danny Zuko in Grease (UK No.1 Tour); Munkustrap in Cats (UK Tour); Tony in West Side Story (UK Tour) and Marius in Les Miserables (West End and UK Tour). 

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 home sort of readying myself for the two concerts and one workshop that lay ahead later that week. When they made the announcement there was such a surreal response in me that I've only experienced once in a while, like 9/11 or the London Bombings – an event that rocks the world of so many you just can’t quite get your head around it.

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

When I came to terms with the fact I wouldn’t be working for some time I actually chose to do very little for the first few weeks and savour the newfound simplicity and lack of need to prepare for castings, learning lines and everything that comes with it. But since then I've managed to set up a little home recording studio in order to try and secure some voice-over work, I’ve sung on the Les Miserables One More Day video for the NHS, did a Facebook live Q&A and we’re about to start work on filming/recoding the workshop of a new musical. So it’s gone from quiet to quite crazy.

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? 

First off I don’t look at the news other than to get the highlights. It’s far too easy to get hooked on rolling news and take on more than you can process or do anything about. I’m a great believer in making the most of what is given to you and I think a lot of people will be discovering more about themselves in these simpler times. When you have everything stripped away and you’re left with your own thoughts do you like what you hear? If not then that’s your mission, to find out why and make peace with it. It’s how to be happy with next to nothing and then anything else that comes along, is a perk. But I do exercise regularly (Great for the mind as well as body), I go for lovely nature walks, play guitar, enjoy the silence, read a bit, really tune into the birdsong or listen to Scala Radio.

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

There are plenty of creative initiatives online. If you’re not spending your money on going to the theatre and you’re comfortable enough financially why not pay for some of the newer online content or donate to some of the Arts charities that lookout for people in the industry such as Acting for Others, Equity Charitable Trust, Fund for Freelancers amongst others. I understand that some theatres have asked patrons to perhaps not request a refund on tickets already purchased which is a great idea else those theatres might remain closed even beyond lockdown.

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

I’ve taken this opportunity to watch things I don’t usually see, like opera and ballet. Whatsonstage.com has a great list of all the free streamed content from the National Theatre and Chichester Festival theatres. I’ve been watching the Met Opera and Sadlers Wells and my friend Darren Boyd has appeared in one of 4 TV shorts called Lockdown Stories on ITV which are great. A book that I’m ever so gradually getting through (I’m a painfully slow reader) is called Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life. It’s a wonderful 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?! 

Connections have now become SO frequent my life seems busier than before lockdown with quizzes with my Scottish friends on a Friday, I have a Skype session with my mate whilst we watch Future Man on Netflix together, an asian cookery class and of course family whenever one can. I’m very lucky to have two beautiful teenagers that help break up the isolation at the weekends and we go to the park, play video games to gather or watch tv. But in amongst all that I do savour my own company. 

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

I’m no longer afraid to say that looking beyond lockdown does fill me with a degree of sadness and apprehension. There does seem to be a collective sense that we all want life, in general, to change for the better. We’ve all seen the benefits to the planet, to social communication, to our compassion for those on the front line and even mundane things like wearing the same clothes and not feeling the urge - or pressure - to buy the latest jacket. I really hope we can hold on to the essence of that. I will, however, look forward to human contact, the ability to travel a little bit more afar and the freedom to join friends in a beer garden and chew the cud. 

We'd like to thank Norman 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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