Monday, 11 May 2020

The Corona Diaries: Piers Bate


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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Piers Bate was most recently seen in the London company of Waitress, in the ensemble and understudying the roles of Doctor Pomatter and Earl, at the Adelphi Theatre. His other credits include Gremio in Kiss Me Kate (Opera North); Ensemble in The Wizard of Oz ( Sheffield Crucible); Ensemble and cover Bill in Kiss Me Kate (Kilworth House); Swing in Mrs Henderson Presents (The Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto); Cover Rolf in The Sound of Music (UK Tour); Ensemble in Singin' in the Rain (Kilworth House); Ensemble and cover Adam in Love Beyond (Wembley Arena); John Truitt in Meet Me in St Louis (Landor Theatre) and Ensemble and cover Corny Collins in Hairspray (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? 

Two days earlier on the 14th, we had performed our final performance of Waitress with Sara Bareilles, Gavin Creel and NaTasha Williams. They were following guidance to fly back to the United States before flights were shut down the following day. I arrived to work on the Monday knowing full well that lockdown was imminent but whether or not the week's shows would go ahead was still up in the air. We went down to stage for our company warm-up at 18:15. Our Resident Choreographer, Leanne Pinder was teaching the changes for the show that night as we had multiple people off sick as well as the Americans who had left the show. All the departments were called down to the stage for an announcement where we were told that all Theatres across the West End were cancelling that nights shows.

I wasn’t shocked. It was very much expected. The show was in a slightly unique circumstance in that we had a closing date in July, so I knew that any lockdown likely meant that we wouldn’t be reopening the other side of it. We had done a number of mini cast changes during our 13 months at Waitress and I had got a reputation for crying when anyone left. Now let me tell you, I am not an attractive crier. So the prospect of the show closing was not one I was looking forward to. The uncertainty over lockdown had meant that the entire previous week was quite an emotional one, but I allowed myself to treat the evening show on the 14th as the final show. So there was a little relief when it finally happened because living every show like it’s the last would have been emotionally exhausting.

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

HOW DARE YOU TRY TO SHAME ME FOR BEING LAZY! In all seriousness, I have been very unproductive in Lockdown. I’ve kept my fitness up to probably the bare minimum. Earlier in April my girlfriend (Olivia Moore) and I did a live-streamed concert for the Leave a Light On series for The Theatre CafĂ© and Lambert Jackson Productions. Who knew that sitting on your sofa singing some songs to your phone could be so stressful.

I have to say that, most likely, the only skill I’ll be gaining from this lockdown period is an incredibly dextrous set of elbows. When this is all over, put any door in front of me and I will open it so quickly without ever using my hands. If the Guinness Book of World Records is reading this, give me a call and we’ll sort out the challenge.

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 actually took the opportunity about a month before we went into lockdown to delete my social media apps from my phone. I felt it was important to not have them as easily accessible for me. I still have my Twitter and Facebook accounts but I don’t have the immediate access that I had before. I think it’s important to not engage with anything that actively annoys you. My number 1 rule that I try to stick to is, STAY OUT OF THE COMMENTS SECTION. Try and only view content that makes you happy or is educational. You do not have to look at the page of anyone that annoys you. The mute button has been an absolute godsend on Twitter. My last piece of advice, and it makes me a massive hypocrite, but try to respond to everyone in your messages before you post things on social media. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing someone posting ANOTHER picture of themselves post-workout or of their latest excuse for a baking escapade when they’ve left you on read for a week and a half. I’ve fallen into a rant here but the message is that we should prioritise and nurture our one to one relationships rather than our social media following.

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

If you would like to support the Arts Industry during lockdown you have multiple options for charities you can donate to such as Acting for Others who support all theatre workers in times of need or the Actors Benevolent Fund who support actors and stage management who are in need due to illness injury or old age. I believe you can donate to the National Theatre on their website. They are streaming their productions on Thursday nights for free. If you can and are able to, find a way to support your local stage school or Amateur Dramatic Society. Professional productions will be supported by producers who are better placed to take the financial hit that this Pandemic has caused but Stage Schools and Amateur Societies are quite often running on much tighter margins. Supporting local theatre should be our first port of call when the industry gets up and running again, whenever that may be.

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

Obviously there’s been a huge surge in the use of streaming services since we all went into lockdown. I’ve been isolating with my partner and I’ve introduced her to Breaking Bad. We’re currently about to start Season 4. I’ve read that the reason we enjoy watching TV shows or films that we’ve seen before is because our brains find comfort in knowing what happens. So my advice for lockdown would be to watch your favourite tv series as much as you like. Watch our favourite film all the time. Read your favourite book from cover to cover then start it again. Stop worrying about missing out on the, quite frankly dreadful, bonus episode of Tiger King. Watch whatever you need to, to get yourself through the lockdown.

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

Facetime and video calls have been brilliant in this time. I have spoken to my family more regularly in these 6 weeks than I had in the previous six months. It’s wonderful. My family and I have a weekly quiz we do on Thursday nights that I have never won. I’m not at all resentful. My friends and I have another quiz we do weekly but that is my limit. Quizzes are taking over the world and they must be stopped. I’m starting to think that by the end of lockdown there won’t be a question in the world I haven’t got wrong on a pub quiz at one time or another.

My girlfriend and I also decided to put our relationship to the ultimate test and we started a thousand-piece puzzle. We still haven’t decided who’s going to put the final piece in place. I’m not sure I’m ready for that conversation.

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

So when this is all over I am going to properly celebrate my birthday. I hit the wonderful milestone of turning 30 on March 21st which was before lockdown but I was having to isolate at the time. I had a really lovely day, but I am excited to have a proper celebration with a few friends. Joint top of the list is to go on holiday. My girlfriend and I had a trip planned for the beginning of May which has since been cancelled for obvious reasons. We’re spending most of our time in lockdown discussing where we’ll go when the restrictions are lifted which is a lovely distraction from what’s going on. 

Selfish reasons aside, I think the main thing that I’m looking forward to is being in the same room as my friends and family. Give them a hug and have a laugh. This situation has shown me lots of things I have taken for granted. It’s a comfort to know that it cannot last forever and each day is another step closer to the pandemic being over.

We'd like to thank Piers 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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