Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Shak Gabbidon-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!

*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Shak Gabbidon-Williams was most recently seen playing the role of Marvin Gaye in the UK touring production of Motown the Musical where he also covered the role of Berry Gordy. His other credits include Seaweed J. Stubbs in Hairspray (UK Tour); Ensemble Choir at The Oliviers in Concert (Royal Festival Hall) and Young Simba in The Lion King (The Lyceum Theatre).

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 my flat; it was actually quite a gutting time as I had taken a bit of a hiatus from theatre after the Motown tour finished. I was supposed to start rehearsals for a new show in town the following week and unfortunately that and the cast announcement got cancelled. Sad times.

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

I personally decided that it would be a good idea to try and gain more qualifications during the lockdown so I decided to start a personal training course online and I spend a lot of time doing that. In terms of staying creative, I have been working on my own music for a while now and I’m finally passing the writing stage and am looking to record my first song very soon. I’m also beginning to look into the logistics of a few more projects that I’d like to get started after the restrictions ease over. It’s all quite exciting!

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 think I’m very lucky to be surrounded by the right people; I live with my two best friends and my girlfriend has been with me during the lockdown and as a collective, we’ve been able to keep each other in a relatively good headspace. I think keeping in contact with those who care about you and trying to distance yourself from as much negativity as you can is key to getting through isolation. Also checking in on your friends or family members who live alone is very important, I understand that I’m quite lucky in the living situation I am currently in. 

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

I think performers and small companies have done a great job in terms of keeping the public entertained during this tough time, from the amazing dance workshops to the online concerts, competitions and Q&As I’ve seen, many of which have been for free. As a result, I think the best way we can support the arts industries is simply to show the same commitment once the theatres and other arts venues reopen. There is such a huge question mark over the future of UK Theatre industry at the moment, but with the help of the public, though it will undoubtedly take time, hopefully, we will be able to get back on track.

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

Netflix has become a safe haven for me during lockdown. I’d recommend watching The Last Dance for any sports documentary fans and Hollywood if you want to see some terrific performances with an important subject matter and underlying message. Disney+ has also come at the perfect time and a High School Musical marathon is always a good idea, along with amazing nature documentaries. I also spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, my favourites being The Half-cast Podcast and Gasworks on YouTube. If you’re looking for something more theatre-based, you could listen to Spencer O’Brien and Perry O’Dea’s podcast, Down to the Final 2 on all streaming platforms. (You’re welcome for the plug lads) 

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

I’m sure for everyone Zoom has been a great way to keep in contact with family and friends. I speak my mum, nan and sister regularly; usually to check-in. A big extended family quiz is definitely due!

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 into rehearsals and to be able to start getting my projects up and running. I'm also really looking forward to seeing my family and catching up with friends in the flesh. I’m sure one of the first things I will do is go to the gym though! 

We'd like to thank Shak 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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