Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Alessia McDermott


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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Alessia McDermott was most recently seen in the original cast of Back to the Future at the Manchester Opera House. Her other credits include Ensemble/Cover Baby in Dirty Dancing (UK Tour); Ensemble/First Cover Frenchy & Cha Cha in Grease (UK Tour); Ensemble in Peter Pan (QDOS); Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (Polka Dot Pantomimes) and Dancer/Singer in Beauty and the Beast (Paul Holman Associates). 

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? 

At the time I was doing Back to the Future in Manchester, however, we were given two days off so I’d gone back to London for the weekend. I was just preparing my things ready for the following morning when I’d be getting the train back up to Manchester when I heard the news. Honestly I was devastated, but I kind of knew it was coming so I wasn’t shocked. As devastating as it was for the theatres to go dark I knew that going forward it was the safest, most sensible thing to do. Although for a couple of hours, before they announced the closure of regional theatres I was texting my castmates like “Do we get on the train to Manchester tomorrow!? What’s happening!” 

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

As soon as lockdown started and I knew there wouldn’t be much to do for me, I immediately started volunteering! Firstly, I went on Facebook where I found a local volunteer group. We have one big Whatsapp group where our coordinator Julie offers out jobs and it's first come first serve. Secondly, I applied to be an NHS Volunteer responder and was successful! Both groups involve helping out vulnerable people who are at home self-isolating and can’t leave. I pick up prescriptions and drop them off to people who need help, or I’ll go out and do someone’s food shop and so on. Its been great because it keeps me busy and gets me out of the house and it’s also great to meet new people. Sometimes I’ll sit 2 metres from and old ladies front door and just have a good old chat if they’re feeling lonely!

Aside from volunteering I’ve discovered that I actually enjoy working out, what a revelation! Jokes aside, I’m so in awe of everyone who is offering out fitness and dance classes on Instagram and zoom! I’ve done at least one every single day and I absolutely love it. I’ve also enjoyed having more time to read and lastly and most importantly, my housemates and I have managed to watch all the Marvel films, all the Harry Potter films and all the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit films. Pretty proud of that. 

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 try not to look at my social media too much unless its to catch up with what my friends are doing to or to watch funny videos. Social media has been great to keep people busy, entertained and connected during the lockdown and luckily I haven’t seen too much negativity. I’d recommend monitoring what pages you follow, if you see anything that is negative or doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, unfollow! Not in a harsh way, but just to protect your mental health. I’ve also recently learned not to believe every news article I read and to avoid fake news.

The main thing that’s kept me positive is doing an exercise/dance class every day. I wake up and do one first thing and then have a smoothie. Getting my body moving has kept me feeling more positive physically and mentally. I’ve also found that having a routine is good, which is as simple as having dinner at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. Keeping busy I think is important to stay positive and I try to do at least one productive thing a day, such as doing a volunteer job or cleaning the kitchen, but knowing that’s also totally okay to sit and watch Netflix for 5 hours with ice cream as well if I want to.

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

It’s tough for everyone at the moment financially but my advice would be, if you have already bought tickets for shows then please don’t refund them as the show/theatre can use the interest of that money to keep themselves afloat, plus they can use it as an advance when they show reopens. If that’s not possible for you, please re-book when the show reopens, please return to the theatre as much as you can. There are also many charities and individual theatres you can donate to at this time to keep them going if you can afford to of course.

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

Firstly, all the films I listed above, takes up a lot of time but it's worth it! If you fancy a good old binge on Netflix, I’d recommend ‘Dead to Me’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Hollywood’. All great series. Also, I’ve been loving ‘Normal People’ on BBC iPlayer! Games wise, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve downloaded the Sims 4 (major blast from the past) and would highly recommend it if you fancy playing a game when you’re bored! Although give yourself a time limit as it can get addictive!

Most of all I’ve been loving the Instagram Live dance/fitness classes, my favourite being @gabs_cocca barre class and @bobalus Hiit workout. Both get a great sweat on and are motivating and fun. 

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

Zoom has been a saviour, hasn’t it! I have been taking part in quizzes, let’s just say I didn’t excel but its the taking part that counts. My sister actually organised a zoom Murder Mystery for my family and it was SO much fun. Would highly recommend. Aside from that, daily/weekly facetime calls with my friends and family have become part of my routine!

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

Most of all, I can’t wait to give my family and friends a squeeze. I’ve been missing my loved ones a lot and I think that’s been the hardest part of lockdown for me. Get me to the pub with my mates! I’m really looking forward to going back to work and performing in front of an audience and lastly, I can’t wait to sit in an independent coffee shop with a coconut flat white!

We'd like to thank Alessia 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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