Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Francesca Pim

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Francesca Pim was most recently seen as SoufflĂ© in Beauty and The Beast at Exeter's Northcott Theatre. Her other credits include Zelda Zanders in Singin' in the Rain (Showtime Challenge, Adelphi Theatre); Lady Dolly in Twang!! (Union Theatre); Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (UK Tour); Fiona/Helouise in Salad Days (UK Tour, Union Theatre); Lucinda in Into the Woods (Cockpit Theatre); Sammie-Sue Miller in 110 in the Shade (Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre); Helen in Wonderful Town (Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre) and Brenda in I.F the Musical (Waterloo East). 

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 at home in London. (I am currently at my family home in Jersey as I made the decision to come back pre lockdown.) I had just had a phone call with a likeminded friend about our concerns for theatre and everything related to Coronavirus, I put the phone down and saw the news on social media and just kept thinking of what this meant for our Industry and the impact it would have on so many livelihoods. The Showstoppers were meant to have a show at the Lyric that evening which they had to cancel, but they did a Livestream improvised musical on their Facebook page so I watched that. It was brilliant, the last night that cast and many others will be together for a while and it felt reassuring to be reminded that creativity has not and will not stop.

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

Just before lockdown, I had started teaching myself the Ukulele. I am by no means great, but I'm enjoying the process and have already used it in filming for the charity Spread a Smile. I have worked for Spread a Smile for a while now and they are a wonderful organisation. Usually they employ performers (singers, magicians, artists, poets and more) to entertain terminally ill children and their families in London hospitals. Unfortunately, the weekly visits had to stop due to Cornonavirus so we have had to adapt and find ways of entertaining virtually. In addition to this virtual entertainment for Spread a Smile, I have been learning Makaton which is a language programme used to aid the development of speech in children with learning difficulties. Learning this is very similar to learning choreography in that the more you practice it the easier it becomes to recall.

In addition to this, I have been filming at home for the Princess Party company I work for, doing a couple of small Zoom concerts for children and I was lucky enough to do a zoom table read for a potential new TV pilot which was great fun. 

One thing I really didn't anticipate doing during lockdown was setting up a small business making and selling beaded hairbands. I absolutely love all things sparkly so really enjoy making them. Have a look at @prettyinpim to see photos and if you have any questions I would be more than happy to help. I think a lot of people have been surprised with how they have filled their time in lockdown... I am definitely one of them! The main thing though is definitely to do what makes you feel happy. We haven't experienced a global pandemic before and so there are no right or wrong answers concerning what we should or shouldn't do. I have definitely had days where watching Disney plus is the only answer and that's more than ok!

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

It is fantastic that so many Plays, Musicals and concerts are available to watch online. For me, nothing compares with live theatre but it's been a lovely reminder of what can be achieved and what is yet to come when theatre is allowed again. Many theatres are welcoming donations at the moment and have set up Emergency appeals. This definitely applies to a number of regional theatres who are registered charities and rely on donations throughout the year to operate in normal circumstances, so are really struggling now without the benefit of ticket sales. Other than that we all need to be ready to back the arts fully by going to see shows as soon as it is safe to do so once theatres are open again. 

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

One of my favourite online classes I have been doing is Charise Renouf's Ballet Barre Instagram live classes. She teaches on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 10:30am and is such a positive ray of sunshine. Her Instagram is @charise_renouf_. For workouts, @cescaabbottfitness is your girl!

I've tried not to watch too much TV, but I can really recommend Encore on Disney Plus, it's brilliant! I've also enjoyed Quiz on ITV, Glow up: Britain's Next Make-up Star and The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC/ Iplayer as well as re-watching Modern Family which is now back on Netflix.

Bookwise I loved Julie Andrews autobiography "Homework: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years." She had a fascinating childhood and upbringing and her stories of behind the scenes of filming the Sound of Music and Mary Poppins are just glorious.

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

We are so lucky to have FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and so much more available to us. Technology has been essential for staying in touch with friends and family and I have definitely never felt more grateful for it. I have done a number of Quiz's and had virtual coffees with friends, family and also had reunions via zoom with previous cast members from various shows. It has been wonderful to virtually see people and support each other at a time when we physically can't be with them.

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

There is so much to look forward to! I can't wait to see friends and family again in real life, that is going to be wonderful. I'm excited for the first audition back, I'm sure it will feel emotional and everyone in any audition room will be grateful they are there more than ever. I'm looking forward to the first show we get to see. Before lockdown, the last show I saw was Mary Poppins and it's exciting to think which show will bookend the closing of theatres by being the first one I get to see post lockdown.

I'm looking forward to the first day of rehearsals on whatever the next job might be, to supporting friends in shows they are in, to stepping on stage and to performing again. Most of all I'm looking forward to the lessons that we have all learnt through this pandemic transferring into all aspects and areas of life. A little more gratitude, a little more kindness and a lot more love.

We'd like to thank Francesca 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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