Wednesday, 24 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jemal Felix


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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Jemal Felix was recently seen on the touring production of The Book of Mormon. His other credits include Angel and understudy Lola in Kinky Boots (Adelphi); Seaweed in Hairspray (York Opera House); Hairspray (Asia/Ireland); Mark in A Dream Across The Ocean (Hackney Empire & Ashcroft Theatre); vocalist in Church Of Now 23 (Edinburgh Fringe Festival & Wilton’s Music Hall); Cinderella (Hackney Empire) and Winston in Whistle Down The Wind (Aldwych Theatre/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 in Birmingham with The Book of Mormon UK Tour. It was crazy actually because I’d travelled down to London early that morning for an audition, I got back to Birmingham around 4pm and headed to the theatre (via Nando’s of course) got into the dressing room and then waited for the daily briefing to come on. So I watched it, we were called to warm up and then basically told that the show would not be going ahead that night and that the rest of the run in Birmingham was cancelled. To be honest, I think we were all just waiting for it to happen so it wasn’t much of a surprise. I got back to my digs and then laughed for about 10 minutes with one of the guys in the cast because the situation was so crazy. I packed up my two suitcases and headed back to London at 7pm that evening. I think I figured out I’d travelled about 360 miles that day. You can’t make it up really. 

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

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessed with organising and cleaning. So I literally top to bottom reorganised and cleaned my flat. Got the dynamo labelling machine out and lived my best life. I did a purge of old clothes and other bits and pieces that you accumulate on tour so I don’t have much left. Other than that I’ve been using the time to relax and enjoy being at home. Like everyone else I’ve been going all zoom quizzes - I actually created my own family one on PowerPoint. It was like a blast back to the past of being in school and using all the slide transitions. Every Saturday my friend would do a Facebook live with her duo “Little and Often” and that’s become my 9pm treat every week where I pop open the Prosecco!

There’s so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been looking after your mental state whilst using these platforms?

I have a time limit of an hour on all my social media apps to make sure that I don’t spend all day endlessly scrolling. I also don’t have notifications turned on for any social media apps which I think is really good as you only see anything when you actively open the app. Also, any WhatsApp group that I’m in is muted. I think it’s really important to not constantly just be available and notified of everything. I like choosing when I want to read messages, and that seems to work well got me. 

I can’t emphasise enough the power of the mute button on Instagram and Twitter it’s an absolute life-changer. 

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

I think we’ve been really lucky during the lockdown as there has been so much to watch on-demand. I’ve just finished an amazing programme called “Black and British- A Forgotten History” that’s on iPlayer that I’d really urge everyone to watch.

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

A lot of zoom quizzes. Last night I took part in a really fun one that was basically lots of different races and you just bet (no money involved though) on which horse/baby/ostrich you thought was going to win the race. It’s surprising how into it you get just sat staring at an iPad.

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

I cannot wait to have a summer. It will be my first summer in a long time without having a two-show Saturday. I’m not going to know what to do with myself - hopefully by the middle of July things are a lot more ‘normal’. Other than that, it will be nice to just go out and catch up with people that I haven’t seen in a long time as I’ve been on tour. 

Oh and being able to just walk into a shop without queuing will be a treat. 

We'd like to thank Jemal 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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