Tuesday, 9 June 2020

The Corona Diaries: Monique Ashe-Palmer

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Monique Ashe-Palmer was most recently seen in the West End production of Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre. Her other credits include Swing & Dance Captain in Madagasgar the Musical (UK Tour); Ensemble in Sleeping Beauty (Camberley Theatre) and Mack and Mabel (London Musical Theatre Orchestra). 

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 the theatre when I found out that we were closing. Due to illness, we had a massively cut show, so it was all hands on deck. Our amazing resident choreographer, myself, the swings and a few other members of the ensemble were on stage learning alterations to their tracks, which the lovely Leanne Pinder (resident choreographer) had put in place to ensure we could put on an amazing show for our audience. We were Picking up new forks, passing coffee pots here, there and everywhere, doing a new '+ a 2 + 3, 4'. We all mucked in so that we could put on the same fabulous show that we always do. Then everyone from all departments seemed to suddenly flood onto the stage, including our company manager and it was then that we were told that we wouldn't be going ahead with tonight's show and we would be closed until further notice. 

Now this was, of course, devasting, this was my first West End gig, I was living the dream, we had just finished a mentally intense rehearsal. However, we knew that this was the right thing to ensure people stayed safe. Despite feeling sad, I sort of felt it coming however in my head I left that day thinking we would be back in a month or so. 

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

My favourite question! As well as dancing around (doing my mums head in I'm sure), singing and filming some self-tapes. I have actually been quite busy in other departments. I am vegan, and I have been doing a course in plant-based nutrition. I love cooking and baking and people always ask me about the types of things I cook so I figured why not make an insta page where I can share my meals and recipes with everyone. Obviously all this baking and cooking isn't great when all the gyms are closed but that's where my new private deliverroo service comes in handy. I now travel around dropping off sweet treats. I work out at least once a day, just to get the old joints moving. Also, I have refound my passion for reading. And finally, I have been oil painting and revamping old furniture.

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? 

What I have learnt is, ensure your social media accounts are full of the types of things you want to see/engage with. I personally am a sucker for a positive affirmation quote. Unfollow people that don't serve a positive purpose in your life and really connect with those who do. Reading really helps me! There is a whole world of positive books, both fiction and non-fiction which can help fill you with that little glimmer of positivity. I also start my mornings with some feel-good tunes, and a little two-step around my bedroom. Get out and breathe the fresh air, have zoom chats, eat healthily, do the things you love, throw on a cute outfit and the at the end of the day chill and grab a G&T. Also tip: If you feel negative at any point and you feel you can't talk to anyone, write your thought on a piece of paper and then burn it or throw it away. Negativity in the bin! 

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

Jump on the live hype! There are so many amazing people offering FREE, yes FREE classes. Whether that's yoga, fitness, pilates, dance, acting, singing. Keep the artistic spirit alive. Many of these people also then do a 'pay what you can' scheme which can just help out a fellow artist in need of a little support. Also, it takes a second to share/retweet things. So if your buddy is putting on a live concert or something then support! We are all in this together so let's be kind and help where we can. 

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

Absolutely! I have finished a book called 'good vibes, good life' which is a fantastic read and is about exactly what it says on the tin. Also, Alicia Keys has a new book which is super insightful. She talks about her life and struggles an artist as she tried to discover not only who she was artistically but also personally. I couldn't name all the Netflix series/films I have binged during lockdown but ozark, unforgotten, self-made and Hollywood are just a few. 

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 am a sucker for a pub quiz even if it's without the pub. I have participated in a few quizzes with some of the Waitress squad, my old Madagascar castmates and some of my muggle pals. Notice how I said participated, that's because I rarely win, it seems I need to brush up on my general knowledge. My favourite part of the quiz is the 'Facebook status' category. This round has a number of statuses from years ago and the aim is to guess who wrote which status. It's definitely LOL moment. You would be surprised at how much you don't recognise your younger self. 

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

I am looking forward to getting back on that blooming stage! This year I experienced something that was once a mere dream, I performed on a West End stage in a West End musical. Whatever, wherever and however I can't wait to feel this feeling again. As much as I love online classes, I am a social butterfly and miss being surrounded by beautiful like-minded people in a studio environment, so I can't wait to get back to training. And lastly seeing my gorgeous mates and family in person and being able to hug them. I hope everyone is keeping safe and trying to stay upbeat! I am sending love and light to everyone reading. 

We'd like to thank Monique 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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