Wednesday, 15 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Ashley Zhangazha



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!

Ashley Zhangazha was most recently seen playing Ike Turner in the West End production of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. His other credits include Biff in Death of a Salesman, Laertes in Hamlet, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (Royal Exchange); the title role in Pericles, Legendre in Danton's Death (National Theatre); Harcourt in The Country Wife (Chichester Festival Theatre); Lars Kosh in Terror (Lyric Hammersmith); Richard in The Lottery of Love (Orange Tree); Jamie in Human Animals, Kunle in Belong, Truth and Reconciliation (Royal Court); Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, Ross in Macbeth (Sheffield Crucible); Arthur in Ah Wilderness (Young Vic); Cory in Fences (Theatre Royal Bath, Duchess Theatre); Aumerle in Richard II, King Lear (Domar Warehouse); Oliver (London Palladium) and Hey Mr Producer (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? 

Two days before, on the 14th March, I finished my run in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and on the evening of the 16th I was due to go to the theatre to see my girlfriend in a play. I feared the closure was coming as Broadway had recently shut down and there was quite a bit of speculation that similar would follow here but it was still surreal when the reality of the situation struck. It was absolutely necessary for it to happen but I was sad and disappointed for all those artists in our industry whose livelihoods were taken from them in an instant.

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

The pace of normal life is so often relentless, particularly in this industry, so I’ve tried to embrace this period of pause as best I can while also keeping active when it’s felt right to do so. I’ve been reading a lot, running, exercising, and pushing for change.

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?

There are positives and negatives with social media but I’ve found it really beneficial to step away from technology on a regular basis. Surrounding yourself was positive voices is so important. The desire to engage constantly is strong but often a period of reflection and time with one’s own thoughts is needed. Checking in on friends and being out in the fresh air is so useful.

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

Donate! Support Arts Charities, Support Artists, Sign Petitions, Push for Positive Change where you can. Be an ally & speak up for others. Together we are stronger!

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

On TV, I finally found time to watch both series of ‘Succession’ which is a masterpiece, as is ‘I May Destroy You’. I’m also currently reading ‘Girl. Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo which is brilliant.

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

I strongly believe that when this is all over and we are able to congregate in a theatre again the desire to connect, tell stories and transform ideas and lives will be insatiable. I’m looking forward to the art that awaits us and the change that is needed in this industry happening.

We'd like to thank Ashley 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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