Monday, 6 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Bernadette Bangura

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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Bernadette Bangura was due to perform in Orfeus: A House Opera at the Young Vic. Her other credits include Consuela in Robin Hood (Sailsbury Playhouse); Soul Girl in Jesus Christ Superstar (Barbican); Rita in 2 Dumb (Rodean Theatre); The Genie in Aladdin (Harlow Playhouse); Marcia in Tainted (The Vaults); Jarene in The Colour Purple (Cadogan Hall); Adriadne in The Frogs (Jermyn Street Theatre) and Brigit in Ragtime (Charing Cross 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? 

I was in the middle of rehearsals for a brand new production of 'Orfeus' A House Opera at the Young Vic. A production I was really looking forward to being a part of.
We were getting ready to start our third week and our artistic director Kwamei Kwei- Armah came in and told us the news that theatres were closing and therefore our production was being postponed. We were in utter disbelief. I was overcome with anger, angry that this had to happen now! But I had to think this hasn't just happened to us this is worldwide.

Rest assured we know this isn't the end of what we have started, we became a real family. Our writer/leading man and director are American so they had to fly back home ASAP also. When they had we all did a zoom chat to keep our spirits high.
I had moved to London temporarily for the show and moved back home within the week of the announcement, after making sure I was well and wasn't displaying any systems. It was very disheartening knowing all the work we put in had been put on hold.

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

It was hard at first to keep motivated when this happened, nothing seemed to be happening, felt like an apocalypse; couldn't go to the gym which would normally be my go-to if I am in-between jobs, it keeps me sane and motivated. I like keeping fit around other people too. As gyms are closed I started taking part in online workouts. Word really does spread on social media, I found one that suits me the best, he's an actor and a personal trainer and does half an hour workouts on Instagram live every day!

I have also taken part in a couple of singing projects some friends have been putting together. I am terrible at self-tapes so have been trying to perfect those, having to watch yourself back quite a few times and critique yourself isn't easy! My home is quite tiny and therefor not much space to take part in an online dance class which I would love to do, so as soon as studios are open I need to get myself down to one.

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 am always telling myself off for being on my phone too much, I think a lot of us do this. It starts with a simple text, then you find yourself on Instagram and twitter scrolling for about 15mins then that leads to a youtube link you have come across. You're absorbing so much in such little time it's overwhelming. I actually feel exhausted after looking at my phone. You find yourself looking at debates and arguments on twitter, sometimes I want to have my say but then I get scared in case what I say is wrongly interpreted or I offend someone. I am all for a healthy debate but there are computer trolls out there who just start them to wind people up, so I tend to just sway myself if I find I'm engulfing myself into something negative. 

I love keeping up to date with the news but why, I ask, is it always negative?! Give us good news now and again, please! I always find just going outside does me some good, just a walk around the block, a beryl bike ride or a pop into Sainsbury's with some human interaction keeps me sane.

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

Sign any petitions you to see to stop the redundancy of staff, closures of theatres, or to bring the diminish of theatre to the governments attention. By the looks of it, we are not going to see the return of shows till early next year which is heartbreaking. The National Theatre are streaming a lot of their shows at the moment and you can donate to help the arts there. Taking part in online workshops, not refunding your theatre tickets but donating them. Actively keeping up to date on any news to do with the arts also through Equity, The Stage and the Actors Centre. 

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

I got addicted to Normal People on BBC Iplayer as soon as that was released. I had just finished the book two months before and wanted to see, as you do with a TV adaption of a book you love, if it's captured it just as good and it did. Sally Rooney's writing is incredible. You really get entrapped in the characters' worlds. I have also read her other novel 'Conversations with Friends'. Eagerly waiting for her to write another novel! I am a hopeless romantic and have only now started to read the sequel to 'Me Before You'. I can read so many books at one time but then it takes me forever to finish one!

Noughts + Crosses again on BBC Iplayer, which shows a reverse on lives if black people were the more superior race opposed to the whites, you see a forbidden relationship start to form with Sefi and Callum. I love a good biography too, currently reading Tina Turner's and Dame Judi Dench's, I think its fascinating to see where some of the biggest stars came from and it's not always how you presume.

'Why I am no longer speaking to White People About Race' I have also started like a lot of people, it has been well overdue read for me, it's not an easy read but it's a must-read.

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 joined the quiz hype! At one point I had three a week with friends, one of which a group of friends I just reconnected with too.

I really enjoyed them, I feel tons more knowledgable too! Now normal life has started to come back though and people are returning to work or finding work, for now, they have slowly dwindled away. But now we can meet face to face and go for walks! There'll be a time in the future when we'll briefly reminisce on when we all randomly did quizzes for like two months and then never spoke about them again...

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

Being able to hug my nearest and dearest! My boyfriend is at a high risk with the virus and we don't live together so it's been super hard not seeing him as much, but we have day trips planned! Can't wait to snuggle up on the sofa next to him.

Returning to theatreland as well! How amazing that first night back will be and that first sip of Merlot in the circle bar! 

We'd like to thank Bernadette and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and

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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