Friday, 24 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Bronté Barbé




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!

Bronté Barbé was most recently seen playing Ado Annie in Oklahoma at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Her other credits include Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (UK Tour); The Little Match Girl in Striking 12 (Union Theatre); Nadine in The Wild Party (The Other Palace); JEst End (Waterloo East); The Donkey Show (Proud London); Princess Fiona in Shrek (UK Tour); Sharon in Cool Rider (Lyric Theatre); Momentous Musicals (UK tour); Hairspray (Kuala Lumpur/Singapore); Carnival of the Animals (Riverside Studios) and she was a finalist on Over the Rainbow, the TV search for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. 

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’d just got home after a rehearsal workshopping a new musical. We had spent the day ferociously using anti-bac and there’d been a lot of discussion and worry about when our theatres may close, but none of us could have anticipated that it would be that evening. I think I saw it on twitter first. I remember we returned to rehearsals the next day with heavy hearts, knowing that the rest of the week would be cancelled. It was the strangest feeling, we finished the day with a group song and it was quite emotional. We had no idea how long it would be until we could come together again and do what we love and we still don’t know now.

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

I’ve tried to be productive and positive, as time goes on I’ve found it challenging to stay creative. I started by making a list of all the things I’ve wanted to do but have never had the time; learning a language, painting, baking more, piano. I realised quickly that I wasn’t going to do these. In reality, I’ve spent a lot of time cuddling my dog and reading. I really enjoy planting and have been spending a lot of time taking long walks. What surprised me the most is I’ve had a burning desire to start my own business, something I’ve never been remotely interested in. I have an idea so fingers crossed something will come of it! There has been a little bit of performing, I’ve done a few videos including a home concert as part of the ‘Leave a light on series’ and got together with the Over the Rainbow girls to create a ten-year anniversary video in aid of Mind which was an absolute joy.

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 can very easily fall into a social media hole. At the start of this year, I put locks on my socials in a bid to spend less time with phone in hand. I’ve tried hard during lockdown to stick to this and spend my time online in a more productive and valuable way rather than the mindless scrolling! I’ve loved keeping in touch online and seeing friends being so wonderful and productive during the time, creating and sharing their talents in so many innovative ways. A special shout out to a friend and stage manager extraordinaire Nicky for creating @inthewingsuk, a platform to help those wanting to learn about the theatre industry from behind the stage.

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

As we all know, so many venues, creative companies and industry professionals are desperate for support at the moment. I think if you are in a position to donate, then that is absolutely wonderful, but even sharing a post can go a long way. Lots of shows are now online and there are so many people generously running workshops and discussion sessions, I say get involved as much as possible but don’t overwhelm yourself! A few friends have recently put together an incredible platform, www.magnetic-studios.co.uk/ offering classes in dance, singing and acting plus mental health support resources with part proceeds going towards performing arts charities.

Also, talk to your friends and family about the problems the arts are facing. I know I feel that many people are now back to work or have been working from home throughout and for us performing arts folk that is simply not the case. If they are able to, urge them to donate too or buy tickets for a show that has dates scheduled into next year. The industry needs all the support it can get right now. If TV and radio completely disappeared for three months, I think the world would be shouting about it.

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

There are so many things I’ve enjoyed during the lockdown! My favourite theatre I’ve watched online has to be ‘Flowers for Mrs Harris’ streamed on the Chichester festival theatre website and Small island from the NT live. Both were incredibly beautiful productions and I cried buckets! I know the National are still streaming productions and you can donate to them via text. The last season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race came just at the right time, it is absolutely awesome and I think possibly the best thing on telly. Little fires everywhere on amazon prime is sensational.

I’m currently reading Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo and am loving it.I’ve also just purchased a new book called Gender Rebels by Anneka Harry that I can’t wait to read.

On Instagram: Daisy May Cooper has been providing daily belly laughs, especially her ‘Sea Captain’ saga, highly recommend following her and going back through the whole thing. I’ve been loving Dom&Ink - amazing illustrations and content. And I’ve just started tuning into @laurawhitecoaching for her ‘Monday love’ lives, they are brilliant and a lovely start to the week.

And lastly, for a bit of relaxation and reconnection I’ve really been enjoying some Yoga with Adrienne, her 30 day challenges are great. She has lots of free programmes on her youtube!

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’ve been doing a quiz with my family on a Sunday via zoom. In the first few weeks of lockdown I did so many quizzes, I got a bit quizzed out! But it’s a lovely excuse to get the extended family together every week. I FaceTime lots and my almost one-year-old nephew is getting really good at communicating via screen. He must think I live in the phone now. Our conversations mostly consist of dinosaur noises. I’ve met a few friends and neighbours in parks with a brew in a flask. It’s a very strange ‘new normal’ we’re getting used to, it definitely makes you value every moment with loved ones so much more.

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

I can’t wait to hug my mum. It’s been the longest time I’ve gone without seeing her in probably my whole life. I can’t wait to not have to panic about when I can next wash my hands. And I reeeeeally can’t wait to be on stage with other people or in a rehearsal room. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of singing a song you’ve just learnt with the whole company. More than anything I can’t wait to know when theatre’s will be allowed to reopen. Those first opening nights once shows are allowed to restart are going to be electric.

We'd like to thank Bronté 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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