Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Emmanuel Kojo




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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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

Emmanuel Kojo was most recently seen as Jud Fry in Oklahoma! at the Chichester Festival Theatre. His other credits include Reverend Murdo in Loca Hero (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh); Ensemble & Alternate Joe Scott in Girl From The North Country (Noel Coward Theatre); Sir Lionel in Camelot (London Palladium); Ike Skidmore in Oklahoma! (Royal Albert Hall); Curio/Drag in Twelfth Night (National Theatre); Joe in Show Boat (Sheffield Crucible & New London Theatre); Gremio in Kiss Me, Kate (Opera North) and Clarence & Understudy Haywood Patterson in The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic & Garrick 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 think I was with my ex/then-girlfriend and we saw it all announced and I remember feeling like I was in a black mirror episode and I obviously initially made lots of jokes about how our lives have seriously become a black mirror episode, not realising the impact this was going to have on my life. It was all very surreal. 

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

I will be honest, it started rough with a break up with my girlfriend who at the time I thought was the love of my life, and then with the help of my friends who took me in and loved me, I turned to therapy and mentorship and guidance and it changed my entire life, physically and mentally.  

Since the beginning of lockdown, I have lost 3.5 Stones, I haven't felt this physically fit since second year at drama school, and therapy and couple books have transformed my mental health, from feeling like I had lost everything to finding so much in this bleak time. Cry Like A Man by Jason Wilson & The Four Agreements The Toltec Wisdom, and in have just started Gary Zukavs Seat Of The Soul. Life-Changing Reading. 

I am very grateful for this pause in life as I have greatly benefited from it, but that's all down to perspective and wanting to not waste this time but come out of this prepared and ahead of the game and ready to go.

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? 

So I have introduced a social media break, at the beginning of the month I take a whole week of social media, I delete all of the apps. 

Just to disconnect and look back at the last month, what I have achieved, what I haven't achieved and how to better that for the coming months. I think we all sometimes are such massive dreamers and want this and want that, but setting targets and goals and plan of action is the best way to achieve what you want, especially within a timeframe. Then when that time is up its a great way to check-in see whether it was achieved if not, why not and how to improve on it. 

Plus therapy and the practises I been taking from there has helped massively, because I think every day there has been another killing or something disturbing on social media since George Flloyd died countless others have also died in police custody or altercation. So limiting my time and also writing, my god writing has been a lifesaver to release the pain and anger I been feeling recently. And using that pain and anger to actively affect change in our Industry working with Equity and my amazing Agent Mildred Yuans Manifesto for Change which we have begun sharing with Institutions within our Industry and working towards eradicating racism in our Industry and Media. So that's something we will be sharing in the near future as the work has begun. 

This is a link to something me and my friend Lucy Aiston worked on together. 

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

Magnetic Movements is one of the many ways to support this Industry. It was set up by two beautiful friends of mine, Alex and Lindsay. And it's an amazing way to do classes and get everything you need during this crazy time. Whatever you can think of you will find it there. 

And there has been a lot of free entertainment on social media, but the industry needs the government to stop being so inept and help. This is the most important business and money maker in this country and currently it's being forgotten about. Go to the pub and get drunk and drink your worries away, which is what so many are doing, but you can't go to the theatre and let your life be transformed. It says a lot about the structure of our country. 

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

Like I said before the Three Books I mentioned prior I have been giving to all of my friends. And I would say talk to friends and family about your mental health. Not enough is done in this country to speak about mental health. You know people will go to the gym to be physically fit, but not many train for the mind. And I would say it's more important than your time spent in the gym, I will be looking into creating a space and platform for freedom of speech and people not to feel scared to talk about their struggles, as I have seen the effect it had on me and some who are no longer with us during lockdown period. 

If our own government isn't going to do anything I will myself and will make that change.  And also if people want to educate themselves Netflix is booming with lots of reasons why the BLM Movement is vital right now. We all turned to art to be entertained during this time, the government needs to wake up and help. 

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

Facetime and Video Chats and zoom been essential as my mum is incredibly high risk so I haven't travelled home to be with family. But also reconnecting with old friends and new friends has been amazing. I think me and my friends can spend hours and all night on facetime. Definitely had a lot of drinking games on zoom which has been fun. 

But I tend to limit my fun social activities to only weekends. And during the week I crack on with the work that I am working on. 

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

Seeing the work we're doing now all come to fruition, and staying physically and mentally fit. Making sure to keep up with the practise as it has been incredibly transformative.

Looking forward to getting back into a rehearsal room and then in a theatre or onset. And being able to make a change with the manifesto in our industry and seeing what I can actively do so that my kids don't have to deal with the racism that I have faced since growing up. But also just looking forward to seeing family and friends, and all the hugs. All the hugs that are going last for a lifetime. 

Just keep on making positive changes in my life and environment that I want to see.

We'd like to thank Emmanuel 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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