Monday, 13 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jon Reynolds

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!

Jon Reynolds was most recently seen in the West End production of 9 to 5 as resident choreographer, Swing and Dance Captain. His other credits include assistant dance captain in Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre); ensemble and understudy Captain Shultz in Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre); ensemble in Grease (Piccadilly Theatre); ensemble in We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre); Swing and understudy Nick, Goody and Joe Vegas in Fame (Shaftesbury Theatre); Jose in West Side Story (Kilworth House Open Air Theatre); ensemble and understudy Fred Casely in Chicago (Leicester Curve); ensemble in Jesus Christ Superstar (international tour); Kiki in Legally Blonde (UK tour) and ensemble in Me and My Girl (UK tour). 

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 on stage at the Savoy theatre after taking warm up with the cast of 9 to 5. We had just finished physical and I went to the wings to grab some water, it was then I could see the general Manager of ATG - which obviously rang alarm bells. To be completely honest I'm a huge follower of the news and I kept updated with the pandemic globally most of the weekend so I had my speculations already. And therefore probably more mentally prepared than others. 

After the announcement I could see the genuine shock on peoples faces and disbelief. I went into a sort of ‘realist’ mode. Packed majority of my belongings and said my goodbyes - I do believe some of the cast thought I was being dramatic but unfortunately I called it right.

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

Well at first, in all honesty, I took a week or so to really think about what my hobbies were outside of theatre. As anybody who’s in the industry can probably relate to - theatre can take up your life and after 14 years it was strange to unpick/unbury my other passions. Firstly I ordered resistance bands and dumbbells as I'm sure most dancers, actors, fitness people did - at the fear of losing my fitness once theatre could return - and not knowing when gyms could re-open. But then I rolled out a yoga mat which was in my flat - not mine I’ll add and I switched YouTube on. I’d wanted to do yoga for years but never learnt and felt embarrassed to try. But ever since that first YouTube session I’ve done it every day since. It’s really helped with my clarity and given my days some structure. 

After that I purchased a bike and this is something else I’ll be taking forward too. Cycling gave me a sense of freedom and I LOVE IT. I was always afraid of riding on the roads but being able to learn during lockdown when they were quiet helped my confidence. And now I can't imagine getting the tube anywhere. And finally, I bought a camera! This was the creative outlet I needed - art was my favourite subject at school and was something I hadn’t revisited since I was 16 and photography was an accessible medium of that. Plus my grandfather was a professional journalist/photographer so I feel its in my blood. But being able to document life outside of theatre has helped me really see new things and experience different aspects of the world. In particular the BLM movement. Having the privilege of attending the marches over the last month has given me a much-needed education. Listening and being present to incredible, brave and eloquent individuals has opened my eyes. 

Going forward this will be the biggest change I’ll be implementing, especially in theatre were anytime I can use my voice I will.

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?

Personally, I have to be kind to myself while using social media. I try to ration my use. Whilst although its a brilliant tool and you can learn and communicate with people you may not necessarily come into contact with, Instagram can consume you - spending hours looking and comparing with complete strangers bodies, Money, clothes: I think the pandemic has shown us that most material things are unimportant yet people are still putting out content to validate themselves which then, in turn, can trigger others (which is everyone’s prerogative) - So I just try to use it mindfully. 

Twitter is a whole other game and in my opinion much more political which is incredibly important. I apply the same the rules as Instagram though and use it mindfully I'm also fully aware EVERYONE has different opinions and even if I passionately disagree with ignorance I don’t engage via that platform.

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

As of Monday (6th), we had the announcement from the government of the £1.5 billion rescue package - which obviously is good news! However, I'm unsure how this will be divided and implemented within the industry, and how effective this sum will actually be - particularly with the freelancers that help create the arts personally themselves. Going forward I’d have to hold off on advice till this becomes clear. I do feel in my gut though that the beloved buildings will be saved and the important companies. However, maybe supporting the invaluable freelancers themselves will be the key to making sure the arts survive.

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

I think trying to imagine when “all this is over” can be quite a damaging mindset. I feel like the world will be forever changed and trying to hold onto the past will actually hinder your progression. And you’ll end up fighting against the grain of change. So embracing the new (I hate this expression) normal will be key. Particularly in the arts industry- I hope with more diversity and equal representation it will be one of the most exciting things to look forward to. And we can see new and innovative productions. Also on a personal note, I do look forward to travelling again. Nothing makes you realise your loss of freedom until you’re confined to one space. I miss being able to see new countries and cultures and I miss the ocean!

And finally, I look forward to working in theatre again, it’s predominantly been my life for as long as I can remember; I miss the people, I miss the creativity, I miss the joy and I miss performing. So whatever the world is like post COVID I just hope to back on stage again.

We'd like to thank Jon 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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