Friday, 17 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Katy Secombe

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!

Katy Secombe was most recently seen on tour with the Globe in As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. Her other credits include Madame Thénardier in Les Miserables (Queen's Theatre); Mrs Beaver/Mother in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Rose Theatre); Brenda in I Can't Sing (London Palladium); Nurse in The Lyons (Menier Chocolate Factory); Alice Challice in Darling of the Day (Union Theatre); Clara in Hayfever (Rose Theatre); Mama Morton in Chicago (UK Tour); Witch in Macbeth (Harrogate Theatre); Guys and Dolls, Twelfth Night, A Winter's Tale, Mother Clap's Molly House (National Theatre); The Music Man (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Rosie in Mamma Mia (Prince of Wales 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? 

Oh my! This is a very strange time. The other day, I picked up my rucksack that I had been using during rehearsals earlier this year for a stint with The Globe On Tour. Opening it was rather like delving into a time capsule. There were my travel cards and my notebook and play scripts; receipts for coffee shops, petrol stations and take away sandwiches - all the little pieces of a busy life which now seems very distant. We had been having a wonderful time rehearsing A Midsummer Nights Dream, As You Like It and The Tempest and were just about to get into technical rehearsals. Beautiful costumes were made, plays rehearsed and bonds made when our Prime Minister announced that we were going into lockdown. I must admit that It didn’t come as an enormous shock; London had begun to feel empty and a little eerie that week as news of the virus began to hit home. However, watching the first daily briefing was still troubling and unsettling.

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

Lockdown has been a productive time for me. Smug though it sounds, it’s given me a chance to catch up on all the things that I never usually have time to do. I’m sure I’m not the only one who you’ve interviewed who has decorated their bathroom (badly!), got gardening and brushed up on their Spanish. I also wrote a comedy podcast called Generation Isolation (on Soundcloud - shameless plug!). Homeschooling has also loomed large as I have a wonderful eleven-year-old son. Sometimes I feel like downing a large gin afterwards - but mainly its been an absolute pleasure teaching and learning with him! 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 know how incredibly lucky I am not to have elderly relatives in a care home or to have had to suffer any loss. I cannot imagine what that must have been like for a lot of people recently and it has been terrible seeing friends denied goodbyes with their loved ones. A daily sanity reviver, however, is not to pick up my phone as soon as I wake up and dive into the news or scroll through my social media. I love to stay informed, but taking a breath before coming -to of a morning has given me a mite more perspective on things. We are living in extraordinary times and keeping a level head is a real asset at present.

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

The situation with our industry seems to change on a daily basis, and at time of writing the Government has pledged a 1.57 billion support package toward the arts sector. Steps are also being made towards preparing open spaces for performing and road maps being drawn up for performing in the shadow of COVID. This is welcome news, and I feel that we should be gracious that something positive has happened. Saying that, however, there will be winners and losers and at this stage we don’t know who is going to get what. 

One thing I’ve noticed during this crisis is that our politicians and society at large need to rethink their attitude towards the creative arts. Film, TV, theatre and the music industry don’t happen as if by magic. The whole process of performance be it live or recorded is reliant on an integral workforce of people behind the scenes as well as in the limelight. We don’t waft about and blow each other air kisses - we pay our taxes and our mortgages/ rent and bills and face careers that can be riddled with insecurity. We will be back - so in the meantime, I would urge everyone to pay their local theatre a visit even if it’s just for a socially distanced coffee. Artists - keep on keeping on with your creative muscles! When we do return - as we surely will - we’ll hit the ground running.

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

I have been making the most of “The Great Pause” by reading some books on my shelves that I normally wouldn’t have time to get stuck into. I've just finished The Mirror And The Light by Hilary Mantel and I love a good documentary series or an episode of Inspector Montalbano. Just to balance out all the highbrow though, there’s nothing better than eating a takeaway pizza and watching some car crash television like 90 Day Fiance! I’ve Zoomed quizzes and cocktail hours and kept in touch with all my dear friends. That, and a daily dog walk with my three pooches has kept me more than entertained.

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

I miss my job. I miss the daily warmth and fun of a rehearsal room and the sheer joy of performing. I miss a lot of things that I took for granted all those months ago when my backpack was stuffed full of plays and folders and old apples and crisp packets. I’ve cleared it out and it’s hanging on my coat rack ready to use again on that wonderful day when we can all be together again. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves.

We'd like to thank Katy 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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