Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Pérola Congo

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!

Pérola Congo was most recently seen as Therese in Our Lady of Kibeho at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Her other credits include Squeak/Olivia in The Color Purple (Leicester Curve); Ikette in Tina (Aldwych Theatre); Ensemble in The Addams Family (UK Tour & Singapore); Isabella in Pinocchio (Stephen Joseph Theatre); Queequeg in Moby Dick (Union Theatre) and Bet in Oliver! (Grange Park Opera). 

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 had just finished a workshop a few days prior and was about to begin rehearsals for a new project in two weeks. Naïvely, I'd hoped that the project I was about to start wouldn't fall through as it was set to open in May, however it is now postponed until next year. I buried my head in my pillow and shed a few tears that day. I was so absolutely gutted for all my friends who were in rehearsals, who had just opened and who had had their projects cancelled - it was heartbreaking.

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

I've been prioritising starting off my day right with meditation and prayer (my current streak on Headspace is 104 days!) I've also been working on inversions and hand balances in my yoga practice. Meditation, prayer, and yoga have been integral ways that I've been able to manage my stress and anxiety during this strange and intense time. It's been so nice to actually have time to really pray and sit with gratitude and silence.

I've also been getting more into painting, sketching, guitar practise, writing poetry, HIIT workouts with my mum and taking online dance classes. I also picked my ukulele and dulcimer yesterday for the fun of it!

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? 

As soon as social media makes me feel anxious and begins becoming detrimental to my welfare, it's imperative that I take some time off of it and focus on healing and feeling okay again. I think it's important to use social media as a tool and manage it healthily. I'm thankful that it's been able to be used as a tool worldwide in order for people to see racial injustices, institutional and systematic racism towards black people and being used as a means of information, change and protest.

I'm able to remain positive and hopeful by having conversations in safe places, by trusting in God, finding gratitude in this crazy journey of life, and by doing things that actually make me feel happy!

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

Watching online theatre! There's tonnes on YouTube with National Theatre at Home, The Globe and other platforms. Donations, however small, go a long way and you get the massive upside of watching amazing shows!

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

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Death and the Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Documentary on Netflix), About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge (Podcast), and Love for Imperfect Things by Haemin Sumin.

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? 

Yes, video calls and zoom have been my best friends! I actually had my birthday over lockdown and made a whole week of it full quizzes, virtual games, and viewing parties!

It was so lovely having people show up for me even though they couldn't be with me physically. Being intentional about connecting with friends and family has allowed me to really sit, listen and be vulnerable with people in my life in a new way.

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

Hugging my friends and family for long periods of time! Going to the theatre, going to gigs, the cinema and seeing the world some more. I'm also looking forward to taking intentional rest and pause into hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

We'd like to thank Pérola 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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