Friday, 17 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Tsemaye Bob-Egbe



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!

Tsemaye Bob-Egbe was last seen as the alternate Tina Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, previously she had also been in the cast as an Ikette and Cover Tina Turner and Alline Bullock. Her other credits include Janelle Woods in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Aldwych Theatre) and Mephisto in The Vaudevillains (Edinburgh Fringe). 

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 at home, having just finished a contract the previous Saturday. I was shocked initially, but not surprised. In fact, I was pleased that the theatres were taking steps to protect actors in what was already a scary time. Only no one knew at the time how dire the situation would be. 

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

It's been a mixed batch really. Although my fitness and singing has drastically reduced over the months, I have ignited a passion for other things. I came up with a concept for a TV show and finished two drafts of the pilot episode for the series within a month. In fact, I wrote the first four scenes in three hours! That's been pretty exciting. I have also found I have more time to play my instruments (piano and guitar) and to work on my musical (book, music and lyrics by yours truly). That's going to be a long process as you can imagine, but I'm embracing the challenge. 

Also, I've been really fortunate to have some voice-over work in the last few months. You can hear my dulcet tones in episode 5 of Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You" on BBC; and a lead character of a game which I will reveal at a later date. I now have a home studio as well. 

Whenever you log onto social media there is so much negativity circulating. How have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times? 

I've actually deleted social media from my phone a few times. In fact, for the first part of lockdown, I really struggled. I was going through some non-COVID related health issues at the time and being inundated with the struggle of the entire situation and people's opinions was overwhelming. And then the death of Ahmaud Arbery was the deal-breaker for me so I left again. In fact, the first I heard of George Floyd's brutal murder was through a friend, because I hadn't been on social media for a few weeks. That said, it has been amazing to see the Black Lives Matter movement acknowledged globally via social media, as racism, both direct and institutional (e.g. police brutality) is indeed a global issue. 

However, I do recommend everyone take a break from social media every so often. It really does make a difference stepping away from time to time. 

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

If you cannot support with money, that's absolutely fine. But please, use your voice to show support to the industry, not just for actors but every single human being involved. I would also say, be especially kind to people in the arts at this time. It's been tough on people within the entertainment sector. 

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

Where do I start?! Firstly, Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You" on BBC is a masterpiece. Everyone needs to watch it. For those needing to educate themselves on the Black Lives Matter movement, "When They See Us" and "13" on Netflix, and "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Reni Eddo-Lodge. 

Also, the NT's live streaming has been an incredible gift in this time and the Barn Theatre has been putting up amazing concerts celebrating British theatre. Lastly, I just finished watching Hamilton on Disney+. I clapped, teared up and gasped multiple times at how incredible the entire production and I've seen Hamilton before! The leads literally deserve all the accolades they received, the ensemble was pure fire, and the creative team (director, choreographer, sound, lighting) are all incredible! It really encapsulates why theatre is so special. It literally takes an army of talented people from all avenues to create the end product. 

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

Lots and lots of FaceTime. We did have quizzes at the start, but they kind of dwindled as the months went by. 

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

Being able to go out for a meal, and watch a film or live theatre. I don't even need to be on stage. Just knowing things are back on track is enough for me. 

We'd like to thank Tsemaye 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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