Monday, 28 June 2021

COMING HOME: Michael Afemaré, appearing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

Michael Afemaré was due to perform in the transfer production of Evita. The show was revived in a brand new production at the Regent’s Park, Open Air Theatre in 2019 and was meant to be taking over the Barbican in the summer of 2020. But, with the closure of theatres, the production, unfortunately, didn’t go ahead. What that meant for Michael was that he had lost out on a wonderful job. But, we mustn’t focus on the negatives because the day before we met Michael, it was announced that he would be joining the original London company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. Having previously been in the original London cast of Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, he is no stranger to a West End premiere! 

Over the past year, so many issues have been brought to the surface and highlighted in our industry. So many important conversations have been going on and with theatre now planning on reopening, this is the time for the change and progress we’ve been campaigning for. Michael feels incredibly passionate about the lack of representation of ethnicity within the industry, in particular artists of Indian and Asian heritage. Something interesting that he also brings up is, this isn’t just about the casts and people we see on stage, it goes way beyond that, “I am always trying to fight the fight for more equal opportunities, but these opportunities also need to exist beyond theatre casts. I would love for there to be a world where representation and diversity can be noted and appreciated in more positions of power; creative teams, directors, choreographers, casting directors - the list is endless.” 

Reflecting on the past year, Michael tells us how he has learnt the value of looking after your mental health. “Having an awareness of how you deal and process with all aspects of life, and the impact they have on your general sense of self is essential.” He also tells us how the past year has really given him a new level of appreciation for theatre, “It's as if I didn’t realise just how much it meant to me until it was taken away.” 

As well as being a performer, Michael is a fitness fanatic! He had taken his passion for it to the next level and became a Spin instructor long before the pandemic, but he tells us how that has been adapted during the lockdowns. Having started working for a company called Apex, he has been filming classes and content for them so people can still experience those classes whilst being locked down in their homes. As well as filling his time with filming, he’s also gotten the cutest little French Bulldog puppy, Baxter, so becoming a dog dad has certainly taken over the spare time he had outside of work. 

With Cinderella having just opened at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, Michael has started to think about how performers should ease back into work. “Everyone would be naive to think that we can just return to our crafts as if we haven’t just been forced to have the best part of a year-and-a-half, off. Be kind to your body, be kind to your muscles, and be kind to your craft. We all know that “first week of college” feeling, or that “first week at the gym” feeling… So ease yourself back in. Hone your skills again, and get yourself back to the true athletes we once were!” 

Aside from encouraging everyone to see Cinderella, which you should! Michael tells us he can’t wait to get back and see Pretty Woman, being one of his favourite films he missed out on seeing the show and now with it transferring to the Savoy, a theatre he knows very well from his run in Dreamgirls, he should feel right at home! 

Talking about getting back into theatres, Michael talks to us about how he cannot wait to feel that after-show buzz again. “You know when you are walking around and it just feels so lively and energetic when the theatres have all let out? When all you can hear is the chitter-chatter of people discussing the show they have just witnessed, the awe and appreciation in their voices, the joy on their faces. I think that’s what I'm most looking forward to - the shared appreciation of theatre being discussed everywhere.” 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella opened at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on the 25th June 2021, one of the few new musicals opening in a big West End house, we cannot wait to drop by and support this fabulous cast, Michael included, and support some new theatre! 

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