Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Creativity in the Face of Insanity

Pandemic. Sounds like something that someone else lives through. Someone in a book or a film. Not us; surely not us. Yet here we all are, four months into a calamitous and daunting existence, socially distanced from our friends and family, watching from afar as livelihoods crumble and people unravel amidst the uncertainty of it all.

I spent the first few weeks of 'lockdown' soldiering through with a calm, practical, maternal mindset. Making sure we had enough food, keeping the children exercised and entertained. When we knew we just had to stay home to keep everyone safe, it was simple and straightforward. Not nice; but easy enough.



Then the rules started to change, and I began to feel a fizzing anxiety creeping in. Suddenly we were allowed to go places again and see people, if still maintaining our distance. But everyone seemed to be responding differently to the new rules, and it felt horribly confusing. Friendships suddenly felt fragile and precarious. The sensation of unknown adventure which we'd managed to maintain at first was quickly fading, to be replaced by the harsh realisation that this wasn't as temporary as we'd assumed. And with that, came a bleak feeling of claustrophobia and unease.

Right now, I am up and down on a daily basis. Some days, the sun will be shining and the kids just being kids in the great outdoors, and everything feels OK. Then I remember I still can't hug my mum, or go to the theatre, or enter a shop without a mask, and the weight of it falls back down on me like a ton of bricks.

The only way I've been able to quieten my frantic thoughts is by channeling my mind into creative pursuits. It doesn't always work, because the motivation ebbs and flows, much like the optimism. But with the help of willing collaborators, I have been able to at least complete a few little fun projects, which feel like an achievement under the circumstances, and will be something to look back on in years to come when we talk about what happened.

The day that we decided to lock down as a family (a week before the official lockdown), I had the idea to start a family podcast, which would record this unusual time for posterity. At the beginning, we were recording our activities and thoughts daily, but as time has gone on and the lockdown has eased, it has become more like once or twice a week. But listening back to old episodes is a reminder that family life has carried on in all its gritty, silly, ordinariness. And that is a comfort. Here's the latest episode. You can click on the title 'Bouncing Before Breakfast' to find the rest.


One of my first video projects was a topical parody of a Gilbert and Sullivan Song 'With Cat Like Tread', which I wrote and produced with the help of members of Eastbourne Gilbert and Sullivan Society:


This was followed by a silent movie style short film, also featuring G&S friends: 


All of this was making me miss performing, and a few weeks into the lockdown, I had the idea to do a play reading with some fellow thesps via Zoom, which I recorded and published as a radio play. It was really fun, so we did a few more. You can listen to them all on Soundcloud:


Singing has always been therapy to me, and I've tried to make time to use my voice while stuck at home. Lucy and I enjoyed learning this duet from Patience, and performing together virtually:


I also co-wrote this Covid-themed Mikado spoof with Adrian, although I still don't know why he decided to wear goggles:


My friend Erika (who lives in the US) had her 40th during the lockdown, and requested that people send her videos instead of presents, so I came up with this:


I'm conscious that all of this output seems fairly frivolous in the face of the global situation, and I've been trying to figure out how to express my true feelings about it all, in a more sincere way. I think it's going to take a while to process it, and to find the words to adequately articulate how it has felt, and the effect it has had - and will continue to have - on our lives.

Meanwhile, I hope these small offerings bring a smile, if nothing else. I've taken great pleasure in seeing other people's creativity explode all over the internet over the past few months, proving that although the arts industry may be drastically battered and bruised by what has happened, nothing will stop human beings creating and performing. It may take a long while for life to get back to normal, and for the arts industry to recover, but theatre will endure; it will find a way.