West End performer Amara Okereke describes how she felt when theatres shut down and outlines her hopes for the industry’s recovery
When the theatres shut down, a lot of people I know were forced to face incredibly difﬁcult and uncertain circumstances. The show I was in had just finished its run when it happened so I was enjoying the joys of unemployment.
I had a couple of short projects that had to be cancelled or postponed, but I was fortunate enough not to have lost any long-term job opportunities. However, I did have a long list of theatre trips to look forward to, as I’m sure many others did.
I miss theatre and while, like many others, I fear for the future of our industry I can’t help but feel inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to such a devastating crisis.
What I ﬁnd most extraordinary about the world of theatre is its perseverance. With online performances, pre-recorded and live, we have found a way, yet again, to stand tall in the face of adversity.
The theatre has faced years of crises, setbacks and closures, and yet against all odds it continues to survive. Whether it’s funding cuts or global pandemics, history has shown that struggle in the arts is inevitable. However, as long as a need for theatre remains, it continues to adapt to new conditions.
From the comfort of my own bed, I have attended plays, musicals, live concerts and Q&A sessions. And while it will never quite compare to the experience of live theatre, the effect it has had on my experience of quarantine has been immeasurable.
What I ﬁnd most extraordinary about the world of theatre is its perseverance
The National Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night has nearly half a million views on YouTube, just one of many examples showing the demand for theatre during these dark times.
When people are struggling, they turn to the arts. I hope this experience shows the impact culture can have on the lives of people who may not have seen it before.
As well as the great live performances being provided when they are needed most, it is great to see the fantastic support among freelancers in the industry, of people coming together to help each other.
I have found Facebook groups and other online communities with hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world providing information and resources for mental, physical and ﬁnancial stability.
These communities have provided a space to recognise one another and our individual struggles during a time when connection and networking are most vital.
Despite my concerns, I feel like I’m in good company. I have found so much inspiration in seeing the passion from those who make theatre and those who consume it. I hope that we can continue to keep spirits high and I am optimistic that people’s passion will keep our industry alive.