With a job lined up on the UK tour of Hairspray before the industry shut down due to Covid-19, performer Alexanda O’Reilly tells Giverny Masso about working as an NHS volunteer responder during the pandemic...
What does the NHS volunteer responder role involve?
Quite a few things. Most of my job involves doing the ‘check in and chat’ with elderly people to see if they’re okay, if they need shopping or if they need a little chat. On VE Day, I sang the Vera Lynn song We’ll Meet Again with one of the ladies I talk to down the phone. It’s just about trying to help them keep their mind active and remember that they’re not alone.
Have your performance skills helped you as a volunteer?
As a performer you learn to be confident and chat. You can talk to anyone really – you have the gift of the gab already. I try to use that to relate to people, ask them about themselves and give them a bit of something out the norm. It releases a bit of energy and excitement for them.
How did you get into theatre?
While I was doing GCSE dance and drama, a lady came into school and said: “You should audition for a dance training programme in Birmingham.” I auditioned and got into the Centre for Advanced Dance Training. Then I went to study musical theatre at a college in Birmingham before trying out for drama schools. I went to Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, which was the most amazing college. Luckily, from Laine I went into a show – Mamma Mia! – and the rest is history.
What would be your dream role?
Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.
How have you felt during lockdown?
Sometimes in our industry, you get bogged down with all these ‘noes’ and then the highlight is when you get the ‘yes’ – and you go to rehearsals, then on opening night you see all these faces in the audience. The whole industry stopping has made me really appreciate what we used to have and how what we once had was amazing and unique. I’m from a little town outside Birmingham, and found going to London and all of the showbiz and everything around it so magical. It creates a community, and it’s electric to be involved in. It’s not just the performers who need it – it’s the audience who love live theatre and singing all the songs, getting involved and feeling a part of something that isn’t there any more.
Training: Musical theatre at Laine Theatre Arts (2014-17)
First professional role: Ensemble in Mamma Mia! in the West End (2018)
Agent: Oliver Thomson at Intertalent