After starring in shows such as Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon, Legally Blonde, Grease and Bare, when theatres reopen Michael Vinsen will be going into rehearsals for Hairspray at the London Coliseum, playing the role of Corny Collins. But for the time being, it’s a life in lockdown and I talked to Michael all about how he is handling this new way of life and his hopes for the future of the theatre industry.
First of all, how are you feeling about the whole situation?
Today I am feeling relatively positive. I have tried very hard not to read too much about it all, I stopped watching the news about a week ago. I have started looking into the bits of good news that are out there. Seeing some countries starting to re-open so to speak, and hearing positive things about cured cases etc, is what I am trying to focus on. My outlook does vary from day to day but you’ve caught me on a good day!
How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown?
Anyway I possibly can. I wasn’t feeling very motivated at the start. But I have started doing bits n bobs to keep myself occupied. A bit of gardening (my Hydrangea is thriving), some home workouts, tried to stay creative with a few things here and there that I have been working on. I really enjoy cooking so I am making slightly more complicated dinners to spend a bit longer in the kitchen. I have never done so many quizzes in my life! And I have everything in the cupboard for a fruit cake but I can’t get hold of any self raising flour… So that will have to wait.
What are you most looking forward to doing once the lockdown is over?
Getting back to work! We were 2 days into rehearsals for Hairspray at the London Coliseum when the theatre industry shut down. I understudied Corny Collins in the Original London cast back in 2007, now I am playing him in the revival and I just want to be at work. The show means so much to me, it is definitely the most exciting thing to look forward to when we are allowed back out there.
Is there anything we, as theatre fans, can do to help the arts industry in these trying times?
Just keep supporting the arts. There is so much out there online being streamed etc. Theatre thrives because people get a thrill out of it that you can not get anywhere else. For now, we can’t be onstage so watch everything that you can from your own home to keep the fire alive and support the artists that made the things that are available to you. Also, watch something that you would not normally go to see. With so much available for free, you can get a totally new experience, and it might inspire you to go and see different things when the theatres open again.
What is your favourite thing about the theatre industry as a whole?
All of it. Going to see a show is what I do when I need inspiration. Nothing gets me more excited to be onstage than watching something in a theatre. I LOVE THE SHOWS!!
With the theatres closed and so much being moved online, do you think that we are seeing a big change in how the industry works?
Good question! I think that we will see a shift in how the industry is run maybe. There may be restrictions for a period whilst we navigate our way back to normality. But I don’t think that the online thing will ever take the place of the theatre. There is nothing like live theatre.
How have you been managing day to day life in quarantine? Do you have a routine, or do you just go with the flow?
I am kinda going with the flow. I mean, I have a cup of tea when I get up. My husband walks the dog in the morning, do whatever we have the motivation to do during the day. Look through the ‘Hinch list’ tick a few things off as we go. I do the afternoon walk with the dog, then it is dinner time and maybe a quiz or watch some TV or play computer games, cup of tea and off to bed. Sometimes I even show! Glamorous huh!?!
Do you have any advice for people who are perhaps finding lockdown hard to manage?
It is ok not to be ok. Everyone is dealing with this in their own way, there are good days and bad days. If you’re on your own in isolation, I imagine that it is especially difficult. But you are not alone figuratively speaking, we are all in this together. We will get through this and just remember to take each day as it comes.
My favourite quote is: ‘Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly’. We will all be butterflies soon, we have just got to stay in our chrysalises a little longer.
Do you think that it is important to talk about mental health in these challenging times?
It is always important to talk about mental health. What we must not do is let it consume us. I think that we are all learning that things can be taken from us very easily, and as much as that is scary, we can’t wallow. There is so much to be positive about if you look for it. When this is over, I want to see everyone out there being a bit kinder. Not because we are being told to but because it just makes the world a better place. In the meantime, stay in and look at pictures of dogs.
I would like to thank Michael for his time and his great answers for this interview, and wish him the very best for the future. Stay safe x