‘We’re saving lives, not just of those around us but our own lives too’ Life in Lockdown with Greg Castiglioni

With numerous stage roles to his name, actor Greg Castiglioni has performed as Emcee in Caberet, Gus the theatre cat and Bustopher Jones in Cats, Thomas Andrews in Titanic and Paul in Company to name but a few of his roles. Before the shutdown, he was playing the role of Ubaldo Piangi in the UK Tour of The Phantom of the Opera. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Greg about how he is handling life in lockdown and his hopes for the future of the industry once the theatres are allowed to reopen.

First of all, how are you feeling about the whole virus and lockdown situation?

I was right at the beginning of a new contract with The Phantom of the Opera UK and Ireland tour when the lockdown happened and we had barely been playing a few weeks, so to have it all stop was a shame. However, this is a situation beyond anyone’s control which literally involves life or death; health is the most important thing in life. Our producers are still aiming at keeping the show going once the lockdown is lifted so for the moment, to answer your questions, I’m feeling relaxed and optimistic.

How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown?

I am very handy around the house so I have been getting things done that I’ve wanted to do for ages; the other day, for example, I was hanging wall cabinets in the utility room.

What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown is over?

Seeing friends and family face to face; being with them in the same room; sharing a meal with them and hugging them.

Is there anything we, as theatre fans, can do to help the arts industry in these trying times?

Many productions and indeed many theatres too will have undergone huge financial strain with some productions resulting in complete closure so the most important factor will be money. My father taught me to look at an issue from an exaggerated point of view in order to get a more clear picture so I’m going to put this to you: I know it’s a long shot, but if everyone who had a ticket booked to see a show during the lockdown DOESN’T request a refund then no money will be lost. There are also a lot of courses, gigs, fitness classes etc available on line which performers from various fields are providing. By participating, Money is being injected back into the theatre industry.

What is your favourite thing about the theatre industry as a whole?

The amount of people I meet. Each new contract brings with it a whole new set of people with a whole new set of ideas, stories to tell, conversations to be had; a whole new set of lives to find out about. I believe that keeps us young at heart.

With the theatres closed and so much being moved online, do you think we are seeing a big change in how the industry works?

Who knows? I think that there have been so many proactive and inventive solutions to bringing the arts into people’s homes that I’m sure a lot of them will continue. However, at its core, theatre is live. Going to the theatre isn’t about watching a story unfold on a stage; it isn’t about listening to great music and lyrics, or hearing great singing voices, or listening to wonderful text; it’s about EXPERIENCING those things. That’s why streaming productions on the tv is a good fix for now but that’s what it is: a fix. By no means is this being thought of as a substitute for the live event. One thing that people may not know is that audiences also have their own dynamic or personality. Sometimes we hear the phrase “that was a good audience” or “thank you for being such a great audience”. These aren’t just expressions; there is truth behind them. Members of the audience feed off each other’s feeling and mood which then collectively gives an audience its energy; the audience is just as much part of the “experience” as the people working at the theatre. You don’t get that at home!!

How have you been managing day to day life in quarantine? Do you have a routine, or do you just go with the flow?

Since I have a list of projects that I want to complete, I have been getting on with those but without haste. I get up when I wake up and get to the projects when I get to them. It’s all fairly leisurely, nevertheless I have achieved a lot so far (and still have plenty to do)

Do you have any advice for people who are perhaps finding lockdown hard to manage?

This too shall pass. It’s so important to remember that man has gone through awful times through the ages, far worse than this and eventually they end. I think that from a practical point of view it’s important to keep your mind active by occupying it rather than let it dwell on what could be, what’s not there or what you’re not doing. Concentrate on what you ARE doing; you’re allowed to do exactly as you please; you have time to truly be with your loved ones and properly connect with them (even if only virtually) without the distraction of having to rush out or go to work etc; you can read that book you were interested in, or finish watching that mini series people were raving about, or try a new recipe or even, as I have been doing, work on your home and your surroundings and fall in love with them all over again. Find whatever your outlet is and embrace it wholeheartedly because before you know it, the hustle and bustle will start up again and you’ll be missing the peace and quiet this time has afforded you. It’s also important to focus on WHY we’re at home: we’re saving lives, not just of those around us but our own lives too.

Do you think that it is important to talk about mental health in these challenging times?

Yes, but it is ALWAYS important to acknowledge it. There are countries where those words aren’t taboo, where they don’t have negative connotations (well…. they don’t have ANY connotations at all) where mental health is just as important and commonplace as the health of your heart, or the health of you’re lungs, or your digestive system etc etc. If you said “I went to the gym the other day” people here wouldn’t think anything of it but, if you blurted out “I went to the therapist the other day” the reaction would be very different. We are not one of those countries yet and it’s only through awareness and open conversation that mental health and it’s upkeep will become as common as other things we do for the wellness of our bodies.

I would like to thank Greg for his time and his answers to this interview, as well as wish him the very best for the future. Stay safe

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