‘Ride the Corona-coaster – don’t fight it’ – Life in Lockdown with Jamie Chapman

Actor Jamie Chapman has starred in many productions including Nativity the musical, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Mousetrap as well as starring in television shows such as Extras, Red Dwarf and The Crown. I was fortunate enough to talk to Jamie about how he is handling life in lockdown and his hopes for when the theatres are eventually allowed to reopen.

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

I read the term ‘Corona-Coaster’ somewhere – and I think that just about sums it up. Some days I think I’m dealing with it all rather well – and other days I struggle. On days when I feel a bit mopey, I think about my sister, (who works as an ICU Nurse) and I tell myself if she can cope with nursing the sick, I can cope with washing my shopping when I get home from Marks and Spencer’s. Seriously, I find it hard to put into words how proud I am of my sister right now – and all our fabulous key workers. I bang my pots and pans with tremendous gusto every Thursday evening.

How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown? 

In addition to being an actor, I’m also a Principal Coach at the London Speech Workshop. All our teaching has moved online – and it’s working really well. It did take some getting used to, though. I am not very technical to say the very least of it – but I’m beginning to get the cut of Zoom’s jib. I can’t bear it when my laptop plays up, can you? Being thwarted by a lump of electricity and plastic does not sit well with me! But I’m getting there! I can now do Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts at the drop of a hat – and I’m really rather proud of myself.

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

Hugging my chums. All my life I’ve been blessed with my chums. They are such a fabulous, supportive bunch  – and I don’t ‘arf miss ’em. I live alone and, oh, I do miss my chums. Just the second it’s safe to do so, I will be meeting up with each and every one of them. Gin will be involved. It’ll probably be messy. But wonderful.

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

There’s no doubt about it – these are immensely tricky times for the theatre community. The news re the Nuffield in Southampton was devastating. We need to lobby our MP’s to put pressure on the government to provide material support. I just wish they knew the true value of our industry. In WW2, Churchill is reputed to have refused to cut Arts funding in favour of the war effort with the words ‘then what are we fighting for?’ The situation we are currently in is a kind of a war (it certainly is for the theatre world). And it is a war that must be won. And it will be won. (I’m getting quite Churchillian!) I tell you this, though – I will never, ever again take for granted that feeling of being backstage waiting for a show to start. I can’t wait to get back there.

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

It’s resilience. It’s not an easy profession. When the going gets tough – you just keep going. It’s that resilience which will ultimately see it through this difficult period. Theatre was even banned by the Puritans in the 17th Century. But it came roaring back. If it faced down the Puritans, the theatre will, eventually, send Covid 19 packing. But it’s going to be tough.

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? 

This is very possible. It’s said necessity is the mother of invention. It’s been fascinating to see how actors, deprived of their normal outlet for creativity, are finding other ways of expressing it. There’s loads of stuff popping up online. That’s the wonderful thing about creatives – a way will always be found to create. That’s why the Puritans couldn’t kill the industry – and why Covid 19 won’t either!

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

Oh, I would love to be the sort of person who could have a routine. I admire people who do. You know the sort of person I’m talking about. A 5K run, breakfast and meditation – all before 9am. I am not that sort of person. If I’ve managed to reel out of bed and make a cup of tea before nine I consider it a major triumph. I really did plan to get fit during this pandemic. That was my intention. I even did ten minutes of Joe Wicks one morning (I wasn’t myself at all). But, no. A brisk walk every day is the best I can manage. Nothing more strenuous. I’ve long believed that sweat is nature’s way of telling us to stop…

Can I ask what inspired you to start your ‘read that lyric’ series? It’s amazing to see that it has brought such enjoyment to people. 

Well, it all just started as a silly thing to amuse my friends – because lots of my chums were feeling a bit glum during the lockdown. I made a daft video where I read out the lyrics of a pop song in the style of high poetry. And a few people liked it. And then it just grew. And grew. I’m now reading them nightly on local BBC Radio (and a cable TV show in Australia have asked if they can put together a montage of them to broadcast!) It’s just lovely that something positive has come out of a very difficult situation. And I’ve loved writing my own comedy material for them too.

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

I think the best thing to do is to simply take one day at a time. Ride the Corona-coaster – don’t fight it. My Nan was a wonderful and wise lady, and one of her favourite sayings during a tricky time was ‘all things pass’. And she’s right. All things do pass. And this situation will pass eventually. She was made of strong stuff, my Nan. During the War she refused to get out of bed during night time bombing because ‘the air-raid shelter was draughty’. Hitler didn’t stand a chance.

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

Absolutely. It’s important to talk about mental health at any time – but especially now. Covid 19 is like a heat seeking missile precision aimed at people who have anxiety. It is hugely important for people to be kind to each other at this time – and for people to be kind to themselves.

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