‘Celebrate the small wins. We have made it this far’ – Life in Lockdown with Jack Harrison-Cooper

Before the theatres were closed down due to the lockdown restrictions, actor Jack Harrison-Cooper was staring in The Prince of Egypt at The Dominion Theatre, having previously starred in productions such as Miss Saigon, Kiss Me Kate, Legally Blonde and Wicked. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to Jack all about how he is handling life in lockdown, keeping himself busy and his hopes for the future of the arts industry.

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

 It’s a strange one. Honestly, we’re on week 8 or 9 now and it hasn’t been easy, but this does feel normal now, so I’m relatively feeling quite relaxed about the entire situation now. At first, it was really quite strange to get accustomed too, to take what you are used to and have it completely turned on its head, but I think we all managed to accept it as the new normal fairly quickly.

 How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown? 

Well, I very quickly into lockdown realised that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, and so I had to rattle my brain to see what I could do to give me some sort of structure and routine. I am a L3 Personal Trainer and fitness instructor and so I began live online classes three times a week. There was a massive movement of content moved online and so I really felt that I wanted people to be able to try lots of classes, so 3 days a week was enough to not over saturate people with it.I started working with Magnetic Movement, which was a weekly timetable set up, with lots of practitioners in the arts offering free classes. From workouts to tap, jazz classes and positivity talks, it has been amazing to work along-side them and offer my class through this too.

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

Hopefully returning to the Prince of Egypt. There is still a lot of debate about how, when and if shows in the West End are going to be able to return, and what that will look like. You know, how logistically that can happen. Some of the newer shows initially weren’t sure they could survive such a long period not playing. When you take into consideration the financial implications of a show not performing 8 times a week and having that return from ticket sales, but still having to pay out for rent on the theatre, lights, set, storage of costume, sound, cast &crew, it is a huge financial toll. So hopefully there is still a life for The Prince of Egypt and we wait with fingers crossed to see what will happen with our beautiful show. It would be such a shame if it were not to get back on its feet. Knowing that our bow on Saturday 14th March could very well have been our final one and we didn’t know, that really gets me in the gut.

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

Just support. The amount of content currently available online is unlike anything we have ever experienced before. Live concerts from people’s houses, dance and fitness classes. Even streams of past plays and musicals. Even if you are unable to afford these, sharing and liking is always a going to help. 

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

I think how resilient we are as a community. It has been so inspiring to see the love and support for each person. The friends, colleagues and strangers, reaching out and offering help, love and support if needed. The one thread that goes through us all is that we know we will be back. Stronger than ever, and nothing will stop us. That unified desire is palpable, you can feel it. We all want to be back as soon as it is safe to do so. 

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

I think we have seen that there is definitely a demand for online content, such as streaming of shows. How that would work precisely I don’t know. The magic of theatre is that it is live. It is happening in front of your eyes; nothing can beat that feeling. Maybe it will encourage more shows to be recorded so that once they are closed, they could be shown online. We don’t want people choosing to stream rather than coming to the theatre. Especially when we are back, we will need to show the love and support for the arts and make sure we all go and watch live theatre as often as we can.  

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 did similar to others in that I gave myself a check list, but then I found that if I didn’t get through it by the end of the day, I was being really hard on myself. So, I soon stopped that. Working out and planning for my live classes keeps me busy. Also, the house has never been so clean. The duster comes out multiple times a day – just for the fun of it. I have used the time to tackle things I’ve been meaning to get around to sooner and haven’t been able to. Like that draw that you just throw everything into and can never find anything. Throwing away old things I no longer need or use or that are damaged. Sorting out the Tupperware. That is my biggest achievement, I think! So many tubs, and no matching lids! I have no idea where they all go!. 

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

Take it a day at a time. We are starting to break the back of it now as the country starts to get back on its feet and start up again. Celebrate the small wins. We have made it this far. We will be out of this strange time soon.

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

Always. Mental health affects everyone to some degree, I think. And especially at a time like this where we are all in the same situation but no one knows the way out. Just that there is some sort of metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. But that uncertainty can definitely take its toll. I’ve noticed that I tend to say I’m fine and then it will all come in a big wave. It’s a lot harder to tackle it this way. Taking things on in smaller chunks helps to not feel like you are struggling to stay afloat.As always there are some amazing charities which can help and they are there to be used. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed for feeling like you aren’t completely in control. Samaritans number is 116 123 from any number, at any time of the day.

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

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