‘The industry will have to be ready to adapt to survive’ – Life in Lockdown with Tom Mussel

Actor Tom Mussel has starred in a number of productions including the UK tours of Fame, Footloose and Miss Saigon and Anyone Can Whistle at the Union Theatre. I was lucky enough to talk to Tom all about how he has been adjusting to a life in lockdown and his hopes for the future of the theatre industry.

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

Well as the lockdown is slowly being lifted now, I can only reflect on what a wide variety of days it’s been. For me, I’m someone that likes to keep active and busy. I’d say I’m pretty spontaneous too so I don’t normally do very well with confinement. There have been some really tough days where everything just seems to happen at once, but then there are some really brilliant days or moments where you find something beautiful and you just have to lock onto that and use that to incentivise your day.

How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown?

Remember all those good TV series that everyone enjoyed in 2019… yeah, I’m finally caught up with them! And I’ve been eating everything in sight too!! I’m a really keen cook so I’ve been cooking everything under the sun and of course eating it afterwards. Naturally, that’s probably why a little while into lockdown I realised I needed to get back on my fitness again, so I’ve been doing a lot of HIIT workouts and yoga recently. I try and write saxophone solos regularly to put up on Instagram which has been a lot of fun. I’m also working on a big project, writing a few things of my own too.

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

I cannot wait to see all my friends at a pub or restaurant or bar or whatever it is when this is over! And to be honest, for me, the thing I’ve probably missed most is performing. I can’t wait to get back on a stage and be in a cast with everyone doing their thing again. I think the first show we all get to do that again is going to be electric!

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

There are a lot of petitions flying around on social media, and it’s of course really important to sign these, share them and raise awareness. But for me, sometimes all it takes to get me through the day is a comment on a post or a message showing support. Those moments seem incredibly personal and often give me a huge lift and I think there will be other people in this industry that need that kind of support too.

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

The people I have met during my time in the industry are awesome. On every job I feel I’ve made a friend or two for life. I love getting to explore different parts of the country and sometimes Europe too! On the job, I love the challenge of discovering a character and on some muso jobs (musician-actor) creating the music too. When it all starts coming together in opening week, it’s always a really special and memorable time.

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?

Absolutely. I don’t believe we’ve even seen half of it yet! We have revolutionary changes ahead and the industry will have to be ready to adapt to survive.

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 think I have tried to cling to some sort of routine through most of this, despite the fact that it has changed a lot over the weeks! I began doing yoga every morning before breakfast for an hour. After that, it was more of a daily checklist. I would do (and still do now actually) an Italian lesson and a guitar lesson each day. More recently I’ve begun a heavy fitness routine with a big HIIT workout each day. My weekly checklist would usually consist of a couple of cooking projects and something creative like my sax covers or working on a project.

Do you have any advice for people who are perhaps finding lockdown and the gradual easing of lockdown hard to manage?

I’d say from my own experience of some tough days, realizing that you’re not alone in this is massively important. Everyone is struggling, and everyone is struggling in different ways, so be sympathetic to everyone’s situation. Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re more alone right now, but I for one, have never found it easier to contact my friends, get them on the phone or set up a video call. Tell everyone you care about, that you love them and that you’re grateful for them. I did this recently and just hearing messages back from everyone I care about made me feel like I had such strength again. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to accomplish something during this time if you don’t want to. Survival and happiness is an accomplishment too, and we’ll all get through this in different ways. In regards to the easing of lockdown, I think it’s important to make your own decisions. If you know the risks of what you are doing, whether they’re really low or higher, you can make your own choice whether you think it’s right for you (whilst following government guidelines obviously!).

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

Absolutely. I’m so glad we are taking steps in the right direction towards getting the correct help to people that need it and removing stigmas surrounding mental health. But right now, in this situation, every emotion and response is so heightened and we need to do more. Please check in with friends, loved ones, vulnerable people, anyone really, whenever you can or think you should. If you are struggling and you feel it isn’t getting any better please reach out to someone, anyone you trust or a charity like the Samaritans and don’t be afraid to get the help you need.

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