Having had somewhat more time in my hands than predicted, I seem to have developed a coping mechanism that sees me through the loop de loops and ups and downs of this COVID coaster.

My life has changed exponentially since lockdown began. It is unrecognisable to me and I am most certainly a different man to the one who started 2020.

Some people take solace in books or Netflix of gardening (the evidence is all over Instagram on that one) but for me, I craved something that was familiar and engaging and worlds where I could escape the monotony and mental exhaustion of lockdown – namely musical theatre!

I gave up on a career in acting many years ago. I wasn’t prepared to make the personal sacrifices it was going to take, and so I left and focussed my career aspirations elsewhere. It was not an easy decision to make, but having a child and the consistency that a regular paycheque would bring, tipped the balance.

Every person needs to make tough decisions in their lifetimes, but for me, I felt that this simple turning point was the one which made its stamp on the man that I would become. But the musical theatre never left me.

I spent a lot of time coming to terms with the loss of music from my life. As time passed my instrument lost its training and I found that my voice contorted. It became a part of me that I could not control as well as I used to – songs and characters left me and if I am honest there was a void to fill which I filled with food. I don’t think I realised it, but I was in a small way grieving for my loss.

Covid-19 has been a monstrous adversary to us all and we may as well write 2020 off, but for all the loss and pain that it has caused, it has brought into my life three things that I am extremely thankful for:

1. I have been able to teach and learn from my son in the six months leading up to him starting at Primary School (and let’s face it that is priceless)

2. I have been forced into some career clarity (some haze as well, but it gets clearer every day)

3. I have found my voice again. It is a journey and challenge, but it is a discovery too. Not rediscovering what used to be there, but a discovery of what this man can create vocally, now! Which in itself is so exciting.

In my opinion the best examples of musical theatre are those tragic tales where words just aren’t enough, they need the music to lift and carry the weight of the story forwards. To name but a few, in my mind, audiences have painted as George Seurat on a hot Sunday and argued with Dot knowing that maybe she’s right and that “We do not belong together”, We have sat on a pier with Kathy knowing that we were breaking her heart and knowing that our actions would destroy the “Last Five Years”, and People have stared down the barrel of a gun with Kim, protecting their son’s with the words “you will not touch him”.

When people say they don’t like Musical Theatre, I already think that what they really mean is that they haven’t seen a show that moves them, but I defy anybody to watch a decent version of Parade, and not shed a tear at the hopelessness of the situation and cruelty of humankind. This true tale is one of the best examples of music that drags the narrative along and the freezes just long enough for us to see the very essence of the characters, who have gone too long without being able to let it out.

So with Parade and Leo Franks on my mind, I set to finding and recording a way into this character and in a way into performing again. This is a song that I had performed in 2011 at Drama School, but had lost confidence in my abilities to emote.

It’s not perfect and it’s not “professional” but it is where I am now. So thank you Covid-19. You have stolen so much from a great many people, myself included, but you have at least re-opened a door that had been closed for many years.

TIB

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