A week in the life of...

05/08/2021 - Sam 

I think our blogs on this theme might be our most existential yet and sitting here at midnight, having just tried and failed to repair a broken bike tyre, I can feel myself heading in the same direction. And no I don’t just mean it had a puncture, when the valve starts to rip away from the inner tube I think I can legitimately call that broken! (Feeling defensive? Who, me? Never!)
But is that really surprising? Milestones tell us where we’ve been and help us to understand where we’re going. They are our attempt to give ourselves a perspective that extends beyond our individual experience. The obvious case of this is biological waypoints, whereby we try to impose our own sense of order on a life experience that we cannot predict and yet somehow presume that we can nonetheless apply standardised names to specific periods that occur during it. For example, “middle-aged”. How old even is middle-aged? When I was a child I assumed middle-aged was 40-50, but standing here on the brink of 30 I damn sure hope it’s not! Whenever it occurs, the name assumes we know how long a life is and therefore when the middle of it is. And, yes, statistics can give us an average of what some might experience, but, just as no one has actually had a family with 2.5 children, no one’s experience will actually match the average number by which we set the milestones of a life. It feels much like the milestone Tom drives past - “4 and ½ miles to the Cornhill Standard” - a waypoint to a nonexistent destination. 
The same could equally apply to career milestones or historical milestones. We assume we know where we’ve been and where we’re headed and measure out our experience accordingly. However, before we dive down an Ecclesiastes shaped rabbit hole and declare that all is meaningless and life is a vapor, I should remind myself that Thomas did find his milestones helpful. His growing post-it-note pile of tasks he’d completed reminded him that things were being achieved even when it didn’t feel like it. Pilling up the milestones built a launchpad to inspire him onto the next task. How’s that for a metaphor? But maybe that’s the thing to take away from this meander through my sleep-deprived mind. If milestones are an artificial construct then use the  ones that have meaning and are helpful for you and don’t beat yourself up over the missed milestones you were never aiming for anyway. After all they only exist if you believe they do.
I’m not sure this works in all cases. I imagine there would be serious complaints if bus drivers declared that since milestones were mental constructs you couldn’t complain if they’d missed your stop as actually it didn’t exist as a milestone in the bus driver’s head and therefore it didn’t matter! Like many great ideas it stumbles a little upon contact with reality, but at the very least let this idea give you some perspective on these supposedly perspective giving devices. Milestones have a purpose, but they were made for you, not you for them.

30/07/2021 - Thomas 

Milestones, well, well, well. How appropriate. Has Mystic Meg selected the theme for these latest blogs?
As Izzi pointed out in her entry last week, we have finally reached ‘Freedom Day’ *cautious cheer* but hold up - because it’s also been a pretty major week for Althea Theatre too! We can’t share what it is yet but it’s a biggun! Apologies for teasing you like one of those awful leading Facebook posts – “Can’t belieeeeve what’s jus happened!?!?!?!” – “What is it babes??” – but trust when we say we’re all real excited since it has required a ton of collective effort and many a frenetic breakout room in order to achieve what we have.
It’s a proud moment for the company.
The feeling of achieving a milestone can be annoyingly fleeting at times, so I believe it’s truly important to bask in the moment. Which we will. Over pints next week. Tasty cautious pints.
Milestone recognition is important otherwise we’d lose ourselves in the ever uphill slog of progress. When left to my own devices I’m horribly disorganised, I’ve only managed to assimilate some semblance of a career by actively setting goals - spending a day to simply ponder what they were - literally writing them out in big highlighter pen - and ultimately pinning them on the wall next to my bed along with every conceivable sub-task. It’s a lot of paper on the walls. It really is. My bedroom resembles that of a serial killer in a late 90’s police procedural thriller - but it works.
I used to bin every scrap of paper containing a task once it was completed, but visually the wall never appeared to change since there was always more stuff to do, more paper to add. But now, I keep a little pile of it all, and the more it grows, the more I’m like - ‘Man, I’ve done a lot of shit’ and it feels good, and when a main goal is achieved it feels even better.
So before we continue pushing the needle with Althea, I’m looking forward to us all taking a moment to cautiously enjoy one another’s company again and say cheers to all the work we’ve put in so far and the goal we’ve achieved. It’s paid off and the company deserves it.
So… cheers.

23/07/2021 - Isabel 

Having your turn at this blog topic falling on this particular week is interesting, to say the least. I feel like I can’t really talk about ‘milestones’ right now without addressing a big one we’ve all just passed last Monday 19th. That’s right, I’m talking about ‘Freedom Day’ (although calling it that makes me want to be sick in my mouth a bit - what is it about the UK and needing to make everything sound patriotic?) 
Don’t get me wrong - I’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of, well, freedom since March 2020. It’s been a rough year and a half for us all, and there’s only so long that Zoom quizzes and takeaways to replace going out for dinner can fill the gap. But like many people, I was and continue to be very sceptical about lifting restrictions right now - especially when three or four friends have come down with COVID this week alone.
I’m lucky in the respect that many of my friends and acquaintances feel the same. Most people in my immediate groups are, like me, continuing to wear masks and distance, to be careful about taking too many risks. But I can’t help but feel the Government’s mantra of ‘personal responsibility’ is deeply unhelpful. Firstly, it assumes we’ve all got a baseline degree of care for others and, y’know, common sense and let’s be honest… we all know that’s not true (I’m looking at you, arse flare man at Leicester Square before the Euros final!) I know it sounds like an unfair generalisation to assume the British public aren’t particularly sensible, but I can’t help looking at the anti-lockdown march this weekend, where nurses and doctors were intimidated and threatened with actual nooses and people waved banners about 5G, and feel a bit apprehensive about said notion of personal responsibility.
And secondly, I don’t trust this government either. Nobody is looking at the UK right now and thinking we’ve handled the pandemic well. I worry that by shifting the onus onto us personally, those in charge are washing their hands of the responsibility of making difficult choices. Passed on COVID to a family member who’s now really ill? Not our problem, mate, you should have created a firmer and more robust set of invisible and unenforceable rules for yourself! 
So, what the hell do you do if - like me - you’re feeling less than ecstatic about ‘Freedom Day’? What’s the answer if instead of embracing an exciting present, you’re fearing an uncertain future?
Last summer, in the brief break between lockdowns, I spent an afternoon looking after my niece and nephew (then 7 and 4), which meant one thing: watching Frozen 2. This is a pretty common casualty of being an aunt who sometimes babysits, and it was especially weird watching it at the height of a heatwave, but I digress. There’s a song in the film called ‘Do The Next Right Thing’ and it’s essentially about just that - feeling lost and alone, so taking one step at a time, finding the next best and kindest choice immediately in front of you. 
Weirdly, I’ve been reminded of the song this week. Perhaps it’s a good mantra for those of us who are feeling apprehensive right now: one day at a time, one right choice at a time, with the people around us at the forefront of those decisions. I hope all my fears about Freedom Day are proved wrong and the next two months see us return to something like normal. But just in case, I’ll be exercising my own brand of (non-Government inspired) personal responsibility - trying to do the Next Right Thing wherever I can.

16/07/2021 - Tom 

I don’t really like Milestones (or Kilometerrocklets as they prefer to be known). The concept of way-markers in your life counting along presumably towards an end point is morbid. Not to mention how disappointing they can be. So often they’re planned and anticipated and over-planned and over-anticipated to the point that they can never live up to expectation.
Ever had a disappointing New Year’s Eve?
I have.
Ever planned a 60th anniversary international football tournament held in multiple countries simultaneously only for it to be postponed by a year so it was really the 61st anniversary but you’d already made tshirts so you kept the name and by this point you’re losing money so you go ahead with the multi-country tournament in countries whose borders are closed and whose stadia can only entertain a reduced capacity?
I haven’t, but I heard about a bloke who did.
And then there’s Boris and his roadmap. I don’t care who you are, you will be disappointed in three days’ time. On Monday the latest wedge the government has contrived to divide the country will see one group unable to understand why restrictions are being lifted with cases on the rise, while the other group won’t like that “Freedom Day” isn’t as freeing as it was supposed to be. But the tshirts have been made and money’s being lost, so it’s going ahead with a reduced capacity.
I know I’m sounding like the spokesman for people who see the glass as half-empty but I just think it’s weird that we commemorate events in such rigid ways when the events themselves were often spontaneous, unplanned, and unexpected. As for Monday, it’s a victim of the hype. There will be a day when we can recommence licking bus windows, but it’ll probably come with less forced fanfare.
I’m going to try and end on a more positive note…
I do like some Milestones; birthdays are good because they remind us not to take that person for granted which we probably would do if it weren’t for the reminder. I also like actual milestones. I pass a real, proper, Milestone – one that’s made of stone – on my way to and from work at the moment. It marks four-and-a-half miles to the ‘Cornhill Standard’, which is something that no longer exists. There’s something in that about the journey being more important than the destination…

09/07/2021 - Cole 
{Guilty Pleasures}

Southgate you're the one

First things first.


Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss guilty pleasures. In fact, let’s not move on at all, let’s discuss football as our guilty pleasure, seems fitting, because…


I’m sitting here on my lunch break nursing a horrible headache, terrible stomach pains and an incredibly sore throat, but you know what? It was worth it. Did I need that final cocktail and a beer chaser towards the midnight mark last night? Yes I did. Did I need to scream at the top of my lungs ‘football's coming home’ at every passer by on the street afterwards? Yes I did. Did I need to smash my hand against a wall and scrape the skin of my knuckles? Yes I did.

These things may only happen once in a lifetime, so you better make the most of it. If next week I have crippling disappointment, then so be it, but at least we made it to the final of a major tournament in my lifetime.

A lot of my friends in the arts barely give football a second look outside of the World Cup or Euros and some might look at me like I’m a madman when Sheffield Wednesday are playing, so it’s nice when these tournaments come around and everyone is mucking in with the chants and celebrations. Gives the whole country a sense of togetherness that has been sorely lacking through isolation. Even my partner, who usually detests football, has jumped on the bandwagon, although she gives me a weird side glance every time I run about the living room screaming.

It’s all worth it. Savour these moments while they last I say.

Fuck me…

It actually might be coming home. 

02/07/2021 - Thomas 
{Guilty Pleasures}

Last year I can remember having this exact thought – ‘I’m so thankful we don’t have an equivalent to Fox News or Sky News Australia over here in the UK’… *sigh*. 
Sound the horns, welcome to the stage GB News the new home of uncorroborated, right-wing sensationalist, opinion pieces shoddily dressed up as “balanced” journalism. We’ve got our very own British one now. Yay. And as Andrew Neil said in his opening gambit “We’re proud to be British”. 
I mean don’t get me wrong, I can be patriotic. I’ve been blasting out ‘Three Lions’ along with the rest of the country’s Spotify playlists (It’s coming home by the way – Come on England!) but GB News’ idea of patriotism isn’t that - it’s the sort of xenophobic patriotism that appeals to those who remember a Britain that never was - but regardless - they want it back.
The channel’s launch was pretty embarrassing, and in terms of production value it pales comparatively to the glitz and slickness of it’s bigger brother in the states, but the appetite for unvetted outrage over ‘liberal elites’ is as equally voracious over here as it is over there and, unfortunately, I doubt the channel is going anywhere…
Which is great because I’ve been watching loads of it!
I’m being facetious of course, I’m utterly disheartened that the platform for poisonous views has been considerably widened in the UK due to GB News’ arrival but I’d be lying if I said I’ve avoided it.
It’s kinda sad, but, truth be told, my guilty pleasure is watching right wing media. I like to get outraged over outrage over outrage. I’m a sucker for it - “Oh what’s she said now?!” or “I can’t believe he’s trying to spin it like this?!” or “Oh man Stephen Crowder is an absolute ******* ****” I hate myself. I aspire to be a progressive liberal but nothing is quite as clickable as some right-wing wannabe media pundit spouting bullshit.
On one hand I’m not the target audience. I don’t watch GB News’ segment “woke-watch” because I share the same sentiment that the fabric of Britain has been eroded due to ‘cancel culture.’ I watch because I can’t stand that stance whatsoever. But I’ve come to realise that they don’t care. The reality is they will happily monetise the indignation of the left.
I used to see true value in keeping abreast of what the opposing views were. After all social bubbles are a primary reason we ended up with the likes of Brexit and Trump. In fact I prided myself on the fact that I actively chose to watch the NRA’s cancerous viewpoints on gun reform (or lack thereof) at least I knew what their stance was. Even if I rejected it with every fibre of my being. But enough is enough
As we collectively become more conscious of how insidious social media is I can’t help but admit defeat at being manipulated into watching the very thing I despise in way which only benefits those whom I wholeheartedly disagree with. If any of this resonates with you, I implore you to ignore it for your own well-being, and ultimately - let’s not give them the satisfaction.
Lots of love

25/06/2021 - Sam 
{Guilty Pleasures}

Guilty pleasures - feeling guilty about pleasure - this could become a discussion about asceticism and the pros and cons of self-control vs self-indulgence, but somehow I think that would rather miss the mark! When the phrase is used now it seems to either be connected to food adverts or things we enjoy which we wouldn’t necessarily admit to - the song or band you love which isn’t considered “cool”; the film or show you binge on repeat even though it came out decades ago.

Personally I think this reluctance is more closely connected to embarrassment than guilt, but I suppose “embarrassing pleasures” doesn’t sound quite as salacious and click-bait worthy. 

“This is all very well”, you’d be entirely justified in saying, “but all you’ve given me so far is a lot of preamble and no content, so get on with it! What are you embarrassed to admit that you enjoy?” (Can you tell that I’m prevaricating?)

The answers are rom-coms and Georgette Heyer style regency romance novels! Such is my embarrassment over this that I have actually lied when asked about what I’m reading! So why do I read them? I think because they provide an escape from the world around me; I’m genuinely engaged by people’s emotional journeys, and I’m a sucker for a happy ending. 

Now, I suppose, at this point you may be reacting in two different ways. Either you’re thinking why on earth are you embarrassed about that, or you’re going “yeah, you probably should be embarrassed!” If you’re in the latter camp, bear with me, we’ll talk about that reaction in a second. If you’re in the former camp, then I think a lot of the embarrassment comes from a learned idea of what constitutes “suitably masculine” reading material. I have somehow absorbed the idea that reading novels about certain topics, specifically romances and stories centered around female friendship groups, will lead to me being viewed as less “masculine”. I genuinely don’t know where this belief has come from. … Alright the answer is clearly the patriarchal attitudes inherent in society, what I mean is I can’t pinpoint the specific events or places where this lie was imprinted upon me. But then I guess that’s both the point and the problem with ingrained societal attitudes. I do know that I learned it at a young age. I can remember surreptitiously reading books my sisters brought home from school; making sure that I would not be found reading them. That said, I’m fairly certain I didn’t learn it from my parents. While they were careful to make sure that books were age appropriate, they always encouraged a broad and varied reading habit without a gendered filter. I suspect I learned it at primary school. Although I can’t remember a specific event, primary school would have been the first place I encountered a large group of boys with their own ideas of what masculinity was and the social pressure to enforce them.

To those of you who thought I should be embarrassed to enjoy such things, if it’s because you think they contain problematic ideas then you might have a point. Clearly there are always going to be exceptions, but it must be admitted that quite a large number of romance focused books and films contain relationship tropes which are at best unrealistic and at worst are actively unhealthy. So, like most “guilty pleasures”, they do come with a health warning - don’t over-indulge! (And don’t base your life upon them!) If, however, you’re in this camp because romance novels feel “unmasculine” to you, then maybe consider this - if someone told you that they knew how to do a better job of being you, you’d quite rightly tell them to get stuffed. So if you have the best idea of how to be you, and your gender identity is part of that, why should anyone else have a better idea of how to perform your gender identity? 

Now, of course, I am in a large part preaching to myself here, as the fact that I consider these books a guilty pleasure suggests I haven’t fully absorbed this message about my own identity. But hey, this post is about to be broadcast all over the internet so maybe that counts!

Does that mean I have to find something else to consider as my guilty pleasure now?

Until next time,


18/06/2021 - Carolina 
{Guilty Pleasures}

Dear Reader:
I can’t believe this is the 6th blog that I have the privilege to write. I’m really proud of our consistency as a collective, as Althea for taking turns to blog since August last year! Having a common objective, even though we haven’t been all together in the same space, feels now more relevant than ever. I am also really thankful for you, dear reader, for stopping by and taking a bit of your time to read us.
The new topic for the next four blogs is ‘Guilty Pleasures’. A topic very inviting indeed, suggested by Lilac. This will finally keep me away from politics. Even though I have to confess it is very hard for me, since the situation in my country Colombia is heart-breaking. Protests going on, lots of violence and injustice, all topped up by the peak of the pandemic.  But I will keep it light and try not to feel guilty by not addressing these issues in my blog. After all It is about ‘Guilty Pleasure’ not about ‘Guilt’, and hopefully we will get to explore complex political situations sometime soon through theatre.
Without further ado and in no particular order my top 5 ‘Guilty Pleasures’:
-         Having that extra glass of wine at the Pub, even when you know you shouldn’t, but YOU HAVE TO because the conversation with your friend is flowing and you don’t want that special moment to come to an end.
-         Binge-watching a show until 3:00 a.m. even if you are not ‘that into it’ and you are really tired, just because you want to know how it ends and mostly because you want to get it out of the way (‘Bridgerton’). [Hmmm no procrastination here]. Luckily my partner doesn’t like binge-watching so the good ones like ‘Schitts Creek’ and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ lasted many weeks during lockdown.
-         Spending a loooooong time in Boots browsing through new products. Even though It was more enjoyable before the pandemic when you could actually smell the shower gels or try the makeup samples for consistency and colour in your hands.
-         Listening to that song you just discovered over and over and over and over again. Because that’s the only way to uncover all the sounds and words that make you love it even more, but also because it makes you feel a bit immortal, like time is in a loop and that enjoyable moment can be played over and over again. [Hmm, I’m starting to see a pattern here…]
-         Chocolate! For me the synonym of dessert is chocolate. Ice cream, cakes, mousse, brownies, you name it. As long as it is dark or milk chocolate, because white chocolate tastes like soap!  If I go to a restaurant or to a dinner party and the dessert doesn’t involve chocolate, I have to confess I feel somehow cheated. What would my life be without the mandatory daily 2 squares of Lindt 70% Cocoa Intense Dark Chocolate? (ok, sometimes is more like 4 or 6 squares, but there are days that deserve a bit more of chocolate therapy)
Thanks for reading, until next time and I hope you rejoice in your own ‘Guilty Pleasures’!

11/06/2021 - Isabel 

“Do I remember how to do this?”

When I was given ‘memory’ as a theme for this blog, I’d initially thought about going right back through my own personal archives - trying to find a funny story from childhood or my awkward adolescent years, and somehow tying it into something 2021 related.
“Do I remember how to do this?”

I turned 31 a week ago, and as it was half term, I went back to my mum’s for the day itself so I could see my 8 and 5 year old niece and nephew. We kept the day pretty simple (cake, pizza, drinks) but my mum leaned big into the ‘kid friendly’ theme, producing a suits-all-ages round of Pass the Parcel in the garden. Rounds of packaging gave way to Lindor chocolates and Sudoku books for the grownups and sticker books and Lego for the kids. It was a lot of fun. Actually, I’d forgotten how much fun Pass the Parcel is for the simple reason that I haven’t played it since I was about my niece’s age.
“Do I remember how to do this?”

My birthday was a bit of a running joke, because my 30th wasn’t exactly what anyone anticipated. Like a lot of my friends, my 30th happened in lockdown. And I was temporarily living back at my mum’s for a couple of months - also unexpected. We had cake and ordered takeaway and watched films but it was … unusually quiet as birthdays go. And on my 30th, I didn’t really think we would still be emerging from a pandemic a year later. I thought the world would be back to normal by now. 32 (the first birthday of my 30s where I will, fingers crossed, be able to be inside with a big group of people) is going to be interesting.
“Do I remember how to do this?”

In the six days since my birthday, I’ve been to the theatre three times. I haven’t been to the theatre since briefly going to see some open air work last August in the snatched time between lockdowns. I’m not intentionally booking myself out every night (or I’d have written this blog much sooner) but I caught up with some old friends at a show on Monday, and went to my old work to see a show last night. And on Tuesday, a show opened that I’ve been doing the marketing for. I haven’t been creatively involved, but still - it’s a real live show and I’ve been working on it as an actual job. The auditorium opened. We took our seats.
“Do I remember how to do this?”
And as the lights went down, I jokingly said to my friend and co-worker, ‘I haven’t worked on any live theatre since I was in my 20s’. Which was a joke. But actually, was also true.
“Do I remember how to do this?”

The answer is, yes and no. I’d forgotten about so many parts of an opening night - the anxiety, the butterflies in your stomach, that relief of a pre-show pint. But at the same time, seeing an audience fill the space and watching the lights go down made me feel like this strange year and a half we’ve had has just been a stop in time, a held breath that’s finally releasing.
“Do I remember how to do this?”
And the evening flies past and suddenly it’s the end of the show and the audience reaction is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The show is great (yes, I’m biased) but it’s something else. More than one person is crying and the air feels electric. Multiple people say to me, ‘this is the first time I’ve been back in over a year’. There’s something about the shared experience in the room - emphasis on shared - everyone wants to talk about it. People want to be heard.
I’ve spent a lot of this pandemic mulling over memories, trying to use the past to create some kind of blueprint for an uncertain future. But the future’s here now, and it is uncertain, and wobbly. And it’s exciting, and alive, and constantly changing, and just like Pass the Parcel in your thirties, there are quite a lot of twists and surprises that are… fun, actually.
Maybe the question isn’t whether I remember how to do this.
Maybe the question is whether I’m ready to learn.


03/06/2021 - Lilac 

Old friend,

I’ve been writing to you for nearly a year now, can you believe it? Does reading my notes still feel as exciting as the first time?

It’s funny the things that will come to you at random moments. I’ll think about pouring a pint in a local pub in North London on Christmas eve. I’ll think about school trips and remember being afraid to sleep anywhere else except home. And my dad singing me to sleep. I’m not scared now but I remember feeling scared, and when I remember that fear, it feels like my now. But it’s not now, is it?

I went to the Almeida this week to an event about the representation of Caribbean women and Winsome Pinnock was on the panel. She said one of her biggest considerations is how to allow audiences to bear witness but not be-retriggered by trauma that might be presented onstage. She talked about the importance of balancing the trauma with lightness and joy. I was at the Almeida two days ago and I haven’t gone on a school’s field trip in 16 years. Althea Theatre is this journey that we started two days ago only these two days are actually 7 years and is that what memory feels like as you grow old?

Memory is what you forget and recall. And as you recall you are overwhelmed by the feeling that this past of yours feels just like now, only not quite. And all these memories of mine are stacked, folded and thrown one next and on top of the other in rows of time between the time without me in the world, to a time with me, until this world will be without me again.

I haven’t heard my father’s voice in three years and four months. But if I focus hard enough I can hear it right now, just as I can hear Mike’s voice making another awful joke in Paris, in Tijuana, in Tel Aviv, as I hear Sam singing the song from There’s No Place Like, Josie’s laughter, Carolina shouting at Tom Shah for hiding her chair somewhere backstage at the Old Red Lion Theatre, and Wingfield repeating a catch phrase from that time in Lockdown where we didn’t know what to do so Althea started playing Dungeons & Dragons – a bit of adventure and suspension of disbelief in a pandemic which is already so hard to believe.

Moving countries sometimes makes you feel like your memory only starts at the point in which you arrived to your new home. And for the longest time I thought that was who I am. But I am more than that. I am myself and my ancestors all nestled into one – looking ahead.

There are 33 years of memory within me. Some are wonderful and some are painful. Some are visual and some I can feel at the tip of my fingers. And I am witness to them all. So when I speak to audiences, I bring all the breadth and breath of that journey that we go through together in theatre. Allowing people to feel seen. Acknowledging and empowering their stories. Allowing for their hurt to be honoured and their presence to be celebrated.

It’s exciting to write to you, dear friend. Thanks for reading, thanks for choosing to include me in your memory of today.

Until next time – take good care and enjoy the sunshine,


28/05/2021 - Josephine 

I like learning the seemingly boring details of other people’s childhoods. It’s something I’ve recently discovered, but it comes hand in hand with a feeling of gnawing panic. I believe that every single person in this world has a story, a really good one, and it breaks my heart a bit to know that so many of them won’t ever be shared. Some of them won’t be shared through choice, but loads of them will simply fade away with old age and diminishing memory, and that makes me really sad if I think about it too long.

I don’t know what the solution is. I can’t grab a notebook and start knocking on doors at one end of my street, asking people for their secrets. Or maybe I could. But I won’t.

I have started making a mental note of some really good nuggets of memory though. Some of them aren’t mine, but there’s a lovely nostalgia to them for me, an outsider.  I haven’t experienced them firsthand. I’ve adopted them, and they comfort me.

Knowing that in my friend’s house growing up, the subtitles were always on on the telly because with 6 siblings, whatever someone was watching didn’t stand a chance of being heard above the chaos, makes me happy in a way I can’t explain. Or how someone’s dad always answered the home phone “Hello, Battersea Dogs Home…”

Something about the tiny, truthful moments of seeming mundanity give me a flicker of insight into another life, and it feels exciting, and somehow important. And if that’s all I ever learn about a person, at least it’s a tiny part of their story. And that’s better than no story at all.

Keep sharing.

Josie x

21/05/2021 - Tom 

At break time on my first ever day of school my new classmates and I were each given a small carton of milk and a straw to drink it with. It was great, I loved milk. Just a bunch of four-year-olds sitting in the early September sun drinking their milk: A good, wholesome, nostalgia-driven memory, yes? NO. See, the milk thing continued every day that week and into the next until, one day in our second week, all of my new friends were given their carton of milk at break time and I wasn’t. It was my birthday. The milk was only provided for four-year-olds and I had just turned five. As the eldest in my class this slap in the face was more of a sucker punch as I had no way to know it was coming; there was no precedent.
This would, I think, qualify as an example of my memory working very well, however, it’s not very useful; I carry that sense of injustice with me to this day.
When I first began reading “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” I felt sure that the Half-Blood Prince would be revealed to be Lord Voldemort at the end. I was wrong. Despite this, when I went to see the film version a few years later I found my recollection of the plot more than a little fuzzy and took my seat fully expecting the Half-Blood Prince to be unmasked as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Still wrong. Despite THIS, when I revisited the films years later still, I found myself on the edge of my sofa anticipating the moment The Dark Lord would out himself as the Half-Blood Prince. Thrice wrong.
This is an example of my memory utterly failing me but in the best way; I don’t know anyone else who has experienced the “It’s Not Tom Riddle” plot twist three times.
It goes without saying that we’ve all experienced memory failure at critical moments; Right place, Wrong time/Wrong Place, right time memories, if you will.
So those are examples of: Good memory with not such a good outcome; bad memory with a good outcome; and bad memory with a bad outcome. How about good memory with a good outcome? Well, hopefully this is pretty common, but I’d say (with fingers crossed) that my fellow Altheans couldn’t tell you many stories of me standing on stage, mouth agape, not saying my lines… Except for in our production “One Last Thing (For Now)”, when I played a character who would rush downstage centre, begin a story, and trail off without finishing it. That was intentional. Promise. More recently, during Lockdown, I’ve had a job in a school helping out with science and let’s just say that what I don’t know about the radioactive decay of unstable nuclei ain’t on the GCSE syllabus.
I don’t know about you, but my favourite memories are often the ones where the facts don’t really matter. These memories are like tents; where the canvass is the emotions associated with the memory, and the tent poles are the facts of what happened holding everything up. Over time I’ll revisit these memories again and again, each time adding nostalgia, rose-tinting, and general fuzziness to the canvass; making it more and more elaborate, not to mention heavier and heavier. Eventually the fact-poles won’t be strong enough to hold up all the fabric and you throw them away, or fabricate new ones, or hold them together with whatever seems plausible. Now you’re left with a ridiculous-looking, wonky, fantastic, Circus Big-Top of a memory.
There’s no moral of the story here, by the way. No real message. Maybe there was one when I started writing but I can’t remember it now. This is the first of four blogs from us on the theme of ‘Memory’ and, as you can see, I’ve gone literal.
What’s your favourite circus tent memory?

14/05/2021 - Thomas 

Real freedom is mental freedom. I’m making time to meditate at the moment.  It’s just really beneficial for your metal wellbeing and blah de-blah de-blah “Oh Christ, he’s one of them, please piss off with your social-media wellness advice you actual bell-end” - The instantly adverse and (possibly) unjust reaction I used to have to those types.
But I’ve been worn down - first it was exercise – ‘I don’t know if you know this but doing exercise is actually quite good for you’. Yeah, I know, mad isn’t it. And now it’s meditation’s turn. Meditation – an arm wrestle against Hugh Jackman, him winning eventually is inevitable, and look at his face, I don’t have a bad word to say about him, but for some reason I resist anyway. Just concede and admit defeat, he’s promised to buy everyone a round if you do. ‘No thank you, I’m going to sit in a whirlwind of worry and anxiety a little longer for no good reason’.
So yeah, I’ve caved and I’m better for it. I’m not smashing out a daily hour like some, but 10 minutes most days is good enough for me.
A strong focus towards gratitude is an integral element of meditation. Taking the time to sit and truly examine what we already have can be truly transformative. From the material to the immaterial there’s a lot to be thankful for. In the process my liberties suddenly came into focus in a way they hadn’t before. Unlike many others across the globe, right now I have free reign to exercise freedom of belief, freedom of speech, freedom of information. Even the ‘struggling artist’ in me has to accept the reality of my financial freedom - I’m certainly not raking it in but I’m not destitute. Not always – but just 10 minutes sat on a chair can transform me from Panickin’ Skywalker to Kylo Zen should I choose to focus on being grateful for those very freedoms.
And come June 21st we will be even ‘free-er’ eh? Mad. Honestly give it a go if you haven’t already. It’s good shit.


07/05/2021 - Cole 

It is ironic that the theme I am tasked with is that of freedom when I can barely find five minutes to even relax and daydream with a cup of coffee of late.

I took the various lockdowns and lack of creative work as an excuse to pursue further advancement in my ‘other’ job. I would like to still refer to it as my ‘other’ because I do not want to admit that it has become my main area of focus, even though quite clearly it has been.

This last year has allowed the perfect situation to start saving that nest egg and looking towards providing a stable future for myself. Something I never dreamed I would be able to do 2 years ago. The property market is a real mine field and seems so unattainable, especially for a creative paying London rent. So, in that sense, moving back to my hometown has provided a great deal of freedom.

However, having to delve into the ‘other’ has certainly constrained my freedom somewhat in terms of my creative output. I barely sit and even imagine a rehearsal room nowadays; my brain just does not have the capacity or bandwidth for it. It took me some effort to sneak in 10 minutes to write this entry and only then after trying to fob it off on one of my colleagues whose entry is due next week.

Freedom I think is a balancing act, constantly compromising one thing for another. If I feel freer to pursue financial stability, then my creative pursuits or desires take a hit. Perhaps this is a bleak outlook on the concept of Freedom, so I apologise if you came here for a rousing speech, I am no William Wallace.

I do hope that with our slow re-entry into civilisation that the ‘other’ pressure is alleviated somewhat and I can start to refocus towards the more passionate side of my work. Perhaps very soon I will be making a trip down to the big smoke to bounce some ideas around in a small room with some of the people I love.

Well, that was a good five minutes daydreaming with a cup of coffee. Thanks for allowing the platform for that bit of respite.


30/04/2021 - Tom 

When was the last time you were told “You have no choice” out loud? It can often feel like we lack agency in our lives – particularly in the last thirteen months – but when was the last time someone actually said those words to you and what did you do? For me it was about four years ago. Luckily, it wasn’t a life-or-death situation; it involved a car hire company apparently over-estimating their place in the cosmos. What did I do? I reacted in a very similar way to when someone in a restaurant tells me not to touch a plate because it’s hot.
Why do I bring this up? Why won’t I stop asking questions?
I suppose because it stayed with me. Like I say, it wasn’t an important event in my life, but it felt important in the moment because someone was – inadvertently, I’m sure – trying to take away my ability to choose.
I had a conversation with a friend recently about the word ‘no’ and how useful it can be. Most of us like to think of ourselves as positive people and as ‘no’ is the ultimate negative, it’s tempting to not use it. So, instead, you say ‘yes’, make an excuse, then back out. Or worse, you say ‘maybe’, or even worse, you don’t respond. The absolute worst is you say ‘yes’ and then begrudgingly do the thing you didn’t want to do. That’s my approach anyway; I don’t say ‘no’ enough. My friend on the other hand said he uses it too much. When you lack control in a situation sometimes the only way to take it back is to decline to participate. This is absolutely something we should all do. Sometimes. But when, as we probably all have recently, you find yourself increasingly without control it can be tempting to use this trick a little too much. Then you become the person taking away your own ability to choose.
Earlier this week was what would have been my Grandfather’s 90th birthday. Thinking about him and what he would have made of our current situation I remembered a letter my Mum showed me a few years ago. It’s a letter of recommendation written by the headmaster of his school and it contains this line:
“He gave every indication of a good academic career, but unfortunately for him, the Second World war broke out in 1939.”
The letter goes on to say he had to leave school at fourteen, unable to go on to higher education as he would have liked. For me, this puts things into perspective – the idea of not having choices – and he was one of the lucky ones; too young to be sent off to war. We always have a choice. My Grandfather took his letter of recommendation and turned it into options; he got himself work and that work took him all over the world. He travelled to six continents; to places I’ve never been, seeing things I never will.
This was all a very roundabout way of saying that to be free isn’t just about having choices, it’s being brave enough to choose. Maybe that means saying ‘yes’ whenever possible, or maybe it’s means saying ‘no’ and standing firm. Maybe it means sometimes doing the stupid thing and touching the 'hot' plate… just to be sure. Usually, it means showing up.
I’ll leave you with the last line of my Grandfather’s letter:
“I have no hesitation in recommending him to anybody desiring a keen, conscientious, reliable man of high intelligence.”
Happy Birthday Grandad

23/04/2021 - Izzi 

This past Wednesday, I went for my very first pint in an actual pub in… I don’t know. I can’t remember the last time I sat in a beer garden, and I love the pub. And it was great.
So I probably spent the first part of this week feeling giddy with happiness, excited for my first actual Pub Outing of 2021, right? Surprisingly … wrong.
I started this week feeling incredibly anxious … and worst of all, I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Was I worried about going out and seeing friends again? Not really – as an extrovert, I was out having socially distanced walks as soon as I was able to. Was I scared of being in a pub garden, surrounded by people? Nope – one of the weirder things I’ve missed has been the low-level chatter of a busy space. I’ve even had to put coffee shop noises on while I work sometimes. Am I scared of getting Coronavirus? Actually, I started 2021 with it (see previous blog!) and I’m careful with masks and distancing and hand sanitiser. So why have I been feeling so jittery?
It’s taken me a while – and several cups of tea – to answer that question, and I think a lot of the time grappling with our feelings of anxiety and fear is more gnarly and frustrating than most of us realise. But I’ve been thinking a lot recently about life before. Before COVID. Before the theatre industry hit pause. Before what has now been a yawning stretch of over a year – something I didn’t see coming when everything first shut down.
It’s a running joke to people I know that I am incredibly busy. I’m often complimented on how many plates I can spin at any one time – freelancing across multiple jobs, having friends in several cities, being part of an absolutely enormous sprawling family, both biological and chosen. Pre-pandemic, the television character I was most compared to was Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope (not a bad thing, I love Leslie and everything she stands for). And on top of being busy, I’m enthusiastic and curious about things, so it’s rare that I’ll say ‘no’ to something once I’m interested in it, even if I should. And a year ago, for the first time in my adult life, I …
And it’s been hard, and financially tricky, and often stressful, and I miss the people I love like crazy but also – it’s given me time to slow down and actually think about things I want to do. Not because I should, but because I want to. And not necessary glamorous things – I didn’t do a Shakespeare and write King Lear during this particular plague – but a lot of boring ones, like learning how to run and getting 8 hours sleep a night.
And now I’m looking at all the plates I was spinning before, sitting on the floor, ready for me to pick up – and I’m not quite sure how or where I find the momentum to get that going again. And that’s terrifying. I know that on some level it’s an adjustment, and we can all take our time, but there’s still rent to pay and work to pick back up and people to see, and … life goes on.
Here’s the thing. When I talked to people I know about freedom during lockdown – when we didn’t have it – we all said the same thing. I can’t wait until things go back to the way they were. But now things are opening again, I’m beginning to realise that things can’t go back to ‘the way they were’. Not just because it’s been twelve whole months, or because restrictions are easing at a slow pace, or because the virus is still a threat – but because we’ve all changed during this strange time. We’re not the same human beings we were going in. We’ve lived through a life-changing event … the clue is in the name!
A friend said to me recently that anxiety can often feel incredibly similar to excitement, and I found that comforting. Reframing the big scary thoughts of ‘here we go again’ has been as helpful to me this week as finally getting a pint and a burger, so that’s what I wanted to pass on to you. Life has changed. It’s okay if you do too. Freedom doesn’t just mean the right to do all the things you’ve been missing (although that is pretty great) – it’s also an invitation for you to practise some self-compassion when it comes to deciding what you want to go back to.
Things might not go back to normal in the way you were expecting. That’s fine. You have the freedom to feel, adjust and refresh accordingly. I can’t promise I’ll keep running, but I’m really enjoying having the time to manage 8 hours sleep a night and I’d like to keep that habit if I can. One more thing to enjoy, one more thing to let go of, one less plate to spin – having the freedom to choose is a gift.


16/04/2021 - Sam 

Is it just me? Responsibility feels like a heavy word. Say it to yourself - “I have responsibilities”. How does that feel? Maybe it makes you feel empowered - you have been placed in a position of trust and given authority. However, I must confess that most of the time that sentence just makes me feel burdened. Am I being selfish? 
The Cambridge Dictionary has three definitions for responsibility: 
“something that it is your job or duty to deal with”
“blame for something that has happened”
“good judgment and the ability to act correctly and make decisions on your own”
In other words, responsibility is about how you interact with the rest of the world. So for me to want to escape responsibility would be to either isolate myself from the rest of the world entirely or to pretend that I could do so. One is lonely and the other is a lie.
Responsibility recognises that you affect other people. Put more positively, responsibility recognises that what you do matters. That feels more empowering. Still feels tiring. Am I being selfish, yes, a little bit.
To be honest, me writing this blog feels like the height of irony. Why? Because I’m finishing it late! I’m missing the deadline that we’d all agreed on. Doesn’t feel very responsible to me.
So how do I change that? Getting this finished for a start! But how about slightly longer term than that? Maybe firstly by accepting that, yes, responsibility can be tiring - burnout amongst leaders is a well recognised phenomenon after all.  But secondly, by finding a new motivation for accepting those responsibilities. For me, that nearly always comes down to people. Reminding myself of the help or harm that my actions can cause to others makes it easier to shoulder the responsibilities because I can see the value in them. Plus, being specific about the effects of your actions. The “greater good” is a pretty vague concept and not very easy to visualise (at least for me), but I know that being late with this blog would inconvenience both Carolina and Tom. Maybe they’d have to go to bed later, maybe they’d have to delay something they’d planned to do. That doesn’t seem fair to me and that thought has provided me with sufficient motivated focus to type these words and get this finished at the eleventh hour, hopefully just in time.
In short, finding your reason for accepting particular responsibilities seems to make them less tiring and easier to bear. I suspect that I will have to remind myself of this continually, I’m sure it’s not a one time fix, but maybe it’s a start.
Until next time

09/04/2021 - Lilac 

Heya old friend,
How’s this week been for you?
As I eat the remains of a stale half a Belgian cake (Cake? Bun. Belgian Bun) with a (decaf) tea I ask myself – is that the most responsible decision I can make for myself? For my body?
It might help to give context and say that I have also cycled to work and back this week which is about 12km a day. Some might say that’s not a lot. I will say – it’s something. As buses pass me in my slow (but consistent) uphill cycle I say – ‘you’re welcome!’.
In the last few weeks, Carolina pointed out that Responsibility is connected to accountability and Josie added a really important nuance which is that we are responsible for our intentions. For me, it is all rooted in trust and communication.
I’ll explain.
One of the reasons that I thrive in ensembles is because you’re building a relationship over the years (hopefully decades) where the concept of responsibility grows around the job at hand and people’s interests and needs. For example, leading Althea over the years means that I have definitely been accountable for every single thing that we have created. For the longest time, I thought that carrying all the responsibility on my shoulders was the only way to work, but it was only when I started sharing responsibility that I realised that being truly responsible for something is about putting the system in place that holds you accountable to your words.
Even if that system is someone to nudge me to write a blog on a Thursday evening after a full day of rehearsals, a cycle home and a sit down in bed (without a shower. Yet).
So I would ask:
Is putting the system in place that holds you accountable what responsibility means?
And I could answer:
Because you trust that system to support you in the fulfilment of your responsibility. I have people who nudge me and I'm constantly trying to refine my work process from very short attention span to a more sustained. But I am responsible for that. And being very honest about what I can and can’t do at any given moment and knowing that everyone in Althea would be a part of that conversation is what will carry us forward. Making plans together and being collectively committed to their fruition.

We think that responsibility is basically saying you will do something and then do it - but I would like to suggest that is it also having the integrity to acknowledge when you're unable to deliver.
And more than anything, I think, we can’t assume what weight people are carrying on their shoulders and what responsibilities they are holding which we are not aware of. But that’s ok – that’s not our responsibility to know everything, only to accept that there are things that we do not know.
So what am I trying to say?
I’m at a point in my life where I am carrying a lot of different responsibilities and I don’t think I could’ve been carrying them if I would’ve done it alone. And I am grateful for not having to carry them alone.
The noun responsibility comes from the Latin verb 'respondere', meaning 'to respond'. As actors, we are trained to respond truthfully moment to moment. But doesn’t that also mean that each response has within it the seed of responsibility? How do we choose to respond to the events of our day to day is the responsibility of telling the story of who we are moment to moment.
And maybe that’s what matters. Not how big or small a responsibility is but how we approach this responsibility to begin with.
So (I know! This ended up being such a long blog! Why?!) as I brush the crumbs off the duvet and get ready to have that shower I will tell you this. As a director, as a facilitator, as a theatre maker I am responsible for every performer, creative, writer and technician that walked into my rehearsal room. Every student, every participant. I am responsible for them wherever they go for the rest of time. It’s something that is so clear to me. And what a privilege this is, to know that we ripple into each other. That our actions ripple onto other people’s actions wherever they go.
That we matter. If we choose to acknowledge that we do.
And with this thought I will leave you, for now. But I am sure we’ll speak again soon.
Good night and take care,
Lilac x

02/04/2021 - Josephine 

That’s Not What I Meant...
I was this many years old when I learned that “I didn’t mean it” doesn’t completely make something better. 
If you’ve ever sent a text, it’s likely you’ve been misunderstood. A few words on a screen, read from the perspective of someone else, can take on a whole different meaning. 
Who is responsible for the interpretation of that sort of communication? Is it the person writing? Or the person reading? If you’re writing a message, is it your responsibility to be clear? And if you’re reading, is it your responsibility to avoid attaching an emotional response to what you receive?
Something I’ve been chewing over lately is the difference between needing to be understood, and needing to be right. 
I read a post on Twitter a few weeks ago from a mental health professional (sorry, I tried and failed to find the source!) that was something along the lines of ‘Everyone needs more than anyone else can give right now.’
If that’s true, and like me you’re also pretty exhausted, then maybe a knee-jerk response of ‘you read it wrong, that’s not what I meant’ isn’t the most energy efficient way of replying. (Reader, trust me, it isn’t).
I’ve been guilty of getting spectacularly frustrated by how my messages have been misinterpreted, and spent ages trying to unpick each and every way the recipient was wrong, rather than addressing that feelings were hurt by things that I said, whether that was my intention or not. 
Put down the need to be right, Josie. “I didn’t mean it” doesn't mean it didn’t happen. 
I can’t take responsibility for how someone perceives my words or my actions. But I can take responsibility for my intentions. And I think my intention should be trying to be the kindest I can be. 
Especially now.
Josie x

26/03/2021 - Carolina 

Hello dear reader, I hope you are well.
Last Tuesday the 23rd of March we commemorated a year since the U.K went into its first lockdown. This time last year the shelves in the shops were almost empty, toilet roll was a precious and hard item to find and we were all scared about a virus that we didn’t understand very well.  A year on, more than 2.5 million people have died from Covid-19 around the world, a lot of people have suffered through hardship and grief, but scientists and doctors have gained a better understanding of the virus with better drugs to treat the illness, and several vaccines have been developed in record time. We have fallen now into “Vaccine Nationalism” which doesn’t serve anyone, because as we already know the virus will continue to mutate into more deadly variants in poorer countries that don’t have access to vaccines.  Because in a Pandemic “no one is safe until everyone is safe”
You will have to forgive me dear reader, but as much as I try not to bring politics into the blog, I always end up doing so. I guess Brecht will endorse me on this, I can’t be an apolitical Actor, especially in the middle of a Pandemic and when most of the theatres of the world remain closed.
This week we are starting a set of 4 new blogs around the subject of Responsibility, which led me to ask:
Whom should we blame about COVID-19 becoming a Pandemic? Who is responsible, if anyone?  Who’s accountable?
If I learned something after living in the U.K for more than 8 years, it is that when the government or an institution fails to perform correctly or makes terrible mistakes that affect a lot of people you open a Public Inquiry. This allows the committee, inquiries, judges etc. to examine the facts, establish who is responsible, make people accountable and what is most important enables us to learn from the mistakes to avoid repeating them. 
A lot of mistakes have been made so far about the handling of the Pandemic by different governments and organizations around the world. From silencing those who reported about it in the beginning, lying about facts and data, suppressing information, to even denying it is happening.
I’m sure making decisions in the middle of a world’s crisis, decisions that are in fact a matter of life and death must be a huge responsibility. But people who are in power are there because they wanted to, they’ve chosen to, they want to make decisions that affect a lot of souls. Actions or the lack of actions and the timing of those actions have proven to have unparalleled consequences during a Pandemic.
There are levels of responsibility, the higher you are in power the more responsibilities you have and the actions and decisions you make therefore have a bigger impact. But if I’ve learned something during the Pandemic is that every irresponsible behaviour (coming from an individual or a nation) that helps the spread of the virus has a rippling effect and affects the health and safety of others, the health and safety of All Of Us. We have the responsibility to help by being part of the containment and not the propagation of the virus.  In this case it is not just about me, my wants or my rights.  We all are responsible and connected and we have a moral duty towards others, towards humanity.
We are not out of the woods yet and History will probably determine who’s responsible (well it will depend on who is controlling the narrative) and hopefully we will learn from mistakes and be better prepared for the next virus.  But for now, we must focus on our own responsibility in helping to get out of this together.
Thanks for reading and stay safe,

19/03/2021 - Isabel 

"There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.” – Hannah Gadsby, Nanette
For a blog about resilience, I’m finding it surprisingly hard to start writing this (even though being a writer is, ironically, my actual job). And let’s be honest: it’s a weird topic to wrestle with after the last few days. I had some ideas for this piece – it was going to be about resilience as an act of hope, or reflections on this week being the year anniversary of the last time I was in a theatre and what I’ve learnt in that time.
And then, last week happened. Here’s a recap.
Monday: Happy International Women’s Day! Tuesday: Woman who described feeling suicidal in an interview slated by a man on national TV who accuses her of lying. Wednesday: A young woman my age is missing, abducted a few miles down the road from me. Thursday and Friday and Saturday: Every woman I know is talking about the times they’ve felt belittled, scared, walked home with keys between their fingers, been in a situation where they felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Saturday night: Police violence at a vigil as women show their respects. Sunday: Happy Mother’s Day! (God, I miss hugging my mum – thanks pandemic). Oh, and just in case that wasn’t enough, a bill that limits the right to protest about any of the above is making its way through Parliament now. Yikes.
I feel sad and angry and hopeless right now. And if I feel like that, what is it like for those who don’t have the privileges that I do – being cisgendered, able-bodied, white, middle class, with a decent support network around me?
I’m probably supposed to talk about making art here, and how that’s an act of resilience, but one of the hardest things about last week was hearing many of the women I know talk about their own memories of feeling scared and powerless. Why? Because many of those experiences have directly intersected with their careers as artists. Most women I know have an industry horror story, and it sucks. Don’t get me wrong, theatre has allowed me to examine how I feel in relation to power and powerlessness, and it’s certainly taught me a lot about resilience. But some of those lessons have been learnt the hard way. If #MeToo and everything in its wake has taught us anything, it’s that artists can be just as responsible for exploiting power as they are for dismantling it.
BUT. This has also been an industry where I’ve seen people (and, especially, brilliant women) create change. The rise of safe spaces, the advocacy for unheard voices, the number of projects hiring intimacy coordinators, the campaigns for better working conditions, the people who’ve spoken out against abuses of power at the cost of their own, the demands for better representation on and offstage – the list is endless. And of course, there’s also some brilliant art being made right now that directly challenges our views on abuse and power, and has allowed me to start conversations I might not have been able to otherwise. Change does happen. If I sometimes feel hopeless and angry about aspects of our industry, I’m comforted by the fact that I also often feel inspired, determined and ready to learn.
Theatres are re-opening soon, and I don’t want this to sound like I’m not really excited about that. I can’t WAIT to get back in a room and make work, and I can’t wait to sit in an auditorium and watch brilliant shows made by people I admire.  But I’ve also made a decision: I’m not content to go back to the way things were. I want things to be better once this is pandemic is over, both in the arts and in the wider world, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to help make that happen. I think we should all feel like that.
So, what has this week taught me? Resilience is not just about rebuilding and picking up where we left off. It’s about demanding that when we rebuild, we build back better
I suppose what I’m trying to say here is – if you’re feeling angry as well as hopeful right now, maybe that’s OK. Managing to keep going when the world is difficult is resilience. Being able to channel anger into change is resilience. Demanding that we come back better – that’s resilience too.
I started this blog with an amazing quote by Hannah Gadsby, who’s incredibly powerful show Nanette was one of my favourite ever experiences as an audience member. (You can watch it on Netflix and I highly recommend it). There’s another quote from the show that sums up my feelings better than I can, so I’ll end on that:
"To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength." 

12/03/2021 - Sam 

What can I say about resilience?

So I often I feel that I don’t have it! My emotional journey over a week, or even a day, seems to be more up and down than Tigger on speed! (Not quite sure how that got into the Hundred Acre Wood, but these are dark times).

In previous blogs Tom spoke about the wonder of the human body and its ability to endure everything life (and even space) throws at it, while Mike wrote about the power of the human spirit to keep going when the body starts to fail. If you haven’t read them yet, go and read them as soon as you’ve finished this one (not before, you’ll hurt my feelings!) they’re both wonderfully uplifting and thought provoking. But what happens when it’s your spirit that feels like it’s on the ropes? At these times it can be difficult to believe that you have any resilience to call upon.

But maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. Perhaps, just as courage is not the absence of fear, but the decision to act in spite of it; so, resilience is not a lack of trips and falls but the decision to get up again afterwards.

I would suggest, particularly at times like this, resilience is in the little things. It’s in getting out of bed, or off the couch, brushing your teeth, having a shower, making sure you’ve eaten a decent meal - the little things that keep you healthy and functioning; the things that keep you going. But by that same token it’s also in making sure you go to bed, speaking to a friend, getting outside, and most importantly giving yourself time to rest. This last one can be surprisingly difficult because I don’t just mean 5 minutes away from work scrolling through social media. I mean truly taking time out from everything and not worrying about being anywhere but the present moment. I really struggle with this because I find it easiest to do when in the company of others and that can be in short supply at the moment, but nonetheless, when I do manage it, it can feel like hitting the reset button.

As I write this I’m also aware that a list of things that one should do can feel overwhelming all by itself. So we only pick one, perhaps the next one that’s likely to come up in our day. Until we’ve done it we don’t worry about any of the others. One step forward.

Maybe some days that will be the only step we take or maybe we’ll stumble back a few. That’s ok. The point is that each time that happens we get up again and take another step, no matter how small.


05/03/2021 - Thomas 

What happens to the human body if it is vacuumed into the void of space?

Easy. You die.


My latest addiction - the ‘Expanse’ (it’s great, go check it out) got me questioning this during the latest episode, when a character intentionally exposes herself to the vacuum of space, wearing naught but some flimsy overalls, does her best Princess Leia from one ship to another … and SURVIVES? “Whaaat? No way! C’mon! HOW?!”

So, like a well-trained millennial, I instantly hop on google to look up how one might survive in space without a spacesuit and… well, it isn’t pretty, but it’s possible, albeit very briefly. Here’s what to expect;
  • The vacuum of space pulls air from your body so any air left in your lungs will rupture them. Basically, don’t hold your breath!
  • The oxygen in the rest of your body will begin to expand, so you’ll likely balloon up to twice your size, but you won’t explode since your skin is elastic enough to hold you together. Think Aunt Marjorie from Harry Potter.
  • Then the exposed liquids on your body will begin to vaporize which means the surfaces of your tongue and eyes will start to boil. Which would suck harder than any vacuum could to be honest.
  • And since there’s no water or air in space, the only way to lose heat is by radiation, so even though you’ll eventually freeze solid, you’ll likely die of oxygen deprivation long before you’d even noticed the cold.
But - and here’s where we get closer to the crux of my point – the human body can, CAN survive being in Space (briefly of course). Isn’t that absolutely remarkable, that theoretically we could survive the deadly void of space. Actual space. That’s mad! That’s crazy!

I must have an appetite for suffering since I’m also reading a first-hand account from the Everest disaster in 1996 – the novel ‘Into Thin Air’ (again, would highly recommend.) This tragic event involved the loss of many lives, but the book goes to great lengths to detail the conditions for the average climber. Obviously, surprise-surprise climbing Everest is dangerous, but did you know that after you ascend above 26,000 feet, with another the 2000 feet to go, you enter the ‘Death Zone’ where your body begins to die – literally die – slowly of course but minute by minute, cell by cell your body is deteriorating. Summiting from that point, is a very real race against your own body clock. And yet, many people have returned to tell the tale. When you take a moment to consider what the human body can experience and survive it’s astonishing.

Now, there is of course the opposite, perfectly legitimate, but far more nihilistic outlook on human life and its fragility. That the human form as nothing more than a sad sack of blubbering atoms which is one leak away from ending. Pierce the sack and it’s game over. Even the strongest among us can be one shower slip away from a fatal head injury.

This bleaker take on the human condition has its place of course, keeping us grounded, safe and alert to danger. Alert to an invisible virus we could karate chop should it get near us perhaps? But today I’d intend to remain enamoured by the human body’s resilience and leave you with this little bit of food for thought.

You, reading this right now, a human being, could briefly endure the physical extremity of being in space, actual space and survive. Whaaat? That feels pretty great eh? Fuck you space, bring on the next challenge. And with that in mind, just take a moment, to remind yourself of just how strong you are. Who’s to say you couldn’t be as equally resilient mentally, emotionally or even societally. Go on, open the pod-bay doors Hal, just remember to not hold your breath.


26/02/2021 - Cole 

When you get a bit older you start to appreciate the older generations more. I think it has something to do with coming to terms with your own mortality and wanting to spend as much time as possible with your elders before they are no longer here. Plus, they can’t half tell a tale.

When I was younger, and my Grandparents were still alive, I took that time for granted. No 12/13-year-old thinks about death, we are invincible and so are these old people that have been in our life, well, forever. Until they’re not.
I received a message earlier from my friend regarding their grandparent having a fall and it got me thinking. Tasked with the theme of resilience, who are more resilient than these people that have roamed this earth more than 3 times the amount of time I have been on it? Living through all these different eras, a World War, Thatcher, Brexit, Covid-19 and all the while having to deal with the Human body slowly shutting down.

Most people when they come to their old age start saying phrases like ‘it’s my time’ and ‘I’d be quite happy to go now’. They don’t though half the time, they live on, through the hardships of ill health and not being able to care for themselves. What a strange feeling it must be to be cared for by your children the very way you once cared for them.

A lot of people have found lockdown extremely difficult, being couped up indoors and not being able to see their loved ones. I hope it has given people insight into how some of the elderly people lived their life even before this pandemic.

When I was younger, I used to get annoyed when an elderly member of the public held up the bus. They’d be looking for their bus pass or just so infirm that it took them a while to get on board. What an awful little shit I was, I used to think ‘why are you out and about at 8am holding me up when you should be at home resting?’. Maybe they had errands to run, maybe not, maybe they just wanted to be out and about, see the world and other people, because home can be lonely and isolating sometimes. Perhaps the love of their life had passed years previously and they needed the bustle and buzz of the world around them to keep them sane. I think we can all relate.

We all have our coping mechanisms but imagine the amount of pressure from every facet of life that these older generations have had to face and yet still keep going through the adversities of a declining human body. I admire them and their resilience and I think we should remember, when we’re out the other side of this pandemic and the world wakes up, that these people’s lives may not change all too much and they will always need our appreciation and our care.


19/02/2021 - Tom 

What do you say when nothing has happened? Serious question. I’m very much the information-exchange type of conversationalist; “What have you been doing?”, “How was your trip to [insert place]?”, “What do you think about [insert current event I also have an opinion on]?”, that sort of thing. Well, those lines of conversation lead to cul-de-sac city at the moment and I’m left to fall back on my severely under-developed small talk skills. This was going fairly well not so long ago; “Apparently it’s going to snow this week”, “Do you have any snow where you live? I do”, “Did you make a snowman when there was… all of that… snow?”, but that absolute conversational gold mine stopped producing a while ago and the weather has since become frustratingly non-descript. Now, don’t worry, this isn’t supposed to be the ‘relatable’ part of the blog and I am (slightly) exaggerating for effect, but it does make me wonder about how it is that some ideas – bad ideas – are currently spreading so pervasively at a time when it’s so much harder to have a decent conversation.
To be clear, by ‘bad’ ideas, I don’t mean chocolate teapots or paper straws. I mean ideas that are dangerous and perpetuated out of malice. These ideas, ideas like “This life-saving vaccine will kill you.” aren’t spread proudly and publicly – they’d be quickly shot down by logic – instead they’re spread insidiously. It’ll be a WhatsApp chain of untraceable origin. Or an article, linked from an article, linked from an advert that claims you can earn £2000 per day working from home thanks to “this one weird trick”. Or a sentence that begins “Apparently”. They’re rather like an airborne pathogen in this way; creeping around, using well-intentioned communication to disseminate and take root; not amongst most people who will shrug it off, instead preying on vulnerable people. Lies are what they are, and lies are what we should call them; not ‘untruths’, ‘alternative facts’, or ‘misinformation’. They are lies.
In Althea, and as individual storytellers we often do the opposite of dressing up a lie to look plausible. We’ll take a core of truth and disguise it as a fiction. You might say a deception is a deception, but our audience is complicit. And nobody dies.
We need to do away with the lies. I’d love to start telling stories again.

12/02/2021 - Carolina 

As a society we never had so many tools at our disposal to communicate and express ourselves, and it seems we have a lot to say. Thanks to social media everyone can express their point of view about different issues, share their political affiliation and validate (Like, Retweet) or disapprove (sometimes bully and insult) others.
We share pictures of the experiences we have; holidays when they were allowed, food, parties. Pictures that have been edited and sometimes enhanced by filters and that show us under the light we want the others to see us. Pictures that convey the image of a happy fulfilled life. But are they really a reflection of how we are doing? How we are truly feeling? Or are they just the image of what we want to ‘sell’?  Why the need to share those moments with the world? What are we trying to communicate?  Are we seeking approval?
Last night I was watching a documentary about Platon Antoniou, a photographer who takes the most engaging and strong portraits of famous people and politicians. Huge close-ups in black and white where we can really see the sitter through their eyes.  Sometimes the sitter is really open and present, sometimes he is guarded and giving his façade, but in general the portraits are mesmerizing and really engaging. Why are Platon pictures so amazing? Because he really connects with his sitter, and because he takes pictures with an analogue camera instead of a digital, (he can’t break to check how the pictures are coming out) once he establishes that connection, he maintains it until the end of the shoot. He says: “My job is to meet someone and connect with them and express that connection with all my heart to everybody who wasn’t there”
As humans we all want to engage, connect, belong and be a part of something (society, community, group, club, theatre company). We want to feel we have things in common with other humans, we want to be heard but mostly we need to be understood in order to feel less lonely.  Not just “Liked” or “Retweeted”, it’s not just about communicating with others, it is about truly connecting.
Remember those days when we were able to go to a restaurant? Those days when you took a look at the table next to yours, and you could see four or six friends out for dinner and each one of them was staring at their phone? And you couldn’t help but question:  What is the point of them being out together if they can’t even properly engage with each other, be fully present with each other? I’m not fully exempt I have to confess, there have been times when I’ve looked at my phone more than once while having dinner with someone else. I’m texting my friend on the other side of the world instead of fully appreciating the person who’s in front of me. We all do it, it has become the norm, and sadly it is acceptable.
We are “connected” with more people than ever before.  We Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, share events of our lives on Facebook and Instagram. We get news from people we haven’t seen or properly talked to in ages. We are aware of what is happening in their lives, or at least what they are sharing on social media, but we are all so disconnected. 
Can we really connect via FaceTime or Zoom? Can we really connect without seeing the sparkle in the other persons eyes, without feeling the warmth of their body, their smell, their energy, their presence?
Too many images, videos, words, Tweets, noise!  Too much superficial information not a lot of truthful and meaningful connections. It seems that the more tools we have at our fingertips to communicate with others, the more disconnected we are becoming; and the sad thing is    we cannot blame it all on the Pandemic, we were in that path before Lockdowns and Social Distancing.
Thanks for reading and take care,

05/02/2021 - Josephine 

“You’re on mute!”

I don’t think I’d heard that phrase before this time last year, but it’s become a bit of a staple in our vocabulary over the last year along with the word of 2020 … “unprecedented.” How long can something continue being unprecedented before…well, it becomes a precedent? I digress.

At a time when we understand how important communication is, it’s also true to say that connection can be hard.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really connected the stability of my internet connection to my self-worth before March 2020. That sounds dramatic, but let me connect the dots:

1)     Log into meeting.
2)    Start talking before your audio is connected.
3)    Feel silly when you realise everyone’s waving their arms at you and shaking their heads.
4)    Finally connect to audio. Apologise.
5)    At the very moment someone asks you a direct question, up pops the notification ‘your connection is unstable’ and you become a pixelated robotic mess as you try to answer.
6)    Sit there feeling a bit useless for the rest of the call, scared to speak in case it overloads your router.

I went through a period of vocal problems some years ago, and it was astonishing to me that the same feelings were triggered by dodgy wifi as when I had a big fat undiagnosed cyst on one of my vocal folds.

When I feel like I can’t be heard or understood I have a tendency to withdraw because it’s safer than feeling misunderstood. When the conversation continues without me time and time again, I’ve started to feel a bit like I’m invisible and it’s easy for my brain to pick up that thread and follow the well-trodden narrative that I don’t deserve to be heard anyway.

If you’ve ever felt that way, for any reason at all, I wanted to remind you that your opinion and perspective matters. The room needs your say, whether or not you’ve got a voice. And if you don’t, then I reckon your perspective matters the most, because you shouldn’t need to shout to be heard.

Let me know if you want me to shout for you.

Josie x

29/01/2021 - Lilac 

I realise I’m not very good at finishing my sentences unless I write them
On paper.
On Screen.
My partner sometime tells me I jump from subject to subject without completing my
He says that when he hears me in Zoom meetings, rehearsals or workshops I’m not like that.
In meetings, rehearsals or workshops I articulate each thought ‘til its end.
(To everyone who's worked with me and would like to take this opportunity to say ‘Bullshit, she does not finish her sentences, we’ve been there - we know’. This is your chance to do it)
It doesn’t mean I don’t want to. It’s hard. Especially now. I start saying something and by the time it’s out there, the world has changed, there have been recent developments and the thought is meaningless.
Maybe this feeling of meaninglessness is why I’ve been shying away from social media. Feeling all these big things and yet wanting to stay private about them - wanting to keep them within my reach - within my control.
It’s actually pretty hard to daily share thoughts, feelings and experiences on social media - I find. I sometimes want to. I realise it’s important to contribute to an ongoing conversation, join the out
I haven’t been out much
I nudge myself to peel myself away from the screen
It’s probably one of the only places where I can finish my sentences. When I’m applying for things. When I have to convey a certain promise of something that I can
And I can
I just need to keep saying it again and again until I can say it in one sentence
I can
I can de
I can deli
I can deliver
One of the questions I remember most from my training is about the need to speak. I had an incredible voice tutor who used to ask: where does the character’s need to speak come from?
I think about this need to speak now. I think about it a lot.
I am a theatre maker without a theatre to make things in. It's the third lockdown and I don’t know when I’ll be in a rehearsal room again. It feels like I will. Like I might. Like a maybe. I am so grateful for the companies and artists I’ve worked with since March. Who I had to show up and complete my sentences for. Even in days when I had no idea how my thoughts should end.
And that’s when I realised it was time to ask for a bit of help. A bit of help because I just couldn’t finish
My sentences.
Because my feelings
This helplessness had
No end.
And when I did. Ask for help. Nothing changed in a day. Or two. It did though.
There is this track that I’ve been listening to on repeat in the last couple of weeks. It’s called SUPERBLOOM by MisterWives. Have a listen. One of my favourite lines is:
‘I deserve congratulations
'Cause I came out the other side’
Every morning of this time deserves a huge massive congratulations. For us coming out the other side.
When I don’t finish my
Sentences. Maybe it’s because I forget to celebrate the sheer amazing effort that is existing
So I will communicate this as clearly as possible
Opening your eyes
Taking a breathe
Having a shower
Figuring out what we need
As our needs change
From moment to moment
All of this deserves a massive congratulations.
We’re making it to the other side.
Congratulations, new old Friend. I’m sorry it’s been a bit of a long one this time.
Hope you are well. Feel free to let me know how you’re doing too.
Until soon,

22/01/2021 - Carolina

When I was a little girl growing up in Bogotá, we used to go out for lunch on Sundays with my paternal grandparents and all the family. After lunch my grandad always took me and my cousins to the cinema where he treated us to some sweets; I used to go for the raisins covered in chocolate that came in a box with a picture of a Bunny.  Many movies, and many chocolate raisins. Sweet memories…

The other day I had a big bag full of popcorn while I was talking to my mum on the phone. I went to the kitchen for a glass of water, and when I walked back into the room, it smelled of cinema, it smelled of popcorn, the smell of popcorn transported me to the cinema. When was the last time I went to the cinema? What was the last film that I saw before lockdown? Ah, I remember now; it was the fabulous and different Parasite.

I miss going to the cinema, I miss going to the theatre, I miss going to a museum, a restaurant, a pub, I miss so many experiences. Because at the end of the day, what do we remember? We remember the experiences we had. The doing, the seeing, the smelling, the feeling.  I had so many Zooms with family and dear friends, but frankly even if they happened a few months or even weeks ago I don’t remember them very well, there is nothing remarkable about them embedded in my memory.
My dad inherited the love for cinema from his dad, and my sister and me from him. When I turned 11, he took me to see Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and that movie impacted me for ever. Not only I wanted to be Grace Kelly and dress like her, but I guess the film contributed to the fascination I experience by watching through a window what happens in other people’s lives. Yes, I confess, I’m a bit nosey, but in my defence observing it’s fundamental for actors. Observing is very theatrical, don’t you think? And isn’t that one of the reasons why we go to the theatre?  Why we go the cinema? To watch what happens in other’s people’s lives, to witness what they go through, to be a part of their joys and sorrows and empathise and learn from their stories.

During the first lockdown my snooping kicked in and I started becoming familiar with other people’s routines. The guy that exercises every day at 11:00 a.m. on his stationary bike, and Tracey Emin. I was always attentive to see if she was in her studio, and since we live just in front of it, it was really hard not to keep an eye. Since I’m in confession mode, I have to admit that I have a especial fascination for artist’s lives, (I recommend the book Daily Rituals: Women at Work, by Mason Currey) but coming back to my nosiness; in the past few weeks, I started noticing lots of movement in Emin’s studio.  A big move that took weeks and weeks, and lorries and lorries of works of art and filing cabinets. I felt very sad to hear about Emin’s poor health recently. And while I was reading an interview in which she courageously and honestly shared that many of her organs had to be removed due to her illness, I was watching the emptying of her studio.  Emptiness, void…
I’m really looking forward to being able to go to Emin and Munch’s exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts, once we are allowed to have Experiences.
For now, I look at an empty studio whose walls have witnessed the creation of many pieces of art. Maybe she could lend us her space to rehearse Althea’s new project?  A great big space perfect for a socially distanced R&D.

It’s Daffodils season again. I bought some last night, and this morning while I write these words, they have already opened.  Daffodils are always hopeful, they announce the coming of spring and even though I know spring is still far away, and we are still going through the peak of the second wave; (the daily death toll was the highest it has ever been since the start of the pandemic) one can only hope for better times. The Orange Man has left The White House today, and hopefully to never return again, and that can only mean brighter times ahead.

Thanks for reading and stay safe,


15/01/2021 - Isabel

Hello there,

What’s new with you?

I’m writing to you from my sofa, which doesn’t sound like a ground-breaking thing – except that for me it is, because it’s been just over a week since I came out of self-isolation. Having experienced what it’s like to be mostly shut in one room for 10 solid days, the sofa is a newly exciting hub of potential and I’m enjoying it a lot.

What’s new with me? Well, I ended 2020 in the most 2020 way possible: by getting COVID. After getting symptoms right after Christmas, I got my results text from the NHS smack bang at 6pm on New Year’s Eve, which felt like a weirdly apt way to end a truly bonkers year. I live in a house share, so aside from the occasional heavily-disinfected trip to the bathroom and kitchen, I kept myself to myself to avoid infecting anyone else. For 10 days, I technically lived with other people, but saw absolutely nobody.

I’d love to say I used the time wisely, but the combination of feeling grim, the usual malaise you get in the weird period between Christmas and New Year (even when there’s not a raging pandemic on), and the yawning void of utter boredom meant I absolutely did not. Add those things to me being an extrovert and needing other people to stay sane, and I spent most of the time in a weird, anxious state of existential dread.

What helped? Small kindnesses from other people broke up the overwhelming solitude. My housemate leaving me a morning cup of tea outside the door every day. Fellow Althean Josie bringing round some cake and leaving it on the doorstep (along with a post-it of helpful flavour notes, as I’d lost my sense of taste). The ridiculous, but incredible, personalised blanket sent by some of my best writer friends. These would always have been lovely, warm-fuzzy-feeling moments, but in a strange limbo at the end of an unsettling year, they became anchors: something to cling onto, a reminder that you’re never as alone as you think.

Connection is such an important part of what makes us human. Possibly the ONLY upside to this pandemic is that when you strip away all sense of normality, the tiniest of interactions – the ones that normally get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life - suddenly take on a whole new level of meaning.

The importance of connection has been on my mind since March. On some level, I think it has for everyone. The phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” loomed over me for a lot of the first lockdown, but on reflection I’m actually not sure it fits, because it makes it sound like we’ve been lost in a stupor of taking these moments for granted. I don’t think that’s the case – I think that our relationships with other people are such an intrinsic part of what makes us, well, us, that our understanding of being connected is as natural as breathing.  You don’t think about it all the time, but you know you need it to survive.

Like 98% of the people I know in the theatre industry, I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 months feeling a bit lost. Why do I do this? What’s the point? How is this valuable when people are dying? Pre-2020, when people asked me why I made theatre, my answer was always the same – ‘I think stories are important’. 2020 folded its arms and asked me to justify why stories are important. And I think that some of my discomfort comes from the fact that my previously rather smug, creative answer wasn’t that smart after all. In fact, it was barely a response to the question.

Those ten days have helped me come up with a more truthful, sincere answer. Stories are important because they show the tiny connections between human beings for what they are. Anchors. Beacons of hope. Why do I make theatre? Because stories have helped me make sense of the world. They take chaos and disorder and provide clarity and comfort. When the world seems unrelentingly awful, they highlight the magic and importance of a small action to spark a change. They’ve lit a path for me and blazed a trail when I’ve struggled to see, and I want to do the same for those in the dark behind me. I do this job because stories remind me that the connections between us are valuable, necessary, important. We’re never as alone as we may feel.

The blanket my friends sent me is full of private jokes – it’s a picture they made on Paint, with me in the Rose Bar at VAULT Festival (the last place I worked pre-lockdown), along with many of the real and fictional figures that have got me through the pandemic. For those who are wondering, these include President Bartlet from the West Wing, internet comedian Alistair Green, Dolly Parton and the three of them (as Sims, complete with green spinny things over their heads), to name but a few. And the reason I love it so much is that each of those private jokes has a story behind it – usually a silly one. They’re all things that have been thought about, raked up from previous conversations and added to make me smile. It’s of my favourite gifts ever: in fact, it’s over my feet right now as I write this on my sofa, before a Zoom call with some of my other friends, followed by watching an NBA game on TV with my housemate. Those are all small connections, everyday moments of human contact, but as isolation has reminded me, small does not mean insignificant.

Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, I hope you’re finding moments of connection too.

Izzi x
08/01/2021 - Josephine

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t think that setting them sets me up for success. Instead of finding them motivating, I actually find them restrictive, which might sound strange when it was me that set them in the first place. Welcome to my head.

What I am a fan of is being a beginner. I’m not afraid to fail, when something is brand new to me I’m allowed to get it wrong with no consequences, and the rate of progress always seems speedy when you’ve started from zero. I really like that.

We don’t often give ourselves permission to be beginners, do we? There seems to be a point in life when self-consciousness sets in, when it isn’t cool to be curious and eager any more. For lots of us in the arts I think it’s fair to say that somewhere along the line we rediscovered that sense of play; if you’re really lucky perhaps you never lost it. I find it hard to hang onto without practice though, and we can’t easily do that right now. With the world as it is, I feel like I’ve lost my purpose, and with that, more than a little bit of confidence.

Things haven’t miraculously changed since we arrived in 2021 and it seems they might be this way for a little while longer. It’s hard enough grinding through the gears right now without setting yourself lofty goals (although if you’re motivated and energised by that, I’m right here, a safe distance away, loudly cheering you on).

So, I’m not setting a resolution. Instead, I’m giving myself permission to try and fail. I’m not setting a completion date, and I’m not doing it to declare that I’ve mastered a skill. I’m not doing it for my CV, and I’m not doing it for anyone other than myself.

What I am doing is learning how to tap dance. And the kid in me is delighted.

Fancy joining me?

01/01/2021 - Thomas

Back in September I concluded my first entry to this blog with a playful jab at the unlikely notion of vaccine being found by the end of year. Hmm cute - I thought. After all, for all of us this year who chose to watch 2011’s ‘Contagion’ and chant in chorus “Oh my God, this is just like us right now – so weird!” the seemingly most unrealistic part of that film is when the vaccine is produced in less than a year! Classic Hollywood.

Well Christmas pud in my face since I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong! Here we are at New Year’s Day with not only one vaccine but two, and likely more on the way.

It would be remiss of me to ignore the current crisis across the UK with figures soaring past April’s peak as we settle in for further restrictions, but it no longer seems ridiculous to hope that 2021 (at least overall) will prove to be a damn sight better that the garbage truck on fire that was 2020.

I would like to start this year with a simple ‘thank you’. New year’s resolutions often go hand in hand with mindfulness so let’s start together with sincere gratitude. Feel free to join me, should you wish, in thanking everyone who played their part in the creation of these several vaccines across the globe. Obviously in many ways we’ve all played our part collectively this year, I mean who hasn’t had to make sacrifices – very few - but I encourage you to take a moment to appreciate the absolute feat of scientific endeavour that we’ve all born witness to. The sceptic in me can’t ignore the fact that we probably mobilised quicker than expected because it was in the ‘Markets’ best interest to do so but I’m going to park that thought, at least for today, and bask in the glory of scientific ingenuity that has brought us the best Christmas present yet.

Yeah, alright this is a theatre blog, and I’ve not mentioned it once yet, but the truth is I’m gagging to get together and start making some shit and it finally looks like this might ‘soon’ be possible thanks to our scientific brethren, and for that I am truly thankful.

Happy New Year everyone.
25/12/2020 - Sam

I’ve tried to write this blog entry three times now, and I still don’t know how to start it, end it, or even what to put in the middle. It’s Christmas. A time, we tell ourselves, that should be filled with joy, and yet it’s so often not. This year more than ever. On top of that, although we are bombarded with images of “the perfect Christmas”, the way in which each person celebrates it, or indeed doesn’t, is incredibly specific to them and their story so far. To write about Christmas in any sort of general sense feels incredibly challenging. Even in the best of years this season can be, for some, nothing more than a spotlight on their loneliness, and this year has not been the best of years.

How can I respond to that? I had the briefest glimpse of the prospect of Christmas alone and I was brought to my knees. I can’t speak from a place of shared experience. The other part of my dilemma is that I do have a response, but I don’t know if this is the place for it. Because you see, I do know someone who has felt that loneliness. I do know someone who can stand alongside you. Who says: I’m crying with you and for you, I am your shoulder to cry on, and no matter how alone you feel, I have never abandoned you. I believe Christmas is a celebration of their birth.

Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. Either way you probably know the story, or at least the key figures – Mary, Joseph, a donkey; a star and an angel thrown in for good measure, probably dressed in bedsheets with tinsel. It can all seem a little trite and on a par with leaving mince pies for Father Christmas. But what if it wasn’t? What if it was, and this may seem bizarre, the beginning of the greatest rescue mission the world has ever seen? What if it was the spark in a chain of events, which now means that you are never abandoned, no matter your circumstances? What if it was the reason that there is hope for a better tomorrow?

This post isn’t me trying to convince you. That’s not my goal here, and it’s certainly not Althea’s. I suppose I’m trying to offer comfort. I believe that in the midst of all of this, there is still hope. My desire is that you, too, would find hope and comfort this Christmas.

11/12/2020 - Cole

Reaching your 30s definitely gives you a new perspective on things, especially taking into account this particular generation.

Everything seems to have shifted to ‘a few years down the line’. Perhaps it was our parents telling us to live life first before settling down, or maybe just the concept of marriage and the nuclear family has become less fashionable. 

Health is a major factor that comes to the forefront (even more given the ongoing epidemic). 8/9 years I lived in London and I never registered with a GP. I was young and the world was a playground, my body could handle whatever I could throw at it. Boy was I wrong. 

We are born with a genetic code that is completely unique and as we grow the environmental effects shape the body into something even more unique. We all age differently, have tweaks and niggles of pain in different places, favour a particular side to sleep on and react differently to various food groups. The blueprint we are given shifts and degrades, somehow making it even more individualistic, the lines perhaps fading somewhat in places and becoming more defined in others. We really do wear our life on/in our bodies.

I’m interested in how we inhabit our bodies, but also in how our bodies inhabit us. How much does the strain of ageing play a part in our actions and our hopes and dreams for the future? Perhaps this is why there has been a generational shift. It’s something we have explored somewhat in Althea’s work, as the body in the space plays such a key role in our practice. Even when we are representing a different space, time, character the performer and their individual blueprint still exists. I find that fascinating. 

On separate note, if not really that separate, my niece was born today and I'm excited to see how her blueprint turns out.

05/12/2020 - Lilac

Hey dear old new friend,
Maybe now that we know each other a bit more, I should refer to you as-
Hey friend,

This blog was meant to be published yesterday, apologies. It’s just that this week somehow made me angry, in various ways. And I didn’t want to write an entire blog about being angry, I wanted to offer something else, alongside that anger.

I should explain. This week was a deeply reflective week and it made me ask questions about how I am feeling and what I am thinking. It’s funny to discover that my thoughts are not always helpful and at times can be quite judgemental: ‘why didn’t you do that yet? You should be able to fix everything’. In my life. In the world. And it’s also funny how we live with these thinking processes for years without noticing that they are there, feeding something within us.

Sam wrote last week about belonging. And I definitely agree that we nurture our sense of belonging from the people we have around us and the places we choose to go (if we have the choice). When I moved to London 8 years ago, I found the strongest sense of belonging because I could make theatre here in a way I never could back home. And that is how London became home, a place and a theatre community that I feel like I belong in.

This last week reminded me more and more that this theatre community still has miles to go in the way of offering meaningful inclusion. It made me angry. It made me angry and then it made me grateful. Angry, because there is so much work to do in order to reach a thriving community which embeds diversity and inclusion in all levels, and grateful for having found places in which people are doing the work – talking the talk and then walking the walk.

I'm single sided deaf, I have been all my life and I naturally rely on lip reading for parts of the time. Last year I started learning BSL and I am now on level 3. For most of my life, I didn’t mention this because as a migrant – you’re already treated differently. I preferred people to think I don’t speak English properly rather than I missed what they said. Not. Sure. Why. So why am I saying this now?

I disclose this now because by doing so I feel like I am enabling the entire Deaf, Neurodiverse and Disabled community as practitioners and as artistic leaders. I personally still have so much to learn, but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with Deaf, Neurodiverse and Disabled practitioners. ‘Not about us without us’ refers to the idea that you can’t make work about this community without members from the community, and it is something that I stand by, together with Althea as a whole.

So, instead of being angry, I’m going to give you a couple of examples to amplify the kind of wonderfully complex representation of the Deaf and Disabled community:

https://deaf-mosaic.com/gallery - a mosaic of the UK Deaf community in photos by Stephen Iliffe

https://www.bslzone.co.uk/watch/getting-personal - presented by Deepa Shastri. I especially recommend the episodes with Paula Garfield and Sophie Stone but all of them really

https://graeae.org/our-work/crips-without-constraints/ - celebrating the incredible talent, creativity and resilience of Deaf and disabled artists, with an exciting new digital programme in three main strands

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000p35p - six powerful, dramatic monologues. Written, directed and performed by disabled people and curated by Mat Fraser

Writing this blog was hard. I prefer to have these conversations in person rather than online. But I couldn’t write about anything else this week, as it was at the front of my mind.

Someday soon, I hope that alongside writing these blogs I can record a BSL version of it myself. I hope Althea’s website will have an Easy Read Version. We are working on it, and we will get there.

Meanwhile, we’re learning. And what a great thing it is, that we can.

All the very best for now friend,

27/11/2020 - Sam

It’s 11pm and my monologue is uploading to Vimeo. I’ve got to be up at 5:45am tomorrow. A large part of me wants to fall into bed. Instead, I’m writing this.

Why? A good question! And exactly what I keep asking myself, as I glance around the kitchen. Like so much of my living space, it is teetering on the edge between eccentric disorder and desperately-needed-tidying-two-weeks-ago. 

The answer, I realise, is that I believe in the value of community. Or perhaps, more honestly, I want to belong. The monologue, the early wake up, and writing this, are all in service to groups, of which I am but a single part. It is the desire to be a fully functional part of these greater wholes, that makes all of this seem worthwhile. 

It was at this point that I went to bed.

So, having established that there is a limit to my commitment to a literary device and to sleep deprivation on behalf of other people, let’s continue in a slightly less grandiose manner. (We’ll see how well I manage that)!

What I think my sleep deprived brain was trying to express, was that I want to be part of something greater than myself. (Failed already). But at a time when it is so much easier to spend time alone, (and to feel alone), the sensation of belonging to a group is incredibly valuable. 

I must confess, sometimes I want nothing more than to be left to my own devices. The energy of others can feel overwhelming and demanding, and yet, I know that they have been going through struggles of their own and have probably found my energy equally out of sync with theirs. Perhaps this is part of the value of community. We all have times of hope and doubt, but, because they so often happen at different times, we can take it in turns to drag each other, grumbling yet grateful, towards a common goal.

I cannot pretend to have always felt enthusiastic about the next task we’ve set ourselves, but, despite my inner grumblings, I’m always grateful in the end. Together we achieve so much more than apart. I know that the only reason I have done anything involving acting since the first lockdown is because of the collective support of every single other person in Althea. My hope is that on my good days I am able to do the same for them.

So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say thank you. Thank you for your grace in accepting me, and each other, as we are on our best days and our worst; for your confidence that we can be more than we are, even when that feels like a very slow process; and for your hope that all is not lost and that tomorrow will bring new opportunities for us to explore. 


20/11/2020 - Lilac

Hello new-old friend,
It’s been a while since I wrote to you. To be honest, it’s been a bit stressful, how has it been for you?

It’s 7.54am and I can hear my cat chewing from the other room. I’m sitting with my laptop in bed trying to write this blog which I was due to send 3 days ago.

Can I tell you something?
About 3 or 4 months ago now, I decided that the wisest action I can take is to apply for all the jobs, all the opportunities, all the commissions. I gave it most of my time and energy and the more I did it, the more I felt like I was writing about someone else. My experience felt so far away from me that it was almost as if I was writing it for a different person. Interesting.

The funny thing about applying for all the jobs is that you can then be rejected by all the jobs. Drive at full speed to a great big wall of No Thank Yous. And you can’t blame anyone else, because you’re the one who’s put the GoogleMaps with the destination (maybe not that specific destination, maybe I was thinking we would end up closer to the Great Gate of Welcomes as opposed to the Great Big Wall of Not This Time). And that’s what it is, isn’t it? Not this time. I sometimes need to remind myself that not this time isn’t – not forever.

Anyway, it crushed me. All these missed opportunities crushed me. And one of the things that truly helped, (as well as copious amounts of coffee, chats with friends, adopting a cat and takeaway food) is the following story from my grandma: she was a student in university and they had a small group sitting in a seminar. On the desk there was a brown A4 envelope. The professor asked them, do you know what this is? They didn’t, so he said: ‘this is a manuscript to a book I wrote and I just got it back from a publishing house with a no, thank you’. Do you know what I’m going to do with it? They didn’t (I suspect this was the point) so he said: ‘I am going to take it out of this envelope, put it in a new envelope, change the title of the book and say I’ve made some improvements and send it to a different publishing house’.

My grandma broke her hip a few months ago. I haven’t been able to fly to visit her. It’s been stressful, have I mentioned that things have been a bit stressful? Maybe more than just a bit?

Through this lockdown we have had to repackage ourselves, give ourselves different titles and keep ourselves afloat. And that’s ok. What am I trying to say?

The reason I’m saying this is that we can no longer settle on fine. No one’s fine – and we need to talk about it. We need to give space for it and to allow it to come out.  

My cat is back now, she’s sleeping on the bed and I think she’s slightly resenting my laptop for being on my lap because that’s usually her place around this time in the morning. It’s 8.21am and I realise that what has helped me all along was that my friends and my collaborators were always there for me to have the conversations – to feel at home. And I do hope, dear new old friend, that you have been feeling more at home with these blogs too. That you have been pouring yourself a cuppa and have been joining us for a chat.

A lot has happened over the past few months since I’ve written to you. Breaking hips. Unexpected passings. Cat cuddles. New vegan sweets to eat. A new folder in my mailbox titled – ‘Thank you, next’. Arts Council Applications written and rewritten. Watching BSLZone and understanding a bit more than I understood before. And through it all, we are here. We are still here, and we will continue to be here.

Until next time friend,

Lilac x
13/11/2020 - Cole

He was just Biden his time.


Nah….this can’t be 2020 surely?

I can’t deal with this positivity; it’s no longer in my nature.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you just don’t care about who’s in charge of the World’s leading Superpower, then I am of course referring to the US presidential election.

Yes, the bigoted narcissistic bellend will not be going to a second term, which hasn’t happened since Jimmy Carter. Imagine being so terrible at your job and disliked by so many that you can’t even beat Joe Biden to the presidency. Even George Bush Jr got a second term, a clear indication of Trump’s ignorance (although arguably Dick Cheney had a great deal to do with that). Not to mention the incredible farce of ‘Four Season’s Gate’; my favourite joke regarding this is as follows – ‘The four seasons garden centre is between a sex shop and a crematorium – stuck between a cock and a charred place.

Anyway you look at this, it’s a huge win for the World. Yes, you can grumble that the US operates on a different political scale to us and that actually the Democrats are centre right anyway and there are still massive systemic inconsistencies when it comes to matters of race, healthcare (no doubt we’ll be selling off bits of the NHS to the US throughout the Biden administration era) and tackling the climate crisis*, but this is a massive leap in the right direction for Western politics. Kamala Harris is the first female, mixed race Vice President; another step closer to routing out an administration dominated by an elitist circle of rich white men.

Althea presents diverse stories from across different cultures in the hope of catching a similar sentiment. There are so many unheard voices in the world that are under represented in our industry, so many ‘other sides’ to the same story that are just not illuminated or addressed. Hopefully the trend of progress, like in the US, continues, and we can broaden and celebrate all walks of life. It will only help to enrich our work further and ensure that all those stories that are often ignored are brought to the fore.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be interested to see how the Biden administration liaises with Brexit Britain and Boris Johnson & his pack of pantomime villains. Perhaps we won’t get as good a trade deal as we would’ve had under Trump, although I’m a million percent certain the World is better off for it. I hope you feel the same. If not, then I’m happy to meet you around Christmas time for some chlorinated meat to discuss UK sovereignty.

All the best,


*speaking of climate change, what is it with plastic packaging that reads ‘not yet recycled’ or ‘check local recycling’? Just because you slap ‘yet’ next to it doesn’t make your poisonous plastic any better, stop trying to schmooze me into believing that you’re actively trying to save the planet when you’re clearly not. Do better please.
06/11/2020 - Tom

The difficult second album

Weird day. Weird week. Weird Year.

Remember when a national lockdown was a once in a lifetime event? It was new and scary and confusing, but also unifying; we had a common enemy and a plan to defeat it. For once, my own patented brand of being a professional actor (sitting at home at 2pm on a Tuesday) actually served a purpose. This time it feels different.

I’m writing this on Bonfire Night. I could have started earlier in the week but I had hoped that the day of lockdown might bring some knowledge with it, some clarity. Or perhaps the ridiculousness across the Atlantic would have resolved itself in some inspirational way. No such luck. Even good ol’ Guy Fawkes hasn’t helped; the DIY fireworks displays are going on all around, but for some reason the idea of setting fire to a makeshift Catholic just isn’t doing it for me this year. Also, leaving things to the last minute is my M.O.

In theatre terms, this is the second night. The second night has a reputation of being… not the best. The adrenaline that you experience on opening night can’t be matched and when the second night comes around and the house is a little less full there’s a danger of allowing the stress of the preceding days – the frantic last rehearsals, tech rehearsals, and dress rehearsals – to finally take their toll on your energy levels. So maybe lockdown 2.0 is like that; a little less novel, a little more weary.

Or maybe this is a sequel. But if it is a sequel which kind will it be? Some sequels are as good as or even better than the first outing: ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘The Godfather part II’, ‘The Rescuers Down Under’. Most, however, don’t live up to their predecessor, and some are so poor they’ll sour you on the original you knew and loved: ‘Go Set a Watchman’, ‘Toy Story 2’, ‘Gone with the Wind 2: Careful, it’s Blowing a Gale out there!’

In theatre it’s a bad idea to try to recreate the previous performance because it just doesn’t work like that and it ends up feeling soulless and synthetic. When it comes to sequels, however, it’s a pretty solid plan. This is the third kind of sequel; one which takes all the best bits of the first and just does them all over again to make a perfectly serviceable part two that people are happy exists. Take the same main character, same plot points, same bad guys, and swap one scary looking heart-of-gold old person for another and you have ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’. It’s exactly the same as the first one and people like it.

So, what should we steal from the first lockdown? I think the kindness and comradery. We all need it but it seems to have been lost somewhere along the way as we’ve tried to get back to normal. Be kind, look after yourself, and reach out if you’re struggling.

Take care,

30/10/2020 - Isabel

Hello Blog Readers,

I was about to say it’s been a while since I last wrote, but it’s actually not that long – seven weeks to be exact. Half a school term, 1.5 months or around 50 days. Obviously, for most of us, time has no meaning anymore - so for you this might have flown by. On the other hand, you might be looking back at early September in confusion and feeling like Autumn 2020 has already been about 400 years long.

So, anyway. What’s new with you?

Last time I wrote, very little was new with me. I’d done all the normal lockdown stuff (Tiger King, baking banana bread, staring endlessly into the void of time) and was wondering where the year had gone and when the hell things would go back to normal. My second blog however has timed itself perfectly with a good ‘what’s new’ answer – I’ve been back in an audition room.*

*(COVID-safe, socially distanced and thoroughly disinfected obviously).

Lilac and I are working towards an R&D of a new play I’ve written, which Arts Council England have kindly funded. A lot of our planning has been virtual, but this week we actually got to meet some actors in person. And read some text. And give notes. And play. After nine or so months of staring at Zoom screens, I don’t think I’d fully prepared myself for the wave of feelings this would bring. And as this blog is all about sharing our thoughts, I wanted to share some of mine.

So here it is: a few thoughts, from my newly minted experience, on how being back in a rehearsal room feels.

You won’t be totally prepared. That’s OK.
Honestly, it’s been months so I thought I’d be raring to go – but it’s alright to have a weird wobble. ‘Can I still do this?,’ ‘Have I forgotten how to do my job after months of lockdown?’, ‘We’re still in a pandemic, is it even sensible to think about the future?’ – all perfectly valid.

It might be more emotionally impactful than you think. That’s OK too.
EVERY emotion was heightened. That felt weird. Someone does a good reading – you burst with pride. Someone brings an edge to a character you weren’t expecting – you’re on the edge of your seat. You see a friend you haven’t worked with since February, and it makes you want to cry. All very normal in a pandemic, as that turns out.

You’ll want to hug everyone.
And obviously you can’t, because SOCIAL DISTANCING. You’ll have to restrain yourself from physically running at people.

You might feel angry.
RETRAIN, Rishi and Boris? Seriously? Have you seen these people? You’ll be totally amazed at what actors can do, and furious that there should be any debate about whether their work counts as a career.

You’ll be TIRED. Really tired.
Big emotions + lots of focus + adjusting to the mechanics of doing your job again = needing a nap as soon as you get home. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.

News about a second wave might hit harder.
I’m writing this just as the news is breaking that the UK might go into a second lockdown. Thanks, Twitter. This week I’ve gone on a rollercoaster between total elation (‘theatre is amazing and IT’S COMING BACK!’) to total anxiety (‘oh no, not again, please no…’)
It might remind you why you’ve chosen this career in the first place.
Lack of self-employment support, no Government plan, a career that’s currently about as stable as the tower in Ker-Plunk… why the hell did we choose to do this again?

Here’s an amazing thing – once we got into reading and playing with scripts in the room, I momentarily forgot about everything going on. Just for a moment, obviously.

But that’s an indicator of what theatre can do. And that’s pretty amazing.

23/10/2020 - Carolina


When I was growing up my dad used to say to us a French saying that goes: “Les plus accommodants ce sont les plus habiles: on hasarde de perdre en voulant trop gagner.”  Which translates to something like: “Those who are the most adaptable are the most skilful: You risk loss in wanting too much gain”. For a weird reason I’ve always thought it was a quote from Napoleon, but I discovered a few years ago, to my relief, that it’s not attributed to the French Emperor, but to his co-national the fabulist and poet from the XVII century Jean de La Fontaine.

A few weeks ago the government re-launched a poster as part of a retraining campaign; where we see the picture of a ballet dancer tying her Pointe shoes with the words:  Fatima’s next job could be in Cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet) and the slogan: Rethink. Reskill. Reboot

When I woke up and saw the poster on someone’s Facebook wall I felt really angry to say the least.  Very easy and insensitive from the part of the government to suggest to us artists that we can forget about our vocation, our passion, and simply retrain in Cyber Security.  Especially now when the Art industry is being neglected and the help from the government is not enough. 

The anger of the artistic community was so strongly felt on social media, that by lunchtime the advert was gone. Even the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden disapproved of it calling it “crass”. The afternoon gave us brilliant memes parodying the poster; I guess that’s what you get if you mess around with creative artists.

But once the issue was calmer I started thinking: What if we really have to retrain? What if the sensible thing to do, the ‘skillful’ thing is to ‘adapt’ in these changing times?  The pandemic doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon, and a lot of theatres may not survive by the time they are able to open at full capacity.  What’s going to happen to all the people that work for the industry and to us actors? Are things going to become tougher than they already were before the pandemic, and acting jobs are going to become scarcer than before? Especially for a foreign actor like myself?

The reality is that big catastrophes in history bring change, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, but always change.  Change in the way we perceive life, the way we live it, and our habits.  The two World Wars brought a lot of hardship, but with men in the battlefield women were incorporated into the work force and, more women than ever before in history became economically independent.  (Earning much less than men then and still now, but that’s another conversation)

What would I do if it wasn’t theatre? I have been doing theatre for 26 years, and working professionally for 17.  Mainly Theatre in front of a living and breathing audience. What would I do instead? I could explore more photography as I’ve always wanted, or I could see myself perhaps working in a gallery?? The sad thing is that all the answers involve the Arts.

As artists we are very good working with what we’ve got. Being inventive, creative and solving problems on the spot. When things don’t go the way we expect them to go during a live performance, (believe me I don’t know where we get it from, and those moments are really scary!) we are able to continue, we “sort it out” because “the show must go on”.  We are undeniably skillful.

We have been embracing change already and adapting as we can. In Althea we have continued to create as a company, despite not being in the same room; we are writing and self-taping monologues for each other and have brain storming sessions for our new project. We probably would have never done things this way if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Around the world Theatre groups are also adapting; presenting their plays online, which gives us the opportunity to watch plays from all over, and even creating new content in order to stream it.

But how much change are we willing to embrace in order to adapt and at the end of the day survive?  (to put it in Darwinian terms)

I can’t picture myself doing anything else, and above all not working in Cyber. But these changing times will require us to adapt. It’s too soon to say how much things are going to change since the pandemic is far from over and we don’t know what will be left of the Theatre Industry at the end. Theatre as an art form will never be over, but a lot of things won’t be the same. These uncertain times raise a lot of questions and maybe we should stay open to change. Because as the saying goes: “Never say never” or as we say in Spanish Nunca digas de esta agua no beberé” (never say from this water I will not drink) 

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

16/10/2020 - Josephine

Unexpected Life Lessons from Brunhilde

I've had Brunhilde (my sourdough starter) for 2 years now. I've never managed to grow and/or keep a living thing alive for that long before. 

It's not a particularly complicated relationship, but we're still figuring each other out. 

Aside from a 6 week 'science experiment' when I left a chunk of her in the fridge unattended just to see if she'd survive whilst I was in Finland (she did, I knew she has hardy) - we've averaged about loaf a week, and I think only one of them was inedible. 

I started because I was curious to see if I could learn to make decent bread. I've ended up learning so much more:
1) It's satisfying getting your hands dirty.
2) Sometimes you follow all the right steps and things just don't work out.
3) Being gentle is as important as being strong.
4) You cannot rush the process. 
5) Sometimes mistakes are happy accidents. 
6) Get curious rather than defensive. It is not personal.
7) Leave it overnight. It'll be different in the morning. 
8) There isn't much that can't be saved by toasting and covering in butter. 
9) Consistency is key. 
10) Some people just don't get it. That's OK.

Josie x
09/10/2020 - Thomas

I’m much more of a jealous person than I let on.

Are you?

As an actor, having envious thoughts about other actors is like forgetting to bring your mask to the supermarket – inevitable.You know you shouldn’t feel that way. You know it isn’t healthy or beneficial or necessary or useful or productive or conducive to creating any sort of positive outlook on your career whatsoever but - God Damn it, that job of yours looks good! Why can’t I have been cast in that? Why was I not even seen for that!? I can do that too! *folds arms, lower lip wobbles, gets beer from fridge*

It’s certainly not helped by IMBD Pro’s literalization of this insecurity in their ‘Star-Meter’, which is the absolute worst - giving you a number corresponding to how your popularity ranks against every other actor ever. Cheers IMDB, nice to know you hold my worth at 9,776,525 below Millie Bobbie Brown, your current number 1. Just love having my job-prospects converted into a laughable number, just top-tier mental-health advocating work their IMBD *chef’s kiss*.

I’m being facetious of course. Well… still fuck IMDB, but it’s obviously silly to let any such thing define you. Unfortunately, however, an actor’s jealousy isn’t always as easily dismissed. The reality is that actors have been negatively comparing themselves to their peers long before social media made it cool – I’m looking at you ‘The social dilemma’. It’s simply intrinsically built into the beating heart of the industry – Surprise, there are too many actors and not enough jobs – Oh, and now Covid has reduced those jobs further – at least Rishi’s got our backs – oh no wait.

But hey, nothing here is news to you eh? Assuming you are a fellow creative? So, it’s at this point I want to pivot towards a more positive take.The thing is you see, us actors are actually incredibly skilled at managing this jealously, particularly when it comes to friendship maintenance. After training, (or however you entered the industry) actors quickly become very familiar with the push and pull between envy and genuine goodwill. Those testing moments are so prevalent and so relentless that most of us become very proficient in recognising how unavoidable yet entirely disposable those jealous feelings are.

The reality is we are caring nurturing souls, we trade in empathy after all. Of course we genuinely wish the best for our peers, so when the green eyed monster shows his head we’ve become very adept at maintaining requisite passive small talk with him instead of letting him fully consume us. Our friendships are way too important to us to let them be tarnished by this bell-end.

So, don’t ever feel bad about having those guilty thoughts. They are inevitable and unavoidable. Instead celebrate the fact that you know how to deal with them. If you simultaneously wish goodwill and also wish you had been cast in that show too, the fact is you still wished goodwill! And that’s what’s important. Chalk it up with all the other remarkable qualities that actors possess along with a thick skin and a passable Christopher Walken Impression.

Thanks for reading,

02/10/2020 - Sam

Do you ever feel irrelevant?

There I’ve said it. Now I’m just going to leave you with that for a sec.

Not out of malice, I should hasten to add, but simply because it’s a rather big question for a Friday morning and it’s probably worth sitting with for a little bit. I’ll admit it’s definitely something I’ve been grappling with for the past six months. Maybe you haven’t and it’s just me, indeed I hope that’s the case, but just in case I’m not alone in this, stay with me. 

Sometimes, and especially over this year, I look at what I do, and the inescapable question seems to be… why? Why do I get dressed up in someone else’s clothes, to say someone else’s words, to someone who is pretending to be someone else yet again, in a place that everyone is pretending is somewhere else entirely? 

Still with me?

It can all feel slightly futile and, dare I say, silly. Particularly, at a time when people’s lives are under threat and there is an ongoing struggle to change systems that threaten the very existence of people simply because of who they are. How can I look at the world and go, “what it really needs is my monologue about the pizza I had last night”? The answer is of course, I can’t! But if that’s the case, then, ridiculous examples aside, do I, as an actor and musician, have anything to offer the world? I’m not sure I have a complete answer yet, but what little I do have can be summed up in one word. Stories.

Well, great, what am I supposed to do with that? What’s so important about stories? 

I would argue that the answer might well be… everything. I don’t think it’s too grandiose a statement to say that humanity runs on stories. From intentional fiction, to national myths, to the daily stories we tell ourselves and others about our lives, they permeate every minute of our day. Allow me one small example to illustrate this. Halfway through lockdown I clocked that I could change my entire mood based on the story I told myself about my day so far. I could either repeat the litany in my head that I was alone and lonely and would continue to be so for who knew how much longer, or I could tell myself that it was sunny, and I was walking through a beautiful park, on my way back to a safe and warm flat, with food which I was lucky enough to have the money to buy. The second I changed the story in my head my mood went from distraught to almost content. Maybe you’re far wiser than me and you’re wondering why it’s taken me this long to figure that out, but for me it was a lightbulb moment. We shape our lives with the stories we tell. Moreover, it hit me this morning, how can I question the importance of storytelling, when Jesus, whom I believe to be God, made them the core of how he taught. Nearly every time someone didn’t understand something, he told them a story. Now at this point, I should make it clear that this is my personal belief and not that of Althea. We are lucky enough to have company members from a wide range of spiritual and non-spiritual backgrounds and I believe that this only makes our storytelling richer. But the universal point is that stories are effective teaching tools. Why? Because they stick; they’re memorable; they make an issue relatable and personal in a way that a bald statement of the facts may not. Stories help us process the world around us and as such every human is a storyteller. As creatives we take that one step further and become intentional storytellers.

So, does that have value? My conclusion has to be, yes, absolutely. But it is also a responsibility. Firstly, knowing that stories have power means that we must take responsibility for the stories we tell. What underlying messages are they conveying to the audience? Does that mean that all creations from now on must be “deep” and “serious” in order to be of value? Absolutely not. Truth can be expressed through comedy, just as much as it can be through tragedy. It simply means that we must be aware of the pre-existing stories woven through our new creations and ensure that they are stories we want to perpetuate. Secondly, as storytellers we must also learn to recognise the stories we’re being told. Through creating stories, we have, hopefully, begun to learn their structure, their tricks, their methods for leading the audience. We must not only be responsible story-tellers, but we must also become responsible story-listeners. We must learn to recognise when a story is being told that is damaging and, perhaps even more importantly, we must spot the stories that have already been told, and may have been told for a long time, which distort our view of other people and bind them into a narrative they did not choose for themselves. 

As a creative our power is twofold. One, our stories influence the world around us, two, we can recognise, and so not be misled by, stories hidden within half-truths. 
So, go forth and create, because stories will change the world.

25/09/2020 - Josephine

It’s taken me 174 days to put my finger on what it is I’m missing. 

This feels like a discovery, so I’d like to share it with you. It may, in time, turn out to be less big than it feels right now. It might turn out to be nothing more than a shift into one of many gears, but here we go…

At first, I thought it was people. The experience of sharing an energetic exchange with someone gives me more than I can explain. FaceTime and Zoom don’t do it for me. I don’t think I’m alone in that.  

Then I thought it was my freedom. The novelty of “use your daily window of allocated Outside Time well” wore thin quite fast. 

Then it was each of my jobs, it was the rehearsal room, going to the pub, it was being anywhere except my flat. 

Eventually, it became distilled into one single thing: 

I miss the hope that comes with possibility. 

I have never wanted a small life. By that I don’t mean I want big, grand and showy. I want expansive experience, and I’ve been so lucky to have had opportunities that have challenged me so much. I’m scared of almost everything, (honestly, I am) but I’ve tried to always force myself to turn towards that because I really believe that simply being afraid of something is not a good enough reason not to try. Good stuff generally lives on the other side of fear. Or if not, a good story for the pub. (I miss the pub).

When the world of the industry we inhabit came to a slow, shuddering and painful halt, so much of that possibility vanished. We can’t get excited about what might happen next week because right now we sort of know what next week looks like. Or, more to the point, we know what it doesn’t look like. 

So, what I’m trying to do (and not often succeeding, but trying) is to frame the uncertainty another way: 

There isn’t far to fall.

It’s a good time to experiment with new ideas, the stakes are low. We know that nothing lasts forever. Nothing. It’s a pretty safe bet to say it won’t always be the way it is now. 

The arts as we knew it is in a bit of a mess, and we don’t know what the future looks like.  But because we don’t know what the future looks like, anything could happen. 

And if anything could happen, we deserve to have hope. 

You deserve to have hope.

Stay hopeful,

Josie x
18/09/2020 - Tom

I propose we make a deal, you and I. A pact that lasts for the duration of you reading this. An entente cordiale between the two of us in which I promise not to mention it and you promise not to think about it. Keep reading if you agree to my terms. Ok. I want to be clear; “it” refers to the C-word. Actually, to be clearer; “it” refers to the C-word that’s not the four-letter C-word, but the C-word which in March became the nailed-on, sure-fire, dead cert to be the OED’s word of the year for 2020. Got it? Good. Now, DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. And why should you? You won’t think about “it” because I haven’t explicitly written about it, and I haven’t written about it because this is a theatre blog after all. Or, at least, this is a blog on the website of a theatre company that hasn’t done theatre since January because of… circumstances beyond our control. Whatever the case, let’s keep this about theatre, shall we?

So. Theatre. Theatre, theatre, theatre. Don’t think about “it”, think about THEATRE.

I did, in fact, see a play not too long ago. Live. With actors. In a theatre – red velvet seats and everything. If this feels like bragging it’s because I absolutely am. Yes, I had to wear a mask, and no, I wasn’t able to completely forget that I was wearing a mask. BUT I was actually there and so actually were they; that alone felt monumental. Then the actors started doing acting – right there, just metres away (at least two) – they were bloody brilliant; one of them was a good friend and he was quite simply the knees of that idiomatic bee. I loved every second. AND I didn’t spend two hours fighting a silent turf war with a stranger over the shared arm rest.

Prior to this, the last time I was in a theatre was the 11th of March, 148 days before. I should mention that I don’t usually go this long between trips to the theatre, but this gap can be explained by… global events. Anyway, on this particular occasion I was in Vigo, in a theatre – red velvet seats and everything. This time, however, I was a cast member performing what had just become the last show of a tour – I forget why, but all of the other scheduled dates had just been cancelled; I’m sure there was some reason. Now, I’d like to tell you that this time also felt monumental; that we were there and the audience was there and it was all amazing but I’m not sure that’s true. While I do think we did a good job, my abiding memory of that performance is feeling distracted. When I should probably have been savouring what I knew – what I had been told – would be my last experience like this for some time, what I actually was doing was thinking things like “the journey to Madrid is going to take at least six hours so I should try and get some food before setting off” or “I’m pretty lucky to have a seat on that flight, but will it be cancelled?” I think this is probably pretty normal – I’ve never heard anyone say that the anticipation of absence makes the heart grow fonder – I didn’t know then what we know now.

There’s a hypothetical future (fingers crossed one with hoverboards and self-lacing shoes) when “it” doesn’t have the stranglehold that it has now; when the “new normal” has become the old normal, when the old normal will be the current normal again,  when things that are weirdly normal now will feel abnormal, and when ‘Normal People’ will have a second series (although, what are they even going to do with that? Hasn’t the whole story been told?). Basically, there may come a time when we can go to the theatre again and make theatre again, and a little further down the road it might even stop being unusual, but I hope it doesn’t stop feeling special. All of us – whether you’re a theatre goer, you’re a theatre maker, or you’re theatre unsubscribed – are now part of what will hopefully be a unique generation. Maybe you wanted to run 26.2 miles on a hot Sunday in April or watch England win Euro 2020. Maybe you had a holiday booked or you were going to be married. Maybe you wanted to go to a restaurant, not queue for the supermarket, see your friends, your family, touch another human being, say goodbye to a loved one. We’ve all missed out on so much and continue to. For me, the big two have been my job and hugs. I was always a bit of a reluctant hugger before, but I think I’m converted now. I’m not saying I’ll never again take these things for granted, but now I will know – we all will – we’ll know what it was like to not be allowed, to not be able. I think that’s valuable.

So how did you get on? I’m pretty proud of myself for not writing about “it”.

See ya,

11/09/2020 - Isabel

Autumn has always been my favourite season. I think it’s a combination of things: the colours, the weather, and the calendar of events (Halloween! Bonfire Night!) which means there’s always something to look forward to. I love crunchy leaves, fireworks, frost, knitwear and being able to justify any alcoholic beverage by heating it up with some spices and calling it ‘mulled’. And, there’s always a sense of promise too: maybe it’s the fact we grow up with Autumn bringing in a new school year, but it always feels to me like anything could happen next.

We’ve found ourselves in the autumn of 2020 seemingly overnight, and, although seeing the leaves change is giving me a familiar sense of excitement, it’s hard not to feel sad this year too. It feels like we’ve missed so much - I can’t really get my head around it being September when it was April barely yesterday. Where did the summer go? How am I suddenly 30? Remember when we thought life would be a bit more normal by Christmas?

At the start of the year, myself and Lilac had two theatre projects on the go – my play Heroes completed a work in progress run at VAULT Festival, co-produced by Althea, and we were gearing up to an industry reading of my new play Kaleidoscopes at the Criterion in April. When everything went into lockdown, it was like someone hit pause on 2020: not just on our creative projects, but on life too.

This year, it’s hard not to feel an ongoing sense of grief - not just for missed seasons, but for missed seasons of things. For many of us who work in theatre – onstage, offstage or backstage – our months tick past with a series of unchangeable milestones. VAULT and Edinburgh previews in the spring, festivals and Edinburgh in the summer, new seasons and tours in the autumn and Christmas runs or panto in the winter. The world has been disrupted twice – on a global level, where life has changed, but also on an industry one, where the people and events that shape our existence have disappeared. Three weeks after Heroes ended, VAULT Festival shut early. In April, Edinburgh Fringe announced that it wouldn’t be going ahead in 2020 for the first time in its 70+ year history. One by one as the weeks and months ticked past, Christmas projects and pantomimes begun to cancel.
Winter, or at least the bit after New Year, is my least favourite season. The magical rush of Halloween into Bonfire Night into Christmas into New Year passes, and we’re left with two or three months of general greyness and sludge. We’re back at work, but the party is over and the festive season has drained both our livers’ capability to process huge amounts of beer/novelty flavoured crisps and our bank accounts.

Now, as the weather gets colder and we hurtle towards the end of the year, theatre is still facing an uncertain future. Wave after wave of redundancies and cancelled projects mean I’m finding it hard to balance the protection of my mental health with the importance of tuning into industry news. We’ve gone through the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression – but we’re a long way from acceptance while so many of us (and our colleagues) don’t know where we’ll go from here.

How do we move forward? As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, there is something comforting about knowing that a winter is always followed by a spring. The New Year is also often a time for making resolutions and changes as we battle the mundanity and the cold. We think of our next projects. We commit to spending more time with people who make us feel wonderful. We sow seeds knowing that even if we can’t see them yet, flowers will grow.

Admittedly, 2020 is not the easiest time to remember this. We’re mourning the loss of the past months, grappling with an uncertain and changing present, and also trying to get our heads round an uncertain future. Will we make work again? When? Will our careers survive this? Will anyone’s? 

But while this Autumn might not guarantee big crowds at Bonfire Night, house parties at Halloween or a festive season where we can see and hug everyone we’ve missed this year, I’m still taking a cue from my favourite season. I am holding my hands around the little sense of promise that it brings and clinging to the hope that the sun has to come out sometime, even after the bleakest of winters. Throughout lockdown, we at Althea have still managed to come up with ideas: whether that’s making plans for future shows over Zoom, working out ways to support each other as people as well as artists, and even creating actual theatre (online) with our virtual Chumologues sessions. I can’t tell you what will happen next, but I do know we’re facing it together – both as a company and as individuals in a huge network of people in an industry we all love and want to protect. And there’s something magic about that.

Take care,

04/09/2020 - Thomas

How is it already September? For a year that bottlenecked very suddenly in March, we now seem to be accelerating at a breakneck pace towards 2021, which is a shame because it doesn’t seem like January the 1st will be the instant cure to Covid many memes suggest it will be.

So, since time is simultaneously in stand-still and drastic free fall, shouldn’t we try shake off this ‘Groundhog Day’ mentality and accept that this ‘garbage truck on fire’ of a year isn’t slowing down for anyone. We’ll likely be hearing ‘All I Want for Christmas’ before we’ve even bought a pumpkin.

2020 will be over and what will we have to show for it?

If, like myself, you’re a freelancer in the creative arts, perhaps this feels familiar – the contestant nagging thoughts – “You’re not doing enough”, “You hardly did anything today, you could have done more”, “When are you going to some work that goes towards your actual job – being an actor – right now you’re watching the 3rd YouTube review on some retro video game you have no intention or means of getting so why aren’t you applying to get a new agent – which you actually need – Tom – Sort – Your – Life – Out.”

You know, those sorts of thoughts, right?

And even though Covid is a great leveller (in some respects) i.e. I’m not getting work but neither is David Tennant - those nagging thoughts of unproductivity are still very much part of our lives and, in some cases, exacerbated by the current pandemic.

For anyone reading this who recognises themselves and is thinking ‘Oh my God we’ve only got three months left of the year!’ all I can offer is some solace in the knowledge that myself and, I assume, many others are feeling the exact same thing.

Perhaps these three things might help too, they seem to help me at least.

1 – Be realistic – Don’t overload you day with everything you want to get done. Completing one set job feels much better than only completing one of five.

2 – Little and often – I’m lucky enough be a member of Althea, and between meetings here and there and some self-tape experiments we are gradually moving the needle towards our next show. It’s not a big snowball just yet and Covid has undoubtedly hampered proceedings but slow progress is still progress and, you know what, it feels great knowing we’re mobile instead of stagnant. Similarly, for my own actor-y work, my progress feels like wading through treacle but at least I’m wading right?

3 – Don’t get too hung up on ‘Motivation Porn’ – Now this might be my own personal experience and perhaps things like this work for you – in which case ignore this, but any time I watch a video about some established actor or some leading figurehead in a particular field of expertise talk about how they ‘never gave in’, ‘would wake up early every morning and grind’ or ‘make hundreds of attempts until they finally got that meeting/audition’ it actually has the counter effect on myself in that it makes me feel deeply inadequate. I want to be enthused but I’m often watching it while still in bed eating a Snickers so I’ve realised, at least for me, it’s better to just ignore it. If it doesn’t actually motivate you, leave it, but if it does, well, go and fill your boots with the many ‘inspirational’ Honorary Degree Speeches out there.

Anyway, I doubt I’m mentioning anything you’ve not considered yourself before but I often find it useful to be reminded of things I already know in order to help re-enthuse myself, even if it just helps to organise a single day.

So, in a nutshell - keep going, as long as you’re moving, however slow, it’s still good, ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ and all that stuff right? You’ll get what you’re after, just probably not today… but maybe by 2021 when everyone receives their New Year’s Day vaccine, who knows?

Thanks for reading,

28/08/2020 - Carolina

So Far So Close

I can’t believe almost half a year has gone by since we went into lockdown. It was March and cold outside and now summer is almost over.  Days, and weeks, and months go by as if we were in a Chekhov play. Days seemed to all merge into one with the little daily routines, but even though it seems not much happens, a lot of things have gone by internally and everywhere in the world.

We all have been affected by the Pandemic and the lockdown. We still are. During this time, I have had the opportunity to reflect, fear, re-discover, re-value and appreciate little things in life.

I would have never imagined a year ago that being able to buy eggs, after they have been out of stock for weeks, would give me so much joy!  Joy and sense of appreciation for eggs, flour, rice and everything we eat after witnessing empty shelves.

I even ventured into baking bread for the first time, once I was able to get my hands on yeast; and I also managed to make Marry Berry’s scones improvising a rolling pin with an empty bottle of wine, since they were a few of those lying around.

There has also been time to cry, and longing to be with my family that is more than 5,000 miles away. Learn to cope with the frustration due to the impossibility to get on a plane and travel to Colombia since the airport is still closed.

Planning has become tricky and we have to be In The Moment now more than ever. We won’t be able to celebrate with Dad his 80th Birthday next month, so we will have to live with yet another Zoom meeting, to feel a bit close despite being so far.

With the Pandemic many latent problems of the world have come to the surface: Inequality, poverty, racism and corruption to name a few. The crisis has made evident the ability of those in power to show us how disconnected they are from the people they in theory represent.  We have seen the pattern repeat in different countries.  To prevent the spread of the Coronavirus They created many rules, sometimes confusing and incongruent rules, but nonetheless rules that We follow, because We want the wider good. But these rules seem to be created by Them for Us to follow. They can do as They please, because They have the power, right? And if They get caught Infraganti, most of them don’t even bother to apologize.

Apart from the obvious fear of loved ones contracting the virus and the fear of an uncertain future for the theatre industry of the world, there is also the fear of unemployment, poverty and hunger in many countries, but specially in developing ones like Colombia, where 46% of the economy is informal. Which means almost half of the population has to go out day by day in order to secure that daily meal, Covid-19 or not.

The Lockdown has also been used to exacerbate the violence in regions of Colombia where the government is not present.  43 Massacres have been committed in 2020 so far, and no one has yet been made accountable.

Not all has been doom and gloom. There has been time to be creative and feel inspired. Dancing in the living room by myself for more than an hour. Making the most of the online subscription to MasterClass and watching lessons by Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, and David Mamet. Or re-discovering the challenging pleasure of writing, by writing monologues for other members of Althea and experimenting by self-taping and editing the ones that I’ve been assigned.

Getting excited, dreaming and narrowing down ideas for our next show. Hoping to be able to get into a room sometime soon, and do what we miss the most: playing, exploring and creating stories and ways to tell those stories.

Nobody knows what the future holds or when the Pandemic will be over, but we can only keep reflecting, dancing, cooking, eating, Zooming and dreaming until we can all be together safely breathing in the same space, sharing stories with an audience.

Take care,

21/08/2020 - Cole

Society’s Mask

Morning potential readers, I hope this finds you well and you don’t take offence to the ranting spiel that is about to unfold. 
I saw a video of a man in Ireland spouting drivel to a journalist about the use of Masks during this Epidemic and I felt compelled to base my Blog entry around the idea of ‘the Mask’ and Identity.

What is most concerning about this gentlemen is that he is clearly a very well educated person and a concise orator when it comes to his argument, however much he completely ignores the case statistics when it comes to Covid-19.  Choosing instead to focus on the idea that ‘The Mask’ seems to take some part of your identity, that you lose an aspect of your personality because your nose and mouth are concealed.

Even if this is the case, do you want to know what I believe is worse than losing your identity?

Losing your life. Where theoretically your identity then ceases to exist also.

It made me draw comparison with the use of Mask in Theatre. Indeed if we take Ancient Greece as an example their use of the Mask as a device was to expand and represent other personalities, identities, and characters, not to inhibit or quash them entirely.  The Actors of the time were very much limited to convention, so the Mask device actually allowed them to expand and impersonate several characters throughout.

Cut to today and I see many people wearing all sorts of different colourful masks that they have fashioned themselves and it makes me think we can still cover half our face, abiding by Covid guidelines and still denote a sense of creativity and personality. 

What worries me more about this pandemic that these Anti-Maskers, Anti Vaxxers and Anti-Protesters seem to be ignoring and are probably ironically ‘masking’, is the considerable lack of holding our Government to account for failing to protect our Society through this pandemic. One needs to take one look at New Zealand just to see how a proper lockdown can be established and be successful. A week earlier into lockdown would’ve saved thousands and Masks from the outset Thousands also. However as always with this type of Government the Economy will always take precedent over Human lives.

It made me think of the types of Masks that don’t physically exist but are still present. The Mask of our Prime Minister or the US President and the role that they are playing in this stage show (shit show?) we call 2020. There’s a clear difference in my mind between the Physical Masks we wear to stop the spread of deadly virus and the deceptive Masks our leaders wear to spin their own agendas.

Perhaps instead of trying to vilify those who wear Masks to stop the spread of a Global pandemic, labelling them as robotic conformists, we should be looking towards the Masked Villains in Parliament that care more about lining their pockets out of a pandemic than saving Human lives and by extension our Identities.

Anyway, ranting spiel over. I hope you made it this far and perhaps Althea can employ some Mask work into some of their future endeavours. Watch this space.

14/08/2020 - Lilac

I hope it’s ok for me to write to you as if you’re an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a while. And we’re meeting for a cup of tea or a glass of wine. And we might look a bit more weary than before or a bit more fragile, but that’s ok. For today, we are who we are.

Lockdown, I suppose, has brought up very strongly for me the question of who I am as a person, as a theatre maker and as the artistic director of Althea Theatre. We created the ensemble six years ago to bring together the voices of British and international artists working together on our first project, One Last Thing (For Now). But who are we today?

Over the last six years we have travelled around the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North America and shared our work with different audiences. So what are we meant to do with this peculiar and sad time in which we cannot physically build these bridges? How do we still make sure we have conversations about belonging and our experience of home?

Well, I suppose that this is why we started this series of blogs. To continue the conversation and to hold space together. We recognise that this space that we hold might not necessarily be a place to talk about theatre. And that’s ok. Some days it’s hard to talk about theatre when there is so much loss and uncertainty around. In our Zoom company meetings, we always check in and start by asking:

So what’s our relationship with theatre today? How do we feel about it?

And whatever comes up – is ok. So, for today, my relationship with theatre is quite transactional because a lot of what I’m doing has to do with applications and forms. Which is quite logistical and an art form in itself. And I do miss being in a room and making work. During lockdown, one of our creative tasks was writing short monologues for our fellow ensemble members and recording them. We also started playing D&D. We have been thinking and reflecting and imagining what our next few years could look like.

If there are just a few things I could recommend and which helped me throughout this time, they would be:

-Chat to someone you admire. Whether you know them yet or not, inspire yourself by having a conversation with a theatre maker whose influenced you (it might take them a while to reply but it would totally be worth the wait)

-Eat your favourite food, which for me is Chinese food. It lifts my spirit and keeps me in the moment.

-For 5 weeks now, I’ve had a daily reminder at 10pm to write 3 things that went well and why. It really made a difference. Find one moment each day to be present and grateful for what you have. Savour what goes well.

-Allow for your expectations of yourself and your to do lists to be flexible. Instead of saying, this is what I must do, say – this is what I want to consider doing. And if it takes a bit longer – then it takes a bit longer. Not everything can happen today.

-Have patience. It took me two more weeks to write this blog than we planned and the only thing that matters is that we did it. A bit later but we’re here, and for all intents and purpose, it’s just the right time.

As of today, I am continuing my campaign encouraging individual to apply for Arts Council England (APPLY FOR ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND!). They are offering grants for various developmental projects and it’s their way to maintain a freelance community on the other side of this crisis. If you’re thinking about applying and are not sure – look on their website, here is the link: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/projectgrants

Finally, my new-old friend, I just want to tell you that it’s lovely to share this online space with you. You are not alone and there isn’t a right way to handle this situation. I am sending you my best thoughts and a spiritual Oreo (which I have finally managed to buy from the shop after nearly 4 months). If you enjoyed reading this, please do come back in a week’s time for our next blog. We would also love to hear from you. Tell us how you’re doing, tell us about your work, tell us what your favourite food is or what you've found helpful in this time. You can even send a thumbs up and a smiley emoji. Whatever you do, help us continue the conversation.

Take care and speak soon,