“The show must go on…”
Seem familiar? It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot over the past year, whether that’s in relation to the effects the pandemic has had on businesses worldwide, or referencing the fantastic campaign surrounding London theatres and their return. I certainly know we’ve said it a lot over the last couple of months as we continue to navigate the impact that Covid has had on our business, and on those of our clients.
But as I sit here writing this, that phrase couldn’t be any more topical. I’m currently sat on the sofa with my knee in a brace, having dislocated my kneecap a couple of nights ago at a tech rehearsal. As well as running Colour;Noun, I’m also an actor, currently rehearsing and running two shows (one local, one for a regional festival). As you can imagine, dislocating one’s kneecap is not the way to make either of these things a success.
People have been banging on about “resilience” over the past year as if it’s some magical blanket solution that you should possess in order to make your life easier in times of stress or change. “You have to be resilient”, they say, “just be resilient”. But what does that even mean?!
Maybe “the show must go on” would be a better summary. It’s engrained in anyone with a performance background and is not only the acceptance of the situation you’re in, but the determination to find a way through it or around it and give everything your all regardless.
So, with that in mind, here’s a couple of thoughts on “resilience” from someone with their knee in a brace and two shows to do…
Focus on what's possible
This one’s been obvious for me over the last few days, as I work out what is and isn’t physically possible. What can you actually do? Work out where your priorities lie.
For me, it’s:
Making those my priorities has been a bit like the excellent “Will it make the boat go faster?” mantra – if it’s not contributing to the overall goal, don’t do it. (Sadly, my overwhelming desire for a glass of wine does not fit into this plan, as I am taking codeine.)
This also means you have to stop worrying about the things you can’t change and focus on the ones you can. A hard one for me, whose mind likes to run away with itself and feel guilty, but it’s been a surprising moment of clarity for me to realise that if I physically can’t do a show, it then won’t be my problem. The show will go on without me.
Of course, from a business perspective, “what’s possible” has been a main theme, as so many industries have been restricted by what is and isn’t allowed in government guidance.
Embrace the small wins
Leading on from focusing on what’s possible, embrace the steps forward – no matter how small. (Easier said than done, I know, but “positive mental attitude” and all that, right?)
My steps have certainly been very small. The first day I couldn’t walk out of A&E by myself or fit the brace into the car! Then it was getting up and down the stairs. Then it was getting to the toilet…or even trying to shower… I’ve been measuring my progress by how long it’s taken me to get out of bed in the morning and walk to the bathroom – I am pleased to report it no longer results in an agonising, embarrassing meltdown and I can actually get there.
We’ve had to remember that every step forward that we’ve taken as a business in the last year has been a small win, no matter how bleak and hopeless the landscape has looked at times. Whether that was winning our first virtual events, briefly returning to face-to-face work back in September or booking our first live events in again this year, anything has been welcomed with a “phew!”
Hopefully the further unlocking and return of the live events industry to full throttle will be a stride forward that we’ve all needed…
Adapt and overcome
We're faced with change every day, and I think we forget just how many times we adapt without thinking about it – taking a different route to work, adjusting a meeting time because someone has to leave early, or substituting another ingredient in your dinner.
Anyone in the events industry right now will be incredibly familiar with adapting their products, services and offerings to fit with changing guidance, regulations and hesitation from clients – changing from face-to-face to virtual, hybrid and then back again (!), limiting numbers, incorporating distancing, increased hygiene procedures and longer risk assessments than ever before…
Similarly, anyone in the performance world has faced the same challenges, and despite the devastating effect the pandemic has had on so many, the community has largely remained strong, produced new and innovative pieces of theatre, delivered in different ways (filmed performances, Zoom performances, worldwide collaborations, audio plays, radio plays, the list is endless) …all whilst waiting in the wings for live theatre to return.
I’ve not done anything anywhere near as grand, but modifications have been made. I’ve switched my in-person rehearsals for being dialled in on Zoom (not quite the same, but the only real option available!) and in my already-running show we’ve adapted my role to include a handy cane, taken out any “risky” movement and my brace conveniently fits under my costume!
Seek support when you need it
Where would we be without the support of other people? My answer to that question is…still in bed. Without someone helping me over the last few days, I would have been akin to a beached whale.
I joke, but it is true. Other people’s help has been invaluable over the last few days. Whether that’s the wonderful team at the theatre who were able to pull me off the floor and ice my knee until I could get to the hospital, the radiographer who helped me hobble to my x-ray or my parents sending me “get well soon” biscuits in the post, it’s made things much more bearable.
We all need allies on our journey. Seeking solace in a supportive network of people is intrinsic to who we are as humans. We’re not always perfect, but the right people are always there when you need them, in business, communities, industries and even online.
What's this "resilience" then?
With “resilience” being one of the top buzzwords of 2020, I did actually go and look it up. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc.”
So that’s what it actually “means”, but what does it mean for you? If anything, “resilience” is deeply personal, and SPOILER ALERT: we all deal with things in different ways. I’ve found solace in theatre metaphors, funny pets, and supportive people, but they’ve not always been able to pull me out of the darkness. It takes time.
For more resilience tips, I came across this Spotlight article with Dr Jane Oakland on practising resilience in the acting industry – with most equally applicable for those in any profession.
Right. I’m back to rehearsals, resting my knee, and thinking about the practicalities of an activity we’re designing for a team day in September.
As the incomparable Freddie Mercury would say: “I’ll face it with a grin, I’m never giving in, on with the show…”