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Disney’s Frozen

Robert Connick, Puppeteer, Disney’s Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

What was your journey like from theatres closing to reopening again? 

I mean, as happened with everyone, obviously there was nothing for a very long time. And I was I suppose, stuck indoors for seven months. I mean, it was hard because theatre was, is and has always been, my creative outlet for working and stuff and seeing people. And I kind of thrive off that. And so that was really difficult for me. But, we made it and we’re back in here now and I was lucky that I’ve sort of been working since, probably September last year, solidly. And even luckier, I got the opportunity and was given the opportunity to work on Frozen. And I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a freelance, propping for a long, long time that I’ve never actually worked on a show. Normally we make props, work up until press night, opening night, and then move on.  

So yeah, really amazing to be like in a theatre with a group of people. Because the process of making theatre is very intense – long hours, long days – you create a really nice like family unit. And I think since, because of everything that’s gone on with lockdowns, people are just happy to be back. They’re so excited and so there’s no drama, everyone is happy to be back. Everyone wants to be back and see people again and be around people. So, it’s been a really lovely process and everything so sweet and kind. 

Yeah, that kind of goes into my next question, which is how does it feel being back in theatre and theatre being back altogether? 

I’m yeah, same again. I mean, it’s… It’s really fantastic. Like it, it’s just yeah, it’s nice to kind of be part of a team again and make work and sort of make magic. Yeah, it’s great. I mean, though we don’t sort of see much, being backstage at the show, like we obviously get glimpses. But we’re still… we’re like six weeks into the show and there’s parts of it I’ve still not seen, but just to hear the reaction from the audience and at the end. I mean, it’s sort of, I know it sounds like cliche and a bit soppy, but it makes it all worthwhile. And I think for a really long time, even just backstage whenever it ended and you’d hear the raucous applause. I used to get a little wet eyed and that’s yeah, it’s just great. 

And is there anything in particular that you really missed about live theatre during the pandemic? 

I mean for me, for me it was the making. For me, it was making. It was using my hands and creating things that would be on stage. But then, it’s also just that whole thing being around people again, like I really missed that. And yeah, just sort of being able to share in that experience with other people and have a laugh. And that’s what, to me, what it’s all about. We’re doing a slightly bonkers thing that not that many people get to do and it’s nice to be able to share that with other people.  

Shaun Lati, Puppeteer, Disney’s Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

What has the journey been like to getting back to the theatre reopening? 

Just sort of… I mean, during lockdown, I was probably at the lowest point I’ve ever been. I thought I was never going back into the industry. I thought it was finished. So, I was working full time in a secondary school, and I thought that’s what my life was going to be. And very unexpectedly, the job came up, and here I am.  

And what’s it like to be back? 

It feels really great, I think. I definitely appreciate it far more than I ever did before, I think. I’ve really realised how important it is in everyone’s life to have the arts to have entertainment to be together. I think I really value how important that is. And it’s been great to be back to work. It’s been a relief if I’m honest, because I didn’t think it would happen. 

And what was the thing that you missed the most about their theatre? 

Oh, that’s a that’s a very good question. I think for me, because as well as obviously working in theatre, I’m a theatregoer. I like seeing things and, you know, seeing new things and seeing how potentially the same stories have been reinterpreted differently and things like that. To see how far people can push the boundaries on stage. Yeah, that’s something I’ve really missed. 

Stephanie McKeon, Anna, Disney’s Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Can you talk me through your journey of from when the theatre closed until it reopened? 

Gosh well, that feels like a long time now. But so, I was… I had actually just gotten the part in Frozen and I’ve been over to New York and met with Disney and everything. So, I came back with such a high and I guess I was getting ready to start rehearsals in a few months. But then I got back from New York in like mid-February and then I guess it was just March when everything went, you know, crazy. So yeah, so I was sort of like thinking this is going to be a couple of weeks, a couple of months, surely this won’t affect our show because we still have a few months to go. So yeah, I went from sort of being on Cloud 9, you know, bagging the best job of my career so far, to wondering if and when and how it was ever going to happen. 

And how does it feel now you’re open? 

I mean amazing like in a way it feels like we were never gone, but I think… I mean, I know I do. I think we all just appreciate it so much more. Because it’s just something… like it’s been really cathartic being in a, you know, beautiful and newly renovated, amazing theatre; Theatre Royal Drury Lane. With a full, full audience. And I think it’s as cathartic for us as it is for them, just to be sort of back in that setting together. Just enjoying a live experience together. And so, it’s just thrilling and every night we just have such amazing, amazing houses. So, it’s like we’re living the dream, really. 

Love it. And what did you miss the most about performing? 

I think I missed like, the community of theatre. I think I just missed… You know, it’s not really performing, but I guess just coming into the building every day and, you see, you know, you see people in a show and backstage and your wiggies and the sound team and everything more than you see your own family. And I think I just missed that sort of like, community that we have. And turning up every day and just being, every day being like slightly different, and who’s on today and who’s off today. And, you know, just sort of… Every show feels a little bit different every night, even though it’s the same material you’re doing over and over again. And I just missed that sort of, kind of, wonder everyday of what was going to… you know, what was going to wait for us when the curtain went up and the curtain came down. And just that, sort of, it’s just such a thrilling job. So yeah, I missed the people. I missed the people more than anything. 

Obioma Ugoala, Kristoff, Disney’s Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

What has the journey been like for you in getting back to theatres reopening? 

It’s been… Yeah, it’s been a long one. I was first cast in the show in August 2019 and it was two years later and so we had our first performance. So, it’s been really quite a journey and took from sort of finding out that you had the roll to actually being able to perform it in front of a live audience. 

How does it feel to be back on stage again?

So yeah, I think the pandemic will really give us time to pause and think about things. One instance is the, sort of the protests of June 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement and how wide-reaching some inequalities are. And I think there’s a part of me that hopes that actually, getting back to normal entails getting back to what a new normal is and sort of redefining what our expectations are for a more equitable, inclusive theatre tapestry. 

And what did you miss the most about live theatre? 

I think just breathing the same air as an audience and having a live reaction that you can experience with them together, and not feel that you’re… Yeah, sharing that, sharing a moment together that can only happen that night, so that if someone was in on that one performance, they can, you know they, you’ve shared that thing that happened on that night. More so than anything that in TV or radio that can be edited. This is something that happens that is live and unique and transient. 

What is it that you enjoy the most about working in theatre?

I think… For a lot of artists who are in theatre, it’s the collaboration. If I don’t have an entire team that I’m working with, then I’m just shouting in the dark to nobody. So, from lighting technicians, to front of house, to the audience members. It is… all of them make it the experience that it is. It’s not about me, it’s about all of us coming together.