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Harold Pinter Theatre

Mika Onyx Johnson, Associate Artist, Jamie Lloyd Company, Harold Pinter Theatre

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

For me personally, it’s been… I felt a sense of relief, but also you know feeling nervous because we haven’t been in theatres for so long. We’re still in a pandemic. And there’s this feeling of wanting to like experience all this joy, but also still worrying about people’s safety. But I think it’s a great time to sort of be creative and share work with people. 

What was the thing that you missed the most about live productions when it was peak pandemic? 

I think the feeling, like as a performer and as an audience member. I don’t think there’s anything like it, being in a theatre and taking up space and feeling energy. And leaving the theatre feeling changed when you leave a certain show. That’s what I missed. 

And what was it that drew you to theatre in the first place? 

I think what drew me to it was, it was a space for me to be myself and express myself in ways that I maybe didn’t feel like I could do in my everyday life. I started doing theatre when I was about 16, 17, so yeah, it gave me a space to express myself. 

Jamie Lloyd, Director, Associate Artist, Jamie Lloyd Company, Harold Pinter Theatre

Tell me a little bit about what it was that drew you into theatre? 

I mean, I never went to theatre when I was a kid. I didn’t go to theatre until I was a lot older, but I used to take part in stuff you know, like drama clubs and things like that. So it was through participation. It was like through stuff with like local community and things like that that it happened. I didn’t even know that you could even have a career in the theatre really.  

But we were a very… there’s a lot of entertainment in my family. So, my mum used to be a dancer in a holiday camp, like a kind of caravan camp, and my stepdad was a children’s entertainer called Uncle Funny. And he used to keep dwarf rabbits in the living room and they used to like s**t all over the carpet. And for a time, my mum ran a fancy dress shop and we lived in the flat above the fancy dress shop and we had a lot of characters come to visit, come to stay. We had an au pair at one point who was a snake charmer, so I used to play with that play with the snakes in the paddling pool in the backyard. Like so, you couldn’t really script it in a way. It was a very bizarre childhood and so I suppose it was inevitable that I found some kind of path in the in the industry. 

What has it been like from everything closing to theatres reopening? 

Well we were, with the company, we were in previews. We hadn’t even got to opening night of The Seagull, the play that we were doing with Emilia Clarke. So, we did the whole rehearsal period with the previews and then we obviously had to shut down, so it was a very odd experience. But we’ve just announced that we’re coming back and it will be about two and a half years later, when we actually get to it. So it will all be different people, it’ll be a different production, I’m sure. And maybe even different people in the room. So, we’ll see how that goes, but I’m genuinely really excited about it. 

What was the thing that you missed the most about theatre and live performance, where things were closed? 

I think ultimately, theatre is such a force for good. You know, like I think we’ve learned in the pandemic, haven’t we, not to be self-centred. And we’ve got to think about other people. We’ve got to help, be more compassionate, be more understanding of other people and other people’s opinions. I sort of feel like it’s best, theatre really is that. It’s about a group of people coming together as a community, from all walks of life, all different ages, all different ways of living in the world, forming a new community to create something exciting and really connect into another group of people out there in the audience. 

So I’m just very excited to reconnect to the audience, because that’s the thing that I’ve missed most. 

So I think learning something about each other, learning something about ourselves and what makes us tick. And then connecting you know, a generational muddle in that theatre, kind of coming together. There’s nothing better. It is literally a force for good, I think. 

Nima Taleghani, Associate Artist, Jamie Lloyd Company, Harold Pinter Theatre

What has it been like; the journey between the pandemic and now seeing things reopening? 

Personally, for me personally, it’s been like… artistically and creatively has been incredible because I’ve had time to really dig in and focus on the things I’ve always wanted to do. And to not get lost in the momentum and the pressure to keep producing work and to almost climb up a ladder. So, it’s been amazing. I’ve been able to do writing, I’m starting to set up my own company for my facilitation work. I’m working with loads of youngsters and older people and just trying to level out the playing field. So, doing a lot more stuff, to fulfil what I believe is my purpose and not just performing. But I’m looking forward to Showtime! 

And how does it feel now that things are reopening again? How does it feel to be back at work? 

It feels good. I mean, I felt like I was always working. But it feels exciting to be back at work in a way that I remember work. But with the newfound knowledge and gratitude that I have for it, and with the newfound energy that I have to really change things. And to level out the playing field, properly. 

And what was it that you missed the most about live performances? 

I missed seeing people happy and enjoying themselves onstage. There’s an incredible thing where you see someone who’s flexing and is really loving what they’re doing and getting live feedback. And I miss seeing that happiness and sort of twinkle in people’s eyes when they’re doing that and knowing they’re rocking it, you know?