When lockdown began I was working on a few different projects. I was a stage manager at The Murdér Express (Created by Funicular Productions) - an immersive dining experience. As news of the pandemic hit we lost more and more pre-booked audience members until the show was put on hold around a week or so before lockdown started. I lost a large source of income immediately with all future shows cancelled. Additionally in the first few weeks of Lockdown two other large projects were put on hold (one eventually cancelled completely) – I was to work as an assistant stage manager on one and as a costume designer and wardrobe supervisor on the other. There was a lot of personal stress and anxiety both with jobs being cancelled and with waiting in an indefinite limbo to get work to start up again. I have depression and found it really difficult to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the theatre industry.
I needed to continue working and searched for key worker roles so I could do something helpful at the same time. I spend between 8-12 hours doing final assembly and testing on ventilators. It’s a lot of concentration on a repetitive task. Shifts range from starting at 6:30am to 10.30pm. I am one in a line of workers - we all complete separate tasks to finish the ventilators. I’m doing small fiddly tasks and in this regard it is similar to prop making, but otherwise testing and building machinery like this is completely new to me.
It is satisfying to know that I am building machines that will save people’s lives. However the work is repetitive and can be very arduous. On a day to day basis it can be really draining. Additionally shift work is something I’m not used to – neither is waking up at 4am – so that can be pretty challenging. I’m working nearly 6 days a week every week and I’m tired all the time.