22 April 2020

A cure for cabin fever

Are you feeling lonely, or that your social life has been derailed? Now is the time to turn to the arts and use technology for creativity, writes Alumni Drama Club member and UEA graduate Amy Bonar. 

Woman holding up phone


These are strange times we’re living in. It seems in the space of a month that any sense of normality has been abandoned. Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty prevail, and we can now safely say that cabin fever is kicking in.  

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the worst, but it’s also brought out the best of our society. We’ve seen the heroism of key workers out on the front line, the goodwill of neighbours and a whole host of communities connecting in innovative ways that only a month ago may have seemed unfathomable. Wanting to feel a part of a community is what makes us human.  

One of the ways that I’ve been able to find solace and stay sane is through the arts. With plenty of time suddenly on our hands, now might be the moment to start writing that novel. But if writing in solitude amid a global pandemic isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of other ways that you can take part in artistic projects alongside fellow creatives. 

Before the pandemic I had never even heard of ‘Zoom’. But now it seems to be a part of our everyday vocabulary. These technologies are allowing us to join virtual dance and yoga classes, sing along in choirs and even take part in cherished pub quizzes (albeit without the pub). 

For me, they have also meant that I’ve been able to continue being a part of my weekly UEA alumni drama classes. Set up in September last year, the aim of the ensemble was to create a space for Drama graduates to meet up once a week, perform, develop our practice and have a creative respite from whatever our day jobs might be. 

The pessimist in me assumed that quarantine would automatically put an end to my performing days. However, since lockdown began, we’ve been meeting virtually every week, performing a mixture of monologues and duologues, discussing our chosen texts and using the time to catch up with one another – including re-connecting with graduates no longer living in Norwich. Performing scenes and bouncing off one another has worked surprisingly well, even if there has been the occasional lag in internet connections! At points, I’ve even felt that some of the pieces translate better virtually - a true embodiment of 21st century connection.  

The virtual meet ups have led to other projects too, including connecting us to MA Scriptwriting graduates; they’ll write scenes for actors, which we will then perform, film and edit into a short TV style pilot, all within the confines of quarantine. 

In the coming weeks, we’re planning to use our sessions to share our own new writing (based on prompts from a whole host of lockdown writing challenges), coach each other on accents, and possibly even test out which of our beloved drama games can work via our screens. Much like day-to-day life, we’re still figuring it out as we go along. 

There are all sorts of communities out there for us to join and make the days that bit more bearable. And if none spark your interest, why not make a creative community of your own? Whether you want to have a musical jamming session on Zoom, create a life drawing group or simply have a digital forum to talk about your favourite books, we could all do with a form of escapism during these times. 

Despite the physical distance and the madness in the outside world, these sorts of creative collaborations continue to inspire me. Our lives don’t need to be defined by this period of self-isolation, and these communities are a testament to that. 

Do you have a story to share? Please email communications@uea.ac.uk