Mandi Lodge - Artist Statement
In February 2020 I made the decision to move back to the UK for a while to see family and friends. Little did I know I would still be here! I departed Melbourne on the 17th March and as Covid was now big news I saw that a few people were flying with masks on, not everyone at that time. Even in Abu Dhabi airport there were very few people wearing masks as we shuffled our way through security at very close quarters and no temperatures being taken! (I did take advantage of the special deal and upgraded myself to Business Class for the last leg of my flight, a little pampering why not?!)
Arriving at Manchester airport and seeing no sign of anyone checking incoming passengers temperatures, I received a text from my friend ,who was supposed to be picking me up, that they wouldn’t be coming as friends had told them it was too risky. A driver with the obligatory name board was awaiting me at the other side of security and customs. I remember feeling a little disgruntled that my friend wasn’t there to greet me, I was later informed that National Lockdown was imminent and understood their concerns of being in a busy Airport with hundreds of people milling about.
Then it hit! I had already witnessed panic buying and stockpiling in Australia and now it was happening here. Only days after my arrival non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants, theatres etc closed their doors for the foreseeable future. I’d had a job lined up for my time in the UK and now that wouldn’t happen, I went into a panic with everyone else as to how I would make ends meet. Having lived in Australia for 20 years I would not have access to any benefits or financial help. Fortunately, I managed to get a job as a Courier therefore a keyworker. People’s lives were going to completely change.
Change they did, we have had our lives upturned, we have had the most devastating number of deaths from this Pandemic, family losses where we haven’t been able to say our last goodbyes, businesses closing down with unimaginable redundancies , Health Care stretched to its limits. Yet out of this we have learned to be resilient, we have learned to cope, we have learned how to care about others, and we have achieved great solidarity in dire times.
Theatre was hit very hard through all this and I know many friends and colleagues here in the UK and Australia who have had very little financial support yet have found ways to move forward, retrain and take on jobs to just get through. How joyous it is to see that there now is a light at the end of that dark tunnel. Performers, crew, producers, freelancers, and everyone involved in the arts are getting back on track and slowly but surely the future looks bright again.
I for one cannot wait to see some of the fabulous Productions in the West End and of course Australia! (when I’m allowed in again!) And look forward to once again performing at the Potato Shed! “We Are Back!!”