SURVIVING SELF-ISOLATION: RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OLIVIA HANNAH | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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April would have been a month packed with excellent gigs, theatre and comedy shows – many of which we’d have previewed and reviewed. We didn’t want to ignore the contribution these artists (and promoters) make to the region, so we asked some of them to give you a few tips on how you can spend your time in isolation.

Olivia Hannah is a playwright and the writer of Braid, which was part of a double bill set to be shown at the Live Theatre in Newcastle and Gala Theatre in Durham in April. Here are a few things that are getting her through…

As much as I’d like to say I’ve been using my time to fill in gaps in my cultural knowledge, I’ve mostly been looking for comfort in old favourites and lighter stories, especially comedy. I’ve been mining Netflix for films like Spy! and gentle TV like Schitts Creek and Kim’s Convenience. I also finally caught up with BBC Three’s brilliant This Country, which is a view of rural life that rings true for me in spite of its absurdity. Or maybe because of it? I’ve been enjoying using social media to watch films and TV with other people, via Bad Day Film Club and Empire Magazine on Twitter. I’m keen to try the Netflix Party Chrome extension as well.

When I’m batch cooking for isolation, I like to listen to podcasts. I really enjoyed Bubble, a satirical series about navigating the gig economy in a post-apocalyptic world. If that’s a bit too real, Thirst Aid Kit is a brilliant and fun podcast about, well, hot men and female desire. 

Music wise, I’m leaning heavily on Beyoncé – Homecoming has been playing on Spotify and Netflix a lot. When I want to stare out of the window and feel my feelings, I’ve been listening to FKA Twigs’ Magdalene album, especially the track Home With You.

Reading-wise, I’m still reeling slightly from Sally Rooney’s Normal People. It’s a beautiful novel that carries you along easily, but it’s emotionally taxing. I’m looking forward to reading new books and books I’ve missed by some of my favourite authors, especially Kate Atkinson. I love Jackson Brodie, and Life After Life and A God in Ruins are two of my favourite novels, so I’m excited to read Big Sky. If you’re leaning into the apocalypse vibe, John Wyndham is great. I loved the Chrysalids and have The Kraken Wakes in my TBR pile. I also read non-fiction, although I tend to dip in for a chapter now and then rather than reading cover to cover in one go. I currently have Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri and Death of a King by Travis Smiley on the go.

With theatre, I’m missing the live experience, but there are at least chances to catch things online you may have missed. Open Clasp’s Key Change and Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True are both excellent. I’m interested to eventually see things like Cyprus Avenue and some National Theatre productions, but I think I’m most excited about the theatre that’s being made for social media. I’m following Coronavirus Theatre Club and the Keep On Writing Challenge on Twitter – there are some brilliant people involved in both projects and they promise to be a lot of fun.

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