Right before the pandemic took hold, actress Lydia Gerrard, 22, was covering her dream role on the Phantom of the Opera UK tour. She talks from her family home in west London about live performance in lockdown and the importance of doing what you love.
Lydia describes getting cast in Phantom of the Opera as the happiest moment in her career. “That show is my…everything. I’m just so obsessed with it,” she gushes. A few months into the tour, the nation went into lockdown, and the remaining shows were cancelled.
Before the pandemic, she was a regular busker at London train stations. “[Busking] gave me so much confidence,” she says, “when people would give me money, I felt guilty. I thought, this is your hard-earned money and you’re giving it to me for doing what I enjoy doing….it took me a long time to realise that, actually, what I was doing was enjoyed by people.”
Over lockdown, Lydia has continued to busk, adapting her sets to live-streamed home concerts. “[Online busks] saved my brain, really,” she smiles, “I had so many people messaging me saying that I was helping them because they missed live performances. They were helping me, and I was helping them.”
Is it possible to be a performer without in-person audiences? Lydia isn’t sure. “You can still do the things that performers do, sing to people online… I’d say you’re still a performer, whether you’re in or out of work,” she suggests. Despite the hardships unemployed performers are facing, Lydia remains hopeful. “When [theatre is] back, it will be better than ever,” she says.
While she only graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre (LSMT) two years ago, Lydia is no stranger to high-end productions. At just 16, she was cast in Sweeney Todd at the London Coliseum, alongside Emma Thompson.
However, she does not come from a theatre background. She first got into performing arts through school plays and local amateur dramatics. “My parents and I were so clueless about the industry, we had no idea how to get into it,” she explains. “I just took every opportunity that was given to me… everything I did, every choice I made…was all with it in mind, being able to go into the creative industry.”
Throughout our interview, Lydia’s devotion for her profession shines through. Whether it’s singing to her neighbours from her front garden, or at the London Coliseum, she describes live performance as “my medicine, my main love.” Her advice to aspiring performers is: “be open to opportunities and look for opportunities. Also, don’t forget why you’re doing it and how much you love it…how much you love it really shows.”
Three things she’d tell her student self:
- Comparison kills joy.
- Look after your voice.
- Believe in yourself.
- Instagram: @lydia.gerrard
- Twitter: @Lydia_Gerrard