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Our last lines before stage went dark: 70 actors on their lockdown exit

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Reaction: Debra Hill

Reaction: Debra Hill

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Reaction: Debra Hill

A Belfast actress has come up with a novel approach to surviving lockdown, and has produced a video featuring over 70 fellow performers and the last line they said on stage.

With performers stuck at home as venues have closed - and unlikely to open again until the fifth stage of the NI Executive's plan to exit lockdown, the Covid-19 crisis has left many performers struggling both financially and mentally.

But actress Debra Hill is determined to keep the creative side of her life alive, and with the help of colleagues who are also out of work for the time being, has crafted an uplifting video she hopes will put a smile on peoples faces.

Debra (26) said the reaction to her effort has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The best reaction I've heard is that it's heart-warming, and heartbreaking," she said. "That just about sums it up perfectly.

"We're all in the same boat," she said. "It was actually quite scary, when I started this a couple of weeks ago, to see so many come back to me with videos of their lines and they were from pantos last Christmas. It's almost half a year since a lot of performers have been able to work on stage.

"All our careers have been left on the back burner for now, and that's proving difficult. For me, it feels good to create at home. I know not everyone is the same. But having been involved in a couple of small projects with Tinderbox Theatre, I thought I'd try to engage with some others who have been left kicking their heels, if they felt up to it.

"Considering how long it had been since any of us were actually able to get out there in front of an audience, I thought it would be interesting to see what the last line each of them had spoken was.

"I thought I'd maybe get one or two replies, but they came flooding in. Putting them together helped my creative side, and hopefully has given one or two of them, and a few other people out there, a bit of a laugh.

"That some of them got dressed up in character was lovely. I really hope it helped them, and from the feedback I've been getting, it has, which is what it was all about."

The faces getting involved will be familiar to many around the arts scene.

"We have to try to stay as positive as possible. We know the situation and that, even for rehearsals, we'll be waiting a longer time than most to get back out there working again.

"What's been keeping me going is the little online projects with companies like Spanner in the Works and working with the kids on Saturday when I teach online with Belfast School of Performing Arts.

"Those little things keep you going, but for so many more who are used to getting on stage, the sudden ending of that, being stuck at home with little to do and no source of income, has been tremendously difficult.

"But the videos show we're all still here. We're getting through in our own ways, in our own homes. Mental health is important and if the message to fellow performers out there that they're not alone gets through in an amusing way, putting even a little smile on a face or two along the way, then it's been worthwhile."

She added: "I know I speak for everyone who took part by saying we're all so looking forward to being able to get back out there on stage and entertaining."

Belfast Telegraph