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SOAP UP 'We sanitise our hands in the scenes, we reflect the world we’re living in now' - Fair City actress Nyree Yergainharsian on returning to set

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Actress Nyree Yergainharsian is glad to be back on set but despairs for the future of her industry

Actress Nyree Yergainharsian is glad to be back on set but despairs for the future of her industry

Actress Nyree Yergainharsian is glad to be back on set but despairs for the future of her industry

Actress Nyree Yergainharsian was overjoyed to return to the set of Fair City this week - but she says many of her peers in the arts are facing an uncertain feature.

As film and TV productions gradually gear up to return for the first time since March, others working in the arts sector are living in limbo. There was considerable dismay among Ireland's arts community this week when Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Heather Humphreys said artists who were "waiting for their job to come back" should "retrain".

Like the rest of the world, life has changed utterly in Fair City's Carrigstown. Actors now observe social distancing and characters will be portrayed in the show wearing masks and sanitising their hands to reflect the new reality.

For Nyree, whose character Melanie rekindled her relationship with Mondo just before production shut down, it was good to return.

"RTE have the systems flawless and I really felt safe," she said. "We all wear our masks to the shops now, we all sanitise our hands in the scenes, we try to reflect the world we're living in now."

Preparations have been underway for several weeks to resume production while adhering to guidelines. "The crew took part in dry runs. Everything from costumes to make-up to the layout of the sets had to be adjusted to manage social distancing. Make-up artists are wearing full PPE.

"Everyone is very focused, getting on with the work. But we're so appreciative and so happy to be back at work. People have been coming up to me in the park and asking when Fair City will be back."

A recent survey carried out by National Campaign for the Arts showed that the vast majority working in the sector are facing tough times. Much of Nyree's work is in theatre.

"I was on an Arts Council theatre bursary award to develop my project. Had I not got that, had I not got Fair City to go back to…it needs high priority from the Government.

"Eighty nine per cent of artists and arts workers are in a precarious situation. I'm lucky to have something to get back to but a lot of people are looking down a long and uncertain road," said Nyree.

Now NCFA is calling on the Government to provide more funding to support the arts sector into 2021. Well over 12,000 events had been cancelled by the end of May as Covid-19 has brought the sector to its knees, and the industry faces crisis for many months ahead.

"I think there's massive uncertainty about the future and while everyone is trying their best and moving forward as much as they can, without an injection of funding from the Government it's going to be really difficult to keep the arts sector alive," Nyree said.

"In theatre, you're looking at a fraction (of audiences) with social distancing. People in theatre are having gigs cancelled until the end of the year. It's just heartbreaking."

She described this week's government comments as a disappointment. "There are people in the arts at the top of their game and to be told they have to retrain was really deflating.

Nyree's partner, Patricio Cassinoni, is a professional photographer and the two decided to share a photograph every day during lockdown. The results are by turns thoughtful and hilarious.

"The photo was a reflection of the changing tone of our days," she said. "It was a way to talk about life in lockdown, with a little bit of humour, about what daily life in the house was like."

The 70-strong collection will exhibit in Ballymun's Axis Arts Centre in September.

Irish Independent