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Dear West End Producer: ‘Might the fact no one can pronounce my real name properly be a good thing?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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The fact that no one can pronounce your name [Frida Gronberg] may actually work in your favour – they won’t forget you when they finally say it correctly. And in this game, anything that makes you memorable is a good thing.

It is theatrical law that the more obscure and unpronounceable a name is, then the more successful that actor will be (take Benedict Cumberbatch and Joaquin Phoenix). And of course, there are also names that are pronounced totally differently to the way they are spelt (done for no reason whatsoever but to make the actor sound more posh) – for example Ralph Fiennes (pronounced Rafe not Ralf) and Mrs Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, dear). Actors who have unpronounceable names are notoriously popular with film directors – so by the time everyone knows how to say yours, you will probably have starred in at least two films directed by Steven Spielberg. Lucky you, dear.

However, if you are going to give yourself a stage name, think of how you want to be perceived. Your name, just like where you trained and how floppy your hair is, will have an alarming effect on the work you get. If you want to work at the Royal Shakespeare Company, you need an upper-class name such as Tarquin or Frances (it is Royal after all, dear). If you want to work in panto, have something fun such as Mr Bumbles, and if you want to work in porn, have something naughty like Ben Dover.

If you want to be very clever, give yourself the surname of someone famous – then casting directors will get you in purely because they think you’re related to a celebrity. Favourite surnames are Strallen, Redgrave and Barrowman.

When getting a stage name, it is much simpler to change your surname, as your forename is what you’ve mostly responded to since birth. It can be rather embarrassing forgetting that you’ve changed your first name from Dave to Dialysis – particularly during rehearsals.

Avoid trying to be too avant-garde and choosing names such as Apple, Kitchenette, Library and Shitface – as these names will cause bullying, concern and general mocking. And also avoid a name linking you to famous idiots such as Donald Trump – you don’t want everyone thinking you’re related to a mop-haired American who resembles a wet fart, dear.

A good way of deciding on a stage name is thinking how it will sound when playing your dream role. ‘Tallulah Tampon playing Hamlet’ sounds rather ridiculous, but ‘Hawk Ledger playing Macbeth’ sounds rather sexy.

If you get particularly confused, the odd letter in the middle of your normal name can work a treat. For example, Richard E Grant. That middle letter made all the difference to his career. Without it, Richard Grant would have been lucky to get an acting job at Frinton, dear.

Finally, when you’ve decided on your stage name, let everyone know about it. Tell your family, friends and colleagues, and get them to shout it at you constantly for at least 24 hours. This will help you remember what the hell you’re actually called now, and your new identity will be born. Bravo, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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