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Dear West End Producer: ‘Do performers run the risk of being forgotten by casting directors if they work on a show for too long?’

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It’s a difficult one. While it’s great your friend has been offered to stay on for another year, there is also the chance that his career may suffer for it.

Being in a long-running show has pros and cons – you can earn decent money, take holidays, make plans for the year, not worry about the next job, and flirt with attractive front-of-house staff every night. But it can also be a killer – performances can become stale, casting directors can forget your name, you may get pigeonholed, and you’re not free for other projects.

However, it is now tougher than ever to get an acting job – with drama schools giving birth to quintuplet threat performers every year – so the security of this guaranteed work becomes very tempting. Particularly for performers who have children.

I know many actors who have stayed in shows for three or four years simply because they didn’t want to risk not having the money to support their family. Sometimes, actors stay in a job for the main reason that it works for their life. Indeed, every acting role you take doesn’t have to be about climbing the non-existent career ladder or making sure it’ll look good on your CV – often an acting job is simply about making enough money to buy some new blinds from Hillarys, dear.

Obviously, it’s wonderful to challenge yourself and work for many different companies, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. I understand what your friend’s agent may be implying – that by staying trapped in a show for another year his career will be put on hold. But he also may end up being out of work for that year, with zero acting roles, and regret not staying.

So there is no right answer. Your friend has to decide if he is enjoying the job, and if he can manage another year without going crazy. Many actors have sadly lost their lives by staying in shows for too long. After a couple of years of saying the same thing, the same way, at the same time every night, these actors have been known to scream “I only wanted to play Hamlet” and spontaneously combust downstage right.

Philip Griffiths has been performing in The Phantom of the Opera for 28 years now – and holds the Guinness World Record for longest time performing in the same production.

Now, I’m not suggesting that your friend should give Philip a run for his money – but if he wants to stay, then he should. It won’t have that much of an effect on his career, unless there is something specific his agent thinks he is right for.

There is also the option that your friend could start auditioning a few months before the end of his contract to see if he gets offered another show – and if he doesn’t, then he can just stay.

I never think someone is an inferior actor because they’ve stayed in a show for a few years. Everyone needs job security at some point in their lives – even actors, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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