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Dear West End Producer: ‘At what point does rejection stop feeling as though I’ve been punched in the face?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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My dear. It never stops, it just becomes more tolerable. Rejection is a huge part of the acting job and the brave acting-gladiator must face this cruel torture every time they go into the audition ring. There is no other profession that slaps enthusiasm with brutal rejection like acting and it, sadly, is something one just has to put up with.

However, that’s not to say it doesn’t get easier. Because it does. What you have to do is change your attitude to rejection – and think about it differently.

Every time you don’t get a job, or when your agent calls with the immortal words “It didn’t go your way” (or even an agent saying they don’t want to represent you) – they are actually freeing you up for something far better. It may not feel as such at the time, but the rejection of one thing allows you the possibility of hundreds of others. So you may not have got that role at the National Theatre, but it means that you’re now available to play the leading role of ‘Top Hat’ in the upcoming tour of Jacob Rees-Mogg the Musical (UK tour 2018, West End transfer 2019, Broadway transfer 2020).

One piece of advice I recall a wise old scholar (Christopher Biggins) once saying was: “Try to forget about the audition when you leave the room” – and it’s true. Don’t spend hours, days, and years analysing every tiny detail – there’s nothing you can do about it once you’ve left the room. Just leave it to fate. And most of the time not getting the job isn’t about your talent – it’s about little things such as being the wrong height, or having the wrong hair colour – so don’t take it personally. You may even have had a good audition, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the job. The director may prefer a posh-floppy-haired-Tom-Hiddleston twerp who went to Eaton (and there’s nothing you can do about that, so don’t keep worrying about it).

Indeed, try not to use the word ‘rejection’ – it’s a horrid word that suggests you were physically ejected from the audition room and spat on by the casting panel (and if that happens call Equity at once). It is far healthier to think “the job wasn’t right for me”.

It is also useful to know that many successful actors had years of hardship before their successes – for example Ken Stott (one of my favourite actors) spent many years selling double glazing. So rejection is part of the game. And it is all a game, my dear – where you have to develop a thick skin.

Sometimes however, if you really had your heart set on playing a part, it can be useful to go back and watch the show (particularly if it is bad – you had a narrow escape!). You will then be able to see why you didn’t get cast – the person who got the job could be a totally different ‘type’ to you.

Anyway, in future don’t worry about the hand of rejection punching you in the face – soon that rejection will turn into success. And if it does try to punch you, punch back harder, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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