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Dear West End Producer: ‘How do I not become bitter towards fellow actors and not only see them as competition?’

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Everyone has their own journey, my dear. And while some actors may start with a career you envy, it may not be long-lasting. It’s a tough business, made even harder by the temptation to compare yourself constantly to others. But you are your own person, your own individual – and that is what will get you acting work.

Fellow actors are not your enemies, they are your compatriots. They suffer the same war wounds as you (particularly after 10 recalls or a lengthy rural tour), have the same drive as you, and will often have a similar background. Something has made you all want to be actors and pursue this precarious and daunting career and that is to be celebrated. You’re not someone who spends their life floating around doing a boring job: you’ve made a brave choice to follow your passion, as has every other actor. You all have that in common.

So, instead of building walls or adding barriers, it is far better to connect. The ‘competition’ is on your side – each one going through the same experience as you. If everyone shared advice and survival tools on how to be an actor, it would make the job a lot easier. Isolation is a big problem in the industry, with performers often not wanting to ask for help or reach out to their fellow artists, which is damaging for all. If we can all learn to support and nurture, then eventually this idea of competition may change to one of pride – pride in our colleagues and their achievements.

It is very easy to see a show and think: ‘I could do better’ or ‘why did they get cast?’. We’ve all been cynical of another person’s success, but they will be fighting their own demons and the last thing they want is a friend putting out negative thoughts. I’m a big believer in what you put out you get back (which is why I always buy everyone lots of alcohol, dear) – so if you put positivity out there for a friend, then you’ll get far more back.

Everyone’s heard: “How do you make an actor moan? Give them a job.” There’s another more truthful saying: “How do you make an actor moan? Don’t give them a job.” It’s those in-between periods when the temptation to feel jealousy and bitterness is most apparent. But as a Jedi Master once said: “Don’t get bitter, get better.” It’s a silly saying, but there’s a big truth in it. If you can put yourself out there in the harder periods, reach out to colleagues, get creative, go to workshops, then these times will become as joyful as working ones. And if you’re enjoying these times, the temptation to feel bitter will subside because you will still feel involved in the business.

So, avoid feeling as though you’re competing – you’re in a business that is hard enough. Celebrate others’ successes instead, because in time they will celebrate yours. Well, they might.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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