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Dear West End Producer: ‘What would be your number one tip for young performers?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Pick another career (only jesting, dear). While the acting business can be hard, it is much more rewarding than being stuck in a job you hate. And if you have a passion for something at a young age, then that’s what you should follow. Many people spend their entire lives trying to find a job they love, so if you’ve found that, you’re winning already.

As for your question, I have many tips for young performers, so instead of offering you one I’m going to give you many – aren’t you lucky? First of all, get as much experience as you can. Every production that you participate in, every new director you meet and every show you watch will inform and educate you in your future career.

One piece of advice I always give young people is to watch bad theatre. If you think a show is rubbish (a ‘shrubbish’), ask yourself ‘Why?’ It could be the acting, the script or simply the fact that it’s another rushed-together musical about the Spice Girls. Once you start analysing what makes good theatre, you’ll put this into practice in your own shows.

Following on from this, you should always follow your instincts: another person may love a show that you hate. And that is the same with your acting choices. You may find yourself doing something completely different from everyone else, which is brilliant.

Be brave and make choices that feel right to you and avoid copying performances from other actors or trying to imitate singing voices from cast recordings. Your voice is what makes you unique, so develop your own sound. Besides, some singers on original cast recordings use so much vibrato they make me feel seasick.

Turn yourself into another Strallen sister by using the tried and tested method: practise, practise, practise

Importantly, you should train in all disciplines and decide which area of acting you prefer. When you apply to drama school, you’ll have to choose whether to specialise in musical theatre, dancing, straight acting or even actor-musicianship (for which you need to be able to play at least three notes on an instrument). So try all of them and see which you love most. Then attempt to turn yourself into another Strallen sister by using the tried and tested method: practise, practise, practise.

These days it is even easy to practise TV technique simply by using your phone. Find some scenes, get together with friends, and record each other. Then watch the recordings back and see how you did – become your own harshest critic.

It is also important to read as much about theatre as you can. May I recommend The Stage newspaper? (The editor will be pleased that I wrote that.) And don’t forget, of course, the best books about acting and theatre ever written: the ones by me. (The editor won’t be pleased I wrote that.)

Finally – and essentially – keep going to your drama group, enjoy it and make sure you realise it’s not an easy career path, but it’s certainly an enjoyable one. Good luck, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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