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Dear West End Producer: ‘When will stunt casting ever end?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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I’m not sure it ever will. Millions watch people on I Love Myself Island show off their-six packs while participating in naughty bedroom activity – and it can be seen as a brilliant bonus by commercial producers to cast them in productions. Theatre is a business, and if someone has a huge following, regardless of actual talent, then they can often get a role over someone who is far more suitable.

It’s a sad thing, and I don’t agree with it. Acting takes skill, technique, stamina – and a genuine passion to do great work. It’s not just another medium to prolong fame. And that is the frustrating thing: when these stars attempt to use shows as a vehicle for their own popularity, not for the good of  the production.

This also poses an interesting question: would you, in today’s climate advise someone to go to drama school or on a reality  TV programme?

It depends on what kind of career you want. Appearing on Big Brother, Love Island, or Watch Me Vomiting in Ibiza can certainly give a little bit of fame and celebrity, but is usually short-lived.

Never regret training at drama school. Yes, someone who has worn tight trunks on  Love Island may get a panto role, but they’ll most likely do two shows and then take a week off (to try to get their voice back). As a trained actor, you have something they will never have – experience and integrity.

Appearing on Big Brother, Love Island, or Watch Me Vomiting in Ibiza can provide a little bit of fame, but is usually short-lived

You know how to use your voice and body and are ready to do eight shows a week.  You have worked hard, understand yourself, know how to be in a company, and are talented at your job. And for that you deserve respect and admiration. You are an actor who has grafted, trained, and deserves your place in the professional theatre world. Your time will come.

I hesitate to mention it, but look at Tanya Burr, who recently finished a run in Confidence at the Southwark Playhouse. She was cast presumably because of her millions of social media followers – but according to the reviews she was simply not very good. And that’s not her fault. I’m sure she gave it everything she had, and who can blame her for trying?

It’s the fault of the producers who thought this bit of stunt casting was a good idea. They  probably would have sold more tickets if a proper actor had played the role, got good reviews and given the show a good reputation. And that’s something to remember. A reality star may have ‘bums on seats’ power, but those bums will quickly stop coming if the show is rubbish.

My advice is to carry on. You are full of real talent, drive and knowledge – and are in it for the long run. A lot of reality stars have short shelf-lives and their fame isn’t based on any real talent. When your time comes, you’ll be successful for your work, your art, and your brilliant performances on stage and screen – not your mediocre performances in bed. And that is a much more admirable and honest dream to base your career and life on, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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