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Dear West End Producer: ‘How do I get through a period of unemployment without slaughtering my family?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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You possibly won’t. The hardest part of being an actor is putting up with your family when out of work. You may be one of the lucky ones with a family who understands the perils and pitfalls of being a performer – or you could be cursed with a family that thinks acting is a “stage you are going through” before getting a proper job.

This is where it gets difficult. Even though your family supports you, constant remarks such as: “When are you going to do a film?”, “Why don’t you write to Holby?”, and “You’re better at acting than that Robson Green, and he’s got a programme about fishing”, can irritate. But when questions like this are raised, breathe deeply and imagine you’re in your ‘special’ place (on a film set, acting on stage, or in your favourite actor’s dressing room).

If you are waiting a few months for a job to begin, set yourself some tasks to do every day. The worst thing is for your family to see you moping around the house in your Coronation Street onesie watching repeats of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Try to take advantage of your time by doing things that you’ve never done before. This could help you cope with periods of unemployment. Meditation is excellent (try the apps Headspace and Calm), yoga is good (standing on your head optional), exercise classes may work (useful for burning off stress), and if all else fails – consume champagne (only after 7.30pm, dear).

Pretend your children are workhouse kids from Oliver! and only serve them gruel

Instead of slaughtering your family, imagine they are characters from your favourite shows and turn your whole life into a theatre. Pretend your children are workhouse kids from Oliver! and only serve them gruel, imagine you and your friends are the cast of Friends (decide whether you are Monica, Phoebe, Rachel… or Janice), and dress your husband in a green wig and make him defy gravity for you at least three times a week.

When feeling the stress levels rise as your family bickers about Brexit and insists on watching Big Brother, you have to remember that you only have your family for now. One of the joys of being an actor is that your job can take you away for long periods – making family life and relationships more manageable. You have an escape, a respite, and a time to leave your partner to do all the family work. Isn’t this brilliant? Doing a ‘normal job’ you would be trapped in your family home every night, but with an acting one (particularly a tour) you are paid to escape. Lucky you, dear. And of course this is the reason many actors’ relationships work – because they aren’t together most of the time. It keeps everything nice and fresh, and when things aren’t going well, the actor can simply bugger off on tour for six months.

But, my main piece of advice is – don’t slaughter them! They may moan, bicker, tease and annoy you as much as Katie Hopkins – but that’s why you love them, dear!

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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