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Dear West End Producer: ‘How do you deal with a fellow lead who cuts off your lines every time?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Do the same to them – but worse. If they interrupt your line, then interrupt their entire performance. Say everything over their lines, move wildly when they’re acting and upstage at every given opportunity – even when offstage. If they’re talking in the pub, shout over them and say something outrageous. If they’re on the phone to their agent, make audible comments such as “You said your agent was rubbish” or “Is that the new agent you want to go with?” Basically, you should do everything you can to make their entire life a living hell.

Of course, you shouldn’t do that. When actors behave in such a ridiculous way, they’re clearly full of insecurities and troubles. It’s a way of them making themselves feel better by spoiling someone else’s performance.

The sad fact is that there’s always one self-loving diva in the company, and if you don’t know who it is, then it’s usually you. It’s important to know that everyone else in the company will have realised how ridiculous this person is, and how they have to resort to such things – so everybody will be feeling the same as you and recognise this person’s arrogance.

Hold on to your integrity and continue giving the best performance you can. If and when this flailing scab of an amateur decides to butt in again and stampede all over your lines, you should hold firm and continue
with confidence.

Get to the end of your line at whatever cost – don’t allow them to make you stop. This makes them look like the fool – as it’s very obvious that they’re being a jerk (or “stagey fuckwit” as we say in the West End, dear).

The ‘grown-up’ thing to do is have a chat with the bactor (bad actor). Bring up the subject of their onstage behaviour and see how they react. It’s possible they may be totally unaware and are coming in quickly to avoid being late for their lines. If this is the case, just ask them kindly to relax and take their time on stage – you could even go through your cues with them.

However, it’s more likely they’ll just deny they ever did anything wrong and shift the blame on to you. This is when you should go to your company manager, dish the dirt, and tell them to give the offending actor a good telling off (after all, if you can’t sort it out yourself, then get someone else to do it for
you, dear).

There is a story of a well-known veteran actor who persuaded her police officer husband to sit in the audience and make a note of when all other actors got the laughs, so the next time she performed she could cut them off and get the laugh instead.

This is a very old-fashioned way of working, and luckily doesn’t happen much now, but when it does, the easiest thing to do is just let them get on with it. Life is too short, and if they’re that desperate for a gag, then let them have it. You’ve got bigger and better things to worry about – like a career, dear.

The Green Room: Do actors moan too much?

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer

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