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Dear West End Producer: ‘If an actor is touring in a show, do they have to arrange their own transport and accommodation?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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For actors, touring in a show is a lot more challenging than performing in the West End. There are many more things to consider, and the risk to health and wealth is far more prevalent.

On top of learning the lines and standing in the right place, touring actors must also ensure they are performing at the right theatre. And this can be bloody confusing, especially in the 18th month of a five-year tour.

West End actors (like we West End producers) have it easy. They just luxuriously swan into town using the most convenient mode of transport, greet their fellow Londoners with an air of success and gratitude, treat themselves to an oat-milk flat white, and float through stage door before being massaged by the assistant stage manager. Easy.

Touring actors, on the other hand, have the stress of planning their journeys, driving for hours, staying in digs that are owned by kinky old dears, relying on trains to run on time (nightmare) and attempting to be nice to the local ‘friends of the theatre’. It’s a tough business, but someone’s got to do it, dear.

However, there is a tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel, as actors do get their travel and lodging expenses covered – unless they’re working on a show that is part of the ‘special Equity minimum deal that isn’t a deal as you won’t earn any money’ contract, in which case they’re screwed.

Most touring jobs offer something called ‘subsistence’ money – usually about £120 to £180. This is supposed to cover an actor’s accommodation and help with food. However, when staying in certain areas of the country – particularly those with Royal or Spa in the title – it barely covers one slap-up meal in the local Wetherspoon’s.

Actor’s digs are an added burden on the performer’s life. They are rarely inspected by the local theatre, and word of mouth tends to be the only way of guaranteeing actors won’t be staying somewhere infested with bugs.

I’ve always thought it should be the venue’s responsibility to make sure its actors are staying somewhere comfortable and affordable – it would just make the whole thing a lot easier for everyone working in the industry.

Most theatres will have a ‘dig’s list’, which provides information and contacts about available rooms, but these always seem to come with the clause “these lodgings have not been checked or validated by the theatre, and may in fact be a tent in Farmer Giles’ field”.

Regarding transport, it’s true that an actor should always be compensated for their journeys between venues. The usual rule is they get the value of a train ticket from their home to the first theatre, then to the next theatre, and so on.

If, at any point, an actor wants to go home they must do it at their own expense, which is fair enough. I’m not going to pay for an actor to go and visit their family, am I? While they’re working for me I’m the only family they need, dear.

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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