How did you start in theatre?
I went to youth theatre for two years, and then the Poor School in London. After that I worked on TV as an actor, then became a playwright and producer at small-scale theatres.
What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
Get yourself trained. It doesn’t have to be at drama school, which is too expensive for many. Regular classes are a good alternative but respect the subject – and potential employers – enough to really learn it. For pros, take classes in between jobs. It keeps confidence high and stops the skill set from getting rusty.
What would you change about UK training?
I would like to see more emphasis on life after drama school and the requirements of the industry. The shortage of working-class talent also needs addressing. An increase in mental health/pastoral care is needed, and more education for actors about what a producer does. Without us very little happens.
What is the best part of your job?
Encouraging talent and building confidence. Working with pros whose confidence might be low and providing a creative environment in which they can rebuild, refocus and start again.
And your least favourite?
Telling someone, for a variety of reasons, that I can’t train them.
Who are the practitioners you admire the most/who should students look up to?
Students should look up to those who are, in their opinion, the best, and steal from them. I admire actors Mark Rylance and Samantha Morton, playwright Ella Hickson, and directors Steve McQueen and Ken Loach.
What is the one quality every successful theatre professional should have?
What does the industry need most now?
More women in positions of power and more theatremakers from working-class and minority-ethnicity backgrounds.
Paul McNeilly runs the Bubble and Squeak Actor’s Workshop. He was talking to John Byrne.