I left LAMDA in 1978 and I was lucky enough to get an agent after our final shows, but in those days you needed an Equity card to work, which was not something an agent had any real influence over. Each rep theatre had two Equity cards to give out per year – one to a member of stage management and one to a new actor out of drama school. We had to write letters to all the theatres (which were mostly reps) with our CV, photo and a stamped and self-addressed envelope in order to get an audition.
Eventually those letters, phone calls and SAEs led to an audition for Dundee Rep – I was excited and extremely nervous. The job was for a whole season of plays – like most rep jobs in those days you joined a company of actors and people joined as the season went on. The first play was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim. Robert Robertson, the artistic director, was very kind and put me at ease, but I was still nervous at the audition. However, I had prepared my obligatory one Shakespeare and one modern piece and I got the season in Dundee.
I had the best time. It was an absolute joy for a new actor fresh out of drama school and I wish young actors had the same opportunities today. It’s a great way of gaining confidence with a group of actors you get to know and feel comfortable with. At the end of that season I was asked to do the next one with another group of actors. Once a season began it was hard work, but that didn’t stop us partying after shows.
I don’t know how I did it – I suppose it helped being only 21 at the time. What I learned from the rep experience and still practise now is watching other actors and learning from them, to use rehearsals to play and experiment with the part – and to be brave. My advice for anybody launching their acting career today? Dare to make mistakes – always be open to ideas, listen and be inventive, and see as much theatre as possible.
Theatre includes: Much Ado About Nothing, Brassed Off, Hamlet, Rita Sue and Bob Too, East Is East, The Crucible
TV includes: Scott and Bailey, See No Evil, Brookside, Coronation Street
Agent: Jane Hollowood
Susan Twist appears in Be My Baby as part of the Leeds Playhouse pop-up season running until June 1. She was talking to John Byrne