The Green Room: How do you find the best digs?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Peter Quince is a 71-year-old actor working in theatre
Molly Muffet is 36. After graduating from university, Molly joined the cast of a major BBC sitcom. Since then she has worked extensively on stage
Jit Singh is 42 and has worked extensively in theatre film and TV, including new plays for companies such as Bush Theatre and the National
Molly I’ve used Airbnb a few times on my current tour. A lot of the theatre digs lists seemed to be out of date.
Peter I’ve started trying theatredigsbooker.com on tour recently. It’s good and efficient, but it does add to the cost of the digs.
Thomas What are you looking for with digs?
Albert I have to say, I’ve not done theatre for eight years, so not really stayed in digs for ages. First thing I used to look for were damp sheets, and I found them on lots of occasions.
Molly Somewhere I don’t have to spend too much time talking to the landlord/lady.
Albert Oh God, yes.
Peter I now use the theatre digs list and go to a website if I’m having problems.
Albert Terrible landlords and landladies.
Peter Parking, double bed, en suite if possible. Not too far from the theatre.
Molly Ask on Facebook for recommendations. I sometimes get offered a friend’s spare room.
Albert I can’t not do en suite in a hotel or wherever I might be staying. I’m too old to be doing trips down a dark corridor at 3am with my prostate.
Jit Those who aren’t tight at putting on the heating when you would like.
Albert I always used to look for somewhere self-contained, so you can create a little home away from home.
Peter At least the websites are up-to-date. Theatre lists often aren’t.
Albert I’m always happy to pay a little extra, nothing worse than being unhappy in where you’re living for the sake of saving money.
Jit Self-contained is the best way, if you can stretch the subsistence budget.
Peter Self-contained is great, but hard to come by at an affordable rent. I tend to pay more now that I’m older. I’ve just been on tour with young guys who saved money by sharing rooms. I wouldn’t do that.
Albert Ooh. Now there’s a thought.
Thomas With Airbnb, is what’s being offered (which is generally for holidays) compatible with what you need for work?
Molly Yes, they often leave keys in keyboxes so you can pick it up after the Monday show, and it works on recommendations and reviews, so people put in more effort – tea/coffee, food baskets etc.
Albert On my first-ever job, one of the leading actors said that he led the way by sharing hotel rooms while on tour, and he turned and asked me. I was absolutely mortified as I knew what his intentions were. Mercifully, another actor, younger, who also had billing, stepped in and offered to share with me. Saved.
Peter I’ve found digs listed on theatredigsbooker that are also on Airbnb.
Thomas How much is a touring allowance now?
Molly Just over £200.
Peter On the commercial theatre contract, the new Equity deal has put it up to £225.
Thomas How much are self-contained digs with en suite, generally?
Molly I got a two-bed attic in Bath with a little kitchenette and private shower room for £170. Had to go through the main house, but never saw the landlady.
Peter Bath is expensive. And other tourist places like Edinburgh. Places like Birmingham are cheap.
Molly I’m in a gorgeous three-bed house this week with other company members – open fire, beautiful bathroom – we’re paying just over £100 each, through Airbnb.
Thomas It sounds like Equity’s rates are in line with what people are charging. A few years ago I felt I was having to subsidise from my wage for vaguely reasonable digs (but like Albert, it has been many years since I had to book digs).
Albert Yes, now it’s Jurys Inn, paid for by TV companies.
Thomas Why don’t theatres treat actors like TV companies do? I know (money), but as professionals on a business trip, shouldn’t someone just book us a Jurys Inn?
Albert I think where Molly is staying sounds much better than a Jurys Inn, and if I did have to go on tour and thought I’d be staying in hotels every week, I think I would hate it.
Peter Well, theatres should, but they won’t.
Thomas You’re right, they won’t Peter – but I bet if someone put some thought and planning into it and did a deal with a hotel chain, they could do it for less than they pay at the moment – and take the stress out of touring.
Molly There does seem to be a bit of a knack to booking digs.
Peter And – as Albert says – some people prefer self-catering to a hotel.
Molly One of my housemates this week is vegan, so self-catering suits her better.
Jit Maybe digs are part of character-building, and hotels would sanitise the madness.
Peter I’ve had some weird landladies. But actors love a good landlady anecdote.