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The Green Room: What are your experiences of working abroad?

The Globe to Globe Hamlet company, which toured the play to 197 countries over two years as part of the Shakespeare's Globe project, performing in Botswana. Photo: Ian Winstanley

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…

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Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer

Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked professionally as an actor on fringe projects, with young people and more recently as a writer

Keith Simpson is in his early 20s. Since graduating from drama school in 2016, he has worked on national tours and in rep

 

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both national and internationally

Eoghan I haven’t worked abroad yet, but would love to. I think it’s a great way to see the world, especially if you’re with a nice, friendly cast.

Beryl It’s a great thing to do. A while back I did a world tour of a play, then earlier this year I was part of a company that took a show to the Netherlands. I learned so much.

Albert  My first ever job was on a British Council tour of Shakespeare: seven countries in six weeks playing big theatres. It was a real adventure. The main problem then was trying to run your home life while you were away. It’s easier now with online banking and bill payments. Most of us came back from two months away with a red bill on our doormat.

Jon What was the biggest eye-opener?

Beryl The people you meet: experiencing different places, cultures and traditions.

Albert Learning the audience culture. When some audiences give you the slow hand-clap they are showing approval – but it sure didn’t sound like it.

Beryl Yes – reactions are different everywhere. In India, people brought picnics and talked all the way through, but they loved it.

Jon A pal did Guys and Dolls in Japan and was worried about the lack of laughs. He was blown away by the massive ovation at the end.

Albert We were invited to embassy drinks receptions in various towns and were expected to be there and look smart, which after six weeks abroad became a chore. It was hard to pay for laundry in hotels when you were a lowly actor on just above the minimum.

Beryl I remember that – lots of hotel rooms with wet, hanging smalls. I don’t think I would have seen a Sri Lankan sunset by now, though, if it weren’t for that gig.

Jon If you’ve worked abroad, has it been entirely with touring shows like Beryl and Albert? Has anyone worked on a cruise ship?

Keith I would love to tour internationally, but I’m not too keen on the cruise ship idea. I don’t think I’d be able to hack it.

Beryl I couldn’t work on a cruise ship – it’s very different from touring a show on dry land.

Albert It appears we’re talking mainly musical theatre artists for the cruise ship market, aren’t we? Though I think one cruise line has a repertory company that does Agatha Christie and Ayckbourn?

Annie Well, if there were some decent straight plays or rep seasons on cruises I’d certainly consider them.

Albert I suppose Shopping and Fucking is out for a seven-night Mediterranean fantasy cruise.

Jon The ratio of plays to other shows varies but variety or musical theatre shows are favoured. I know one actor who was booked to do a musical theatre extravaganza and a Shakespeare on a cruise ship but the Shakespeare was hardly ever programmed.

Albert That reminds me of the wonderful tours that Derek Nimmo used to take around the big hotels in the Middle East. Now they were something – everybody wanted to get on one of those. I think it might have become something like the British Airways theatre. But if the company runs the theatre like the airline, that can’t be good.

Annie I think I’d enjoy the cruise ship element for short bursts. My partner is booked out on them quite often, for just a few days at a time.

Jon How short would they have to be?

Annie Four days at a time or thereabouts? Well, that’s what my guy does, anyway. For actors, it would probably have to be a bit longer than that for a decent run.

Eoghan I’m not sure I could do the cruise ship thing – I know so many people who do them and I think I’d find the boat life extremely claustrophobic. Much more so than land-based tours, they don’t seem to offer any chance of coming home for short visits, whereas I’ve known plenty of people who do tours and get the odd week here and there.

Albert There’s lots of shagging on cruise ships, though – or so I hear.

Beryl Sounds like Stratford-upon-Avon in the old days.

Albert That’s right, Beryl – except with no Leamington Spa to escape to.

Jon A job where you have no chance of popping home makes me feel a bit twitchy.

Beryl If you can get away, surely you can deal with being just about anywhere?

Eoghan Exactly. Those round-the-world, 12-month cruises are a big prospect, certainly when you’re no longer a 20-something, fresh out of drama school, any more.

Annie Just the length of an average season would be doable, I think: three or four months. I think it’s tricky when it’s longer. Like Albert said, it’s hard to have a life outside it, and I think it’s so important to have that.

Jon That’s why those four-day gigs you mentioned sound tempting. And a job that short would not lead to the claustrophobia Eoghan mentioned.

Albert Four days of Look Vicar, No Knickers at sea – what a joy.

Jon I think we’d better end on that note.

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