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The Green Room: What makes doing a show fun?

Though some claim to dislike curtain calls, they are a chance for performers to thank the audience for coming as well as for those watching to show their appreciation. Photo: Matt Humphrey/Curtain Call

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

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

John Pepper is 31 and has spent the past 10 years working as an actor in regional theatre, at the National, on radio, TV and film


Peter Quince is a 71-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Ros Clifford is 30. Currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years

Jenny Talbot, 39, has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays


John The people you work with are what makes the show fun.

Peter The people.

Jenny The people.

Ros The people.

Vivian The people.

Jenny I love that we’ve all said the same thing. When you do a job with great people, it makes whatever you do, on stage and off, so special.

Vivian It can also make the show not fun.

John You can be in the worst production ever, touring to awful places, but working with folk you get on with can be the best experience.

Peter I’ve been in mediocre shows that I’ve loved because I’ve made lifelong friends, while others were successful but a little dreary.

Jenny You can be in a bad show with great people or a great show with awful people. You will have much more fun in the bad show.

Vivian I love theatre because of the community aspect. The team all rallying behind this one idea: let’s get the show on.

Ros It has a much bigger impact on your work than you think. If you enjoy the company and have fun it really shows on stage and off.

Peter It’s particularly important when you’re working away from home.

Jenny When I worked in America and didn’t know a soul, I found it incredibly lonely until I started to forge some friendships.

Vivian ‘People’ includes the audience too. It’s what makes live performance unique among the arts. It doesn’t exist without the people.

Peter In the old days of rep, you used to make friends in the local community too. I miss that.

Jenny On stage, working together can be so satisfying, especially when something works that hasn’t before. I find that more so in a comedy. Creating the maximum impact together is great fun.

Jon What gives you a buzz on stage? A big tragic moment, a huge laugh or a song?

Jenny Always a laugh – I’m such a ham.

Peter A big walloping laugh on the first night that you hadn’t expected. And that absolute stillness when you know you’ve got them.

John I love a costume change – if it starts to get a bit easy, I add in extra bits of business to up the challenge. Making other people’s costume changes more of a challenge can also be fun. I’m a fan of japes: one actor I worked with went on stage with about 15 pieces of cutlery lodged in his hat.

Peter Was it you who was responsible for Noel Coward telling a dancer to “take the Rockingham tea service out of his tights”?

Ros I enjoy backstage banter but I love busy sequences and being focused on the show.

Peter Most stage managers I know prefer busy shows.

Ros Yes, I’d rather be cueing non-stop for two and a half hours.

John Being in a hit is good fun. When people appreciate what you have worked so hard to achieve, it’s immensely satisfying.

Jon It can make you entitled, too. I was in a show that got a standing ovation on 99 of its 100 performances. We were so sniffy about the one audience that didn’t stand.

Vivian What if you don’t think it’s good, and the audience go mad for it?

Jenny In that case you have to accept that something about the show is working and be happy about that.

Jon On the issue of audience response, it seems to have become something of a fashion for actors to say they dislike curtain calls.

Jenny I don’t like it when I see a show and the actors bow with incredibly serious faces. The audience needs to see the actors smile and relax in a curtain call. It’s a way of saying thank you to the audience for coming too.

Peter In Germany curtain calls go on forever. And the audience feels insulted if the actors leave before they’ve finished applauding.

Jenny It should be an exchange: thanks for coming; thanks for your performance.

John I don’t understand why actors wouldn’t enjoy the curtain call – unless it’s a total pelter of a show. I once saw an audience member stare into space, shaking his head at the bows.

Vivian It’s arrogance dressed up as modesty to dislike them. The audience gets to do their bit now. To see a reluctance, or being too slow to run back out, really gets my goat. This is the end of the unspoken contract. Take your bow.

Ros I worked on a show where we had to re-block the curtain call four times because the actors weren’t happy with it.

Peter I’m not a fan of competitive curtain calls.

Jenny When you see an actor crying or looking exhausted, like they’ve worked so hard, and they bow with such a lack of grace, I want to throw something at them. It’s all just pretend.

John If I’ve just watched Hamlet I also don’t want them all to be beaming down at me afterwards. I want to hold on to the piece for a little while.

Peter If you’ve played Hamlet I suppose you deserve a solo call.

Jenny I’ve only had one solo final bow, but it felt fabulous.

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