The Green Room: What words and phrases do you use most when working?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Beryl ‘Story, story, story.’
Vivian ‘Where is the green room?’, ‘What’s the Wi-Fi code?’, ‘I’ve had 34 cups of coffee, I’m bringing in the herbals tomorrow’ followed by ‘I have a splitting headache.’
Adam Marc Warren said in an interview I read that the two things actors care about the most are coffee and Wi-Fi.
Beryl ‘Look after each other.’
Adam ‘Are we likely to be working weekends?’
Ros ‘Let me ask the question’. ‘No.’ ‘For fuck’s sake.’
Beryl Yes, various swear words, certainly.
Albert ‘Obviously I’m just doing this to be seen…’
Beryl ‘We’re not in Aleppo, it’s only a play’.
Rosemary I mostly use the phrases ‘off book’ – as in ‘I have two hopes of being off book for this beast’ – ‘the fear’ – as in ‘stop mentioning when we tech, it’s giving me the fear’ – and ‘Equity dep’ – as in ‘I’m not being Equity dep, I did it last time.’
Ivan ‘Wang’ is popular among some technical staff. Used when, for a reason unknown, something happens in your favour that really shouldn’t. ‘That’s lighting wang!’
Jon In my experience, the one thing that is guaranteed on any job is that in every dressing room ever, on any night, someone will say: ‘Have we had the five?’
Vivian ‘I promised myself I wouldn’t start smoking again.’
Albert ‘I knew this scene in the bath.’ To which the standard director’s retort is: ‘Well, what a shame you didn’t bring the bath into the rehearsal room.’
Vivian ‘It’s harder when you only have one line.’
Ivan ‘Bespoke solutions’ is one of my golden phrases. I was asked by one director what my plan was for a mobile ladder to move around safely on a raked stage with an actor at the top of it. “Ah, that will be a bespoke solution,” says I. In reality, I hadn’t a clue how it would work. In the end it did, thankfully. Bespoke solutions. I should have the T-shirt made.
Jon Ah yes, what about our beloved lords and ladies, masters and mistresses? What phrases do we hear a lot from directors and what do we think of them? I cannot bear it, for example, when directors say, ‘Show me.’ And they all do say it at some point.
Albert ‘With respect…’ as your considered creative initiative is about to be totally quashed.
Ivan ‘Creative’. I’ve fallen foul of that word. I once discussed allocating time for the ‘creatives’ – the lighting and sound designers, choreographers and so on – to give notes over and above the director’s feedback. My colleague reminded me that the cast, crew, dressers, flymen and voice coach were all creatives and I should watch how I describe the staff. Quite correct, too.
Adam Someone who worked with Emma Rice told me that when she doesn’t like what you’re doing she says: “Strong. But wrong.”
Albert That’s what the board at Shakespeare’s Globe thought, too.
Adam Or when they describe the character as ‘like this’. I want to say, ‘I know what he’s like, but that doesn’t help me get there.’
Albert As I say to younger actors: just say ‘yes’, then get on with doing what you want.
Adam I was in a show once that ended with a lingering look from me as I shut the door at the end of the play. The renowned director waited until the dress rehearsal before giving me the note: “Could you do it a little less as if you were taking in The Cherry Orchard for the last time?”
Jon While we’re on the subject of directors, what do we think of line readings? Are we for or against? They used to be so totally taboo, but some actors seem to like them now.
Vivian If nothing else is hitting, then I say yes.
Adam I bloody love a line reading, as long as it’s a good one. But then I tend to think quite musically, so I love being told how it should sound. I think it messes up actors who don’t think that way.
Albert I usually just say: ‘Tell me how to say it and I’ll make it my own.’ That seems to work.
Jon Well, that’s directors sorted. How about other actors? What are the things you’re always hearing from colleagues?
Albert ‘Are you actually going to do it like that on the night?’
Adam ‘If you do X here then I can do Y… and it’ll be great.’
Jon On my first job, an older actor told me that when a colleague says ‘Can we just have a chat about that scene?’ it saves a lot of time if you just say, ‘What do you want me to do?’
Albert ‘I think what you’re doing is fabulous. I think you should do more and more.’
Vivian ‘It feels like a lifetime ago since I was in.’
Jon ‘We haven’t done it since week one.’
Vivian ‘Are you off book?’
Jon I’m guilty of it myself, but after the first time a scene is done someone always says: ‘Well, see you at the tech.’ In fact, come to think of it, that’s another one – during the tech you’ll always hear someone say, ‘I actually like techs.’
Vivian I do like techs though.
Adam I adore techs. All the pressure is off for a day or three.
Ros I can tell you exactly what actors always say to stage managers: ‘When’s tea?’ ‘When’s lunch?’ ‘Have you got a phone charger?’ ‘Can I go for a meeting?’ ‘I don’t like my prop.’ ‘I don’t like my costume.’ ‘Can you do the calls louder?’