The Green Room: Do you like working away from home?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Peter Most of my work is away from home: rep in the old days, now regional theatre touring and working abroad.
Rosemary I haven’t worked away for theatre, but for TV and film the experience could be improved massively by putting us in hotel rooms where the windows open. I tend to ask what the budget is for the hotel now, and then rent an Airbnb instead. It’s much better for long shoots. Long stays in hotels are depressing.
Beryl It’s all about the digs. I like being told where I’m staying – unless it’s an awful hotel.
Ivan I’m keen on staff welfare, good digs and access to shops that stay open after 10pm. I’m usually happy to be given a decent economy hotel, as long as it’s clean and quiet.
Ros Life away from home can be very isolating and more pastoral care is needed from those involved, such as producer and directors. Morale needs to be high and often I find it can waver when I’m away. Building the right stage management team is so important – not just for their skills but for their ability to work together and support everyone else.
Eoghan Companies must realise that if you travel for their work, you should be paid for it. Increasingly I come across jobs for which the performers are expected to cover their own travel, which can be a significant outlay.
Adam For TV or film, I like everything to be sorted for me. Then if the hotel is truly terrible I’ll ask for it to be changed. I won’t do theatre away from home any more because I always end up making a financial loss.
Eoghan It’s okay if you have to do some organising yourself, but I know of people who haven’t had tour dates confirmed until quite late. You need enough time to make bookings.
Beryl Sometimes you need subs up front if you do Airbnb, which is becoming more common.
Adam One of the nice parts of the job is getting to stay in a nice hotel and travel to a different part of the country or abroad.
Jon So, with specific regard to theatre: how can venues and managements make things better and easier?
Ivan Start planning early. Discuss with the cast from day one whether they would prefer to sort their own digs out. Regular updates on schedule, travel, calls helps you feel loved.
Eoghan Making sure the set fits in the venues is important – tour companies sometimes fail to do this…
Peter A nice pub!
Rosemary And Febreze…
Beryl Upfront subs.
Jon That’s a brilliant and simple idea.
Peter On tours, the difference in the welcome you get at theatres can vary greatly.
Albert It’s a real struggle for the younger actors or lower-paid members of the cast. When you visit a big tourist place like Bath or York during the summer months, digs are astronomical in price.
Eoghan I agree. Prices are so seasonal and should be considered when setting per diems.
Beryl It can be impossible to stay in budget unless you want to stay with ‘Mrs Miggins’ – and nobody does when you’re older.
Peter Very few theatre jobs organise it for you.
Adam I know of a lot of actors who won’t do touring theatre because it costs too much and they don’t want to be away from their family. Either that’s getting worse, or I’m getting older, therefore my friends are more likely to say that.
Rosemary The older I get, the more important the quality of the place I stay is.
Peter Other actors may have good recommendations, and sometimes I use theatredigsbooker.com.
Beryl We were promised we would be helped on my upcoming tour but it didn’t really happen. It was annoying as it was for a big company that could definitely have done more.
Eoghan Many theatres have digs lists. Companies should do the same, especially those that have been touring for a while. For an actor, being presented with a digs list saves research time and makes you feel the company has put some thought into your welfare.
Rosemary Some of those digs lists are so old.
Eoghan This is also true.
Ros Theatres need to take more responsibility for their digs lists. This would take lots of resources and time but it would really help with the experience. Recently, I worked for a theatre that vets all accommodation on its digs list, which is highly reassuring.
Albert I don’t know how anybody who has a home can afford to go away and do a long stint in a rep. It’s like being semi-regular in a soap.
Peter A friend said: “I’m too old to live in someone’s spare room.”
Jon Do you have any nightmare touring or travelling stories?
Beryl Poo in the sink, spiders in the bed and haunted houses…
Eoghan I was in a production at the Brighton Festival. When we showed up to the hostel our director had booked for us (he was staying in a hotel) late one night, they wouldn’t let us in without the card the room had been booked under – the director’s. He was in his hotel, 30 minutes away.