The Green Room: Have you always thought you’d work in theatre all your life?
Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details...
Albert I think theatre is where most people start out because that’s our perception of what acting is.
Eoghan I went to university first. There I joined the drama society and found my groove, so I went to drama school after my degree. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Ros Theatre is all I ever wanted to do. But over the last couple of years, the growing pressure on my role and my department has sometimes been hard to deal with, and I have unfortunately had some bad experiences.
Adam I already focus more on screen work, but feel lucky to have the opportunity. Eight shows a week can take a toll if that’s all you do.
Peter I’ve survived but never been affluent. I sometimes regret not having done something better paid. But it’s far too late to change now.
Eoghan A while ago, I spoke to my partner about not wanting to give up but having to because we needed to pay the rent. Then I got the job I’m currently in and felt renewed.
Adam After my biggest success in the theatre, which I thought was a step up to the next level, I had a year when I earned only £10,000.
Albert I love theatre, but as I’ve got older, my boredom threshold has got much lower, so the idea of having to do a long run doesn’t thrill me. While the desire is still there, you don’t really have any choice but to satisfy it.
Adam What seemed a romantic vagabond life in my 20s feels increasingly precarious in my 40s, so I combine theatre with other things.
Albert Many people move away from theatre because of its demands – and also because of the line-learning. They just can’t hack it any more.
Beryl Theatre is a compulsion. I’m poor – but rich, creatively. Sorry if that sounds precious.
Albert Not many actors rely totally on theatre for their income. If they’re not big names in TV and film, they all have another job, property investments or something that yields income.
Rosemary I look wistfully at people like carpenters sometimes. It must be nice to retire to the sunshine and make things.
Ros I have a list of plan Bs, but I don’t know how and if I would ever put them into action.
Beryl Theatre is a fickle mistress that TV will subsidise if we’re lucky.
Albert There was a time when you could live for a month or more off doing a single TV episode. The fees from some TV shows now barely provide a week’s wage.
Peter TV work used to subsidise theatre – and people were able to buy a flat off the back of one commercial.
Beryl Still pays better than theatre, though.
Peter Did you hear about the two old actors who met in the Strand? One was carrying a little cigar box of make-up. The other exclaimed: “Oh, my dear old friend, you’re working!” The first replied: “No, no. Just moving.”
Eoghan What we were told early on – to make your own work and be creative – applies here too. You’ve got to keep looking for things to do to fulfil you creatively and financially.
Peter I know an actor who’s a vicar – and often gets jobs combining both professions.
Rosemary I renovate old furniture. And old actors. I don’t think I want to be a vicar.
Albert Everybody wants to get into corporate training these days. Just like acting, some are good at it and others less so.
Beryl I can’t do corporate.
Albert It’s brilliant that you say that, Beryl. Many actors think they can and that it’s easy money. The most successful role-play actors are those who’ve given up working in theatre and TV and have poured all their skills into role-play to make a real go of it. They probably earn much more than anybody working in theatre.
Peter An actress friend said that having “something to fall back on” meant you were never wholehearted about your acting.
Eoghan A director I know asks: “Is this job going to be fun or advance your career? If the answer to both is ‘no’, then why are you doing it?” That applies to more than just theatre.
Rosemary Does anybody here sign on when they aren’t working?
Jon Not for years. The system was never geared towards self-employment.
Peter Very few actors sign on now. For a start, we’re all self-employed, so we can’t. But, even before the loss of dual status, it had got very difficult. We used to be self-employed for tax purposes and employed for national insurance purposes. So we could claim jobseeker’s allowance. Now we can’t.
Beryl I used to sign on between every job. I wouldn’t do it now as I have a mortgage and it’s a nightmare. It will drive you mad trying to get a pittance out of them. You need to know the legal talk about tax status, which you can get from Equity, but it’s not straightforward.
Rosemary It’s not that hard. Just think of getting that pittance out of them as your ‘job’.
Ros Theatre’s my life. I can’t imagine not being in it, but sometimes getting out is tempting.