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The Green Room: What advice would you give your younger self?

Real-life father and son James and Jack Fox starred in the reflective family drama Dear Lupin at the Apollo Theatre, London, in 2015. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Real-life father and son James and Jack Fox starred in the reflective family drama Dear Lupin at the Apollo Theatre, London, in 2015. Photo: Tristram Kenton

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

Albert_Parker

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

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

 

Jenny I’d tell her to keep at it. Which is pretty much what I did, really.

Beryl Calm down, stop shouting, it’s coming, have patience...

Albert Grow up. You can get out of Rotherham.

Beryl It’s okay to not know yet.

Jon Yes, the not knowing is a big one for me too. I’d tell him that he’s much better than he thinks at some things and not as good at others.

Albert Follow your heart, but listen to your head.

Eoghan I’d say: “Start now.” It wasn’t until my early to mid-20s that I really figured out what I wanted and focused on becoming an actor.

Annie Yes, Eoghan... Come on Annie, go.

Albert Sadly, I rather think that my younger self had more opportunities presented to him than a lot of younger people do these days.

Beryl I agree, there were a lot more opportunities back then – especially up north.

Annie At 16, I chose to do A levels as a ‘backup’ instead of doing vocational training. And I already wish I’d done the training.

Keith You can’t please everyone, it’s okay to put yourself first. You are more than enough.

Annie Oh yes, Keith. I would have started looking into personal development and meditation then too if I had known about it.

Eoghan It’s the right time to be looking at all those things, learning extra skills and different ways to cope with the demands of the job. I always feel like I’m playing catch-up now. Of course, you never stop learning. I just wish I’d been learning more stuff earlier.

Albert As a teenager, it feels like everything is rushing towards you, and I think the main thing to appreciate is that life is a marathon not a sprint. Don’t feel that, if you haven’t achieved everything you want to by 20, you’ve failed.

Jon How was the advice you received from others? What was the best and worst advice you were given? Did you have the old careers adviser classic of being told not to be an actor?

Eoghan I was lucky to have parents who always said: “Do the things that interest you and we’ll support you.”

Beryl Someone should have told me not to spend my grant cheque when it arrived – ha. Grant cheque, eh? Those were the days.

Albert I think it was spending my grant cheque that gave me the taste for fine dining I’ve managed to retain until this day… and gave me the overdraft that I’ve still got.

Jenny I had some great tutors at my county youth theatre, which is of course no longer in existence, and they taught me so much about relaxing on stage, breathing, that kind of thing.

Beryl Local youth theatre was integral for me.

Annie The best advice I got was from those teachers who saw what I was capable of and helped nurture me to pursue those things. It was all the “what if”, “it’s so hard”, “have a backup” that wasn’t the best advice... That sets you up to fail in a way, although I’m sure it was coming from a good place.

Jenny My teacher told me to get serious – not bother applying for drama colleges and to sort my university applications out. I got a letter from her when I was in the West End congratulating me for not taking her advice.

Annie Yes, I was being told to go to university instead of drama school. I got a job instead.

Beryl My careers adviser told me I could work in a soft toy factory to fulfil my creative yearnings.

Keith Most people were really encouraging. Although I still had the odd “oh, you won’t get in anywhere”, “you’re too young”, “it’s too hard”.

Albert I was much less aware of the possibilities open to me than a young person today. There was one dog-eared pamphlet in the careers room on “careers in teaching drama”.

Jon Yes – my parents were in the business, so I was relatively well informed, but when I did National Youth Music Theatre as a teenager I remember meeting a lot of kids who had no idea that drama schools existed or that acting was a profession you could train for.

Eoghan I grew up in Ireland where drama isn’t really a subject until university. Everything is extra-curricular, and it didn’t really even feel like a possible career option when everyone is talking about ‘proper jobs’, ‘professional career paths’ and all that kind of thing. It was only when I got to university, and met other people who wanted to do what I really wanted to do, that I began to figure out the way forward.

Albert I think I’ve been back to my old grammar school once in the 40-odd years or so since leaving, and I have to say I had a smirk on my face as if to say: “I told you so.”

Jon I did one of those career questionnaire things at 15 that said I should consider being an air steward. So that’s when I knew I was definitely going to be an actor.

Beryl I did one of those when I was signing on between jobs, years ago. It said I should be a scaffolder or a fence erector. This was about transferable skills, I was already acting.

Jenny My work experience questionnaire sent me off to be a primary school teacher.

Jon Good to know we’re all so employable in other fields…

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