The Green Room: What makes an ideal colleague… or a nightmare one?

Celia Imrie, Jonathan Coy, Janie Dee, Robert Glenister and Lucy Briggs-Owen in Noises Off at the Novello Theatre, London, in 2012. Noises Off centres around a touring theatre company made up of a series of nightmare colleagues. 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 is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Rosemary Crackers is 50 and has worked extensively in TV, film and theatre for nearly 30 years

Ivan Low, 47, is a production manager who has worked widely in the UK and abroad with theatre, opera and dance companies

Adam Lovett, 45, has appeared in Oscar-winning films, on TV and in theatre at the RSC, National Theatre, and the West End


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

Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked as an actor on fringe projects and work for young people, and more recently has been working as a writer

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both nationally and internationally

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


Ivan Ideal colleague: knowledgeable, dependable and relatively sober.

Peter Sober on stage, yes. But I quite like someone who goes to the pub. I was on a tour recently where half the company didn’t drink. It made things a little dull.

Eoghan As one of those people who doesn’t drink, I do enjoy hanging out with the cast of my current show nonetheless. The only time it bothers me is when people are hungover and I can see that affecting their performance.

Peter As long as you’re in the pub I don’t mind if you don’t drink. I think gregariousness is good in a company.

Ros An ideal colleague is someone who takes the time to ‘get’ you not only personally but professionally. Often you’re together for months at a time and if that relationship and that respect isn’t built from the beginning, you’re screwed.

Eoghan I love working with people who keep thinking about what they’re doing, how to make it better, and have any ideas for me. Especially in a long job, that’s so important.

Ros I need positivity and the ability to have a laugh. I need someone who won’t patronise or teach me to suck eggs. I also need someone who will buy me gin after the show and understand that when I’m having a low day I just need a cuddle and a kind word.

Adam But really, anyone with an understanding that the project is about more than their own personal success is great.

Ivan Nightmare: flaky, dishonest and unprepared.

Adam In theatre, the nightmare colleague is usually the one who, during the table talk in the first week, doesn’t know how to keep his or her mouth shut. Talks endlessly with nothing to say.

Eoghan Nightmare: constant whingeing. I find that really tiring. Colleagues who are always down on the show, themselves, anything – it can get very wearying.

Ros A current colleague is constantly negative, disrespectful of my personality but also of my role, as they don’t really understand what I do, patronising and unsupportive – so I can answer that one pretty easily.

Albert Sometimes it’s the people in the company you don’t trust, or who you feel don’t like you, who make you do your best work.

Rosemary I find it hard to work with people who don’t know their lines until the last possible moment. It’s the constant excuses and apologising. Often much more effort goes into that then actual line learning.

Adam Some people don’t make any social effort. They barely shake hands. It makes the work harder, because you are navigating their moods as well as the demands of the scene.

Eoghan Yes Adam. My first day on a feature, the lead actor came late for a cue, and then blamed me for something and gave me a look as if to say: ‘This new guy knows nothing.’ I was five years out of drama school, but she’d made no effort to know me and assumed I was rubbish.

Adam I worked with a famous Oscar-winning actor who refused to say hello, who always met my eyes and looked away and who would turn around if he saw me coming in the corridor.

Rosemary Adam, I see that all the time. Very high-profile stars being an absolute **** to everyone they think is lower status.

Albert But nobody’s in the rehearsal room to be liked. They’re all in there to do the best job they possibly can. I don’t set out to be not nice. I set out to do my job as well as I can and hopefully be respected for that.

Adam I never pull my phone out during rehearsal time. No actor wants to look out while they are working and see a colleague texting.

Rosemary I think no phones in the rehearsal room is a good idea – although some people make notes on their phones.

Albert I don’t trust people who make notes on their phones. I suspect they’re sending in an early review. Looking at one’s phone is as distracting as an old actor sitting knitting.

Jon With the nightmares, is it more professional to address it head on, or to ignore it?

Beryl If you can address it, I think you should. Bullies have to be confronted.

Adam If it’s affecting the work directly, it needs to be addressed. But in general, I always ignore. If it’s just making me uncomfortable then it’s a pain, but I’ll suck it up.

Rosemary I couldn’t care less what they think of me. If someone is being vile to those younger and less experienced, I’ll say so.

Adam In theory, terrible behaviour should be confronted, but I can’t see it ever going well if I tell the producers that the star is a bit rude and won’t look me in the eye or talk to me. But if you can change someone’s behaviour by pointing it out to them, then go for it.

Peter Bullying is very unpleasant – but some people think that anyone who disagrees with them is a bully.

Albert I think people just need to remember good manners. The really great actors I’ve had the pleasure of working with have all been nice, considerate and caring.

Adam It’s worth saying how rare bad behaviour is. There’s this view of actors as egomaniac luvvies who only care about themselves and I have found the opposite to be true. Which is why it stands out so much when you do see someone behaving appallingly.

Rosemary Most actors are gorgeous human beings. We are brave, friendly and so supportive.

Beryl Definitely. Most people are great, the bastards get all the press.