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The Green Room: Who has been your biggest influence?

Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in Sydney Theatre Company’s The Maids: one of our panellists believes the Australian actor is a fine role model. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

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 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

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

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer

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

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and London’s Royal Court, as well as regular TV appearances

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Keith Simpson is in his early 20s and since graduating from drama school in 2016 has worked on national tours and in rep


Albert This is the hardest question we’ve had for ages.

Adam Every performance I’ve ever seen that I admired I’ve tried to steal something from.

Jon Would asking for an ‘influence’ be easier?

Annie Cate Blanchett is a goddess. I choose role models based on their actions outside the business, not just their professional talent. She is a well-rounded, grounded person. I want to be a great actress who gives back to the world.

Adam In the case of actors I’ve worked with who most influenced me, it had nothing to do with their talent. They were kind, thoughtful, supportive and always looking out for others. They were the ones I wanted to be like.

Peter My mother was an amateur actress and from an early age I would take her through her lines. And watching rehearsals – that’s how I became interested in theatre.

Beryl A couple of well-known directors have been very important to me.

Adam Nick Hytner taught me rigour, efficiency and how to cut away any self-indulgence. God, this is beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, isn’t it?

Albert The biggest influences on my career have come from working with people I admire – people whose behaviour I want to emulate.

Annie Hattie Morahan was a massive influence on me. Her Nora [in A Doll’s House] blew me away and I was left in tears. She made me realise what kind of parts I wanted to play.

Vivian Career-wise, university mates who have subsequently stayed in the industry and have become directors or producers. When the going got tough after drama school, they were ready to hire me. That saved me from the knee-wobbly lack of confidence after drama school when it felt as if everyone else was in Hollywood.

Annie Two of my teachers were particularly supportive: my English and drama teachers at secondary school. Without them, I wouldn’t have realised I could perform for a living and career. It frightens me to think that the arts are being smoked out of the curriculum and I know both those teachers had a tough time.

Beryl Local youth theatre was brilliant in my home town, but we had no drama at my comp.

Jon I was also at a comprehensive. There was no curricular drama, so my parents, being in the business, started a youth theatre, which they ran unpaid in their spare time for 10 years. Kids and parents loved it, but teachers hated it.

Keith My teacher at secondary school who ran our drama department had incredible links with the education departments at theatres in London (the Donmar and the Old Vic). She was responsible for my being able to watch theatre that I would never have been able to afford otherwise. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have thought theatre was for me and would never have started in the first place.

Annie Trips to the theatre were the key to opening my eyes to the profession. As a working-class girl, going to the theatre to see shows was not something I was able to do before, so I’d like to thank my teachers.

Adam The people I did plays with at university helped me believe I could be a part of this profession. There were teachers and directors at drama school I’ll never forget. They taught me to take risks, not go for the easy choice and always to push myself.

Beryl My parents were very encouraging.

Albert My mum has been there all the time. She’s very old now and probably won’t be with us much longer, but even now, it’s always: “You’ve got to put your work first.”

Vivian My family wasn’t emotionally supportive but helped me out financially. Otherwise I’d have been screwed. I don’t know how anyone can do it without injections of money. My living situation for many years was so economical I was able to hold my nerve during the dry times. I could stay in London, I could go to the theatre and I could go to auditions – all because of the ridiculously low rent I was paying.

Peter Different directors have taught me things but no one stood out. The directors who kept employing me influenced me, I suppose.

Jon Sometimes you don’t know an influence is happening until much later, of course.

Albert Anyone who comes into contact with people at formative stages of their careers will be very responsible and influential.

Peter An agent who has confidence in your talent is important.

Vivian There’s a difference between my career and my so-called art. The people who had an influence on my career are the ones who allowed me the freedom to continue to work and meet the people that influence my art.

Jon Art – that’s the one with the three dudes and the painting, yes?

Albert Acting’s a craft.

Peter That’s a better word. My Equity friends have made me realise that as well as an artist I am a worker – with rights.

Jon Isn’t knowing our craft what helps us make art? Throwing pots is a craft but pottery can be art.

Beryl A tough teacher at drama school gave me a talking to and I’ve never looked back.

Jon What was the gist of it?

Beryl Stop taking drugs and living the high life now you’re in London. Calm down, you’ve got some talent: if you do some work and be nicer, you might get somewhere. I was a bit of a naughty young thing at the time.