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The Green Room: Do actors moan too much?

Tumulus at Vaults, London

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


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


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


Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, RSC, in the West End and on the road


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


Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television


John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National Theatre and in radio, television and film


Velma Lee is a 32-year-old actor, comic and improvisor


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


Jon This is in response to the observation in our last column [9] that the collective noun for actors is ‘a moan’.

Ros I’m saying nothing.

Gary Wow, I mean there’s fun to be had here.

Peter Obviously. Next…

Rosemary Yes we do. It’s brilliant and we are spectacular at it.

John I love a moan, I’ll moan about anything – being too cold, too hot, costume change, hours, not enough to do, too much to do.

Adam Only when the biscuits run out. And if there is no coffee or WiFi you will never hear the end of it from me.

John ‘I’ve got a job, yay! What? I’ve got to be in all day to rehearse?’

Rosemary I accepted a theatre job this morning. I have already looked at the schedule and moaned about having to be on stage.

Albert We’ve all heard the one about the dogs and the social experiment…

Jon Albert, that is my favourite joke. Please tell it for us.

Albert The architect’s dog built a pile of bones into a tower. The mathematician’s dog arranged them into an equation. The actor’s dog ate the bones, shagged the other two dogs and asked for the afternoon off.

Peter I love it.

Jon The other good one is where the actor comes home, his house is on fire and his wife is in tears. She says: “Your agent came round, set fire to the house, stole all the valuables and took the kids.” The actor asks: “Any message?”

John Seriously though, working in the industry can be a hard gig and moaning can be a helpful release. Cathartic, even.

Annie If you ask a question looking for a negative outcome, you might get one. Often people ask actors questions assuming their life is a constant struggle and actors confirm that.

Velma The accusation of ‘diva’ is levelled at actors when they are trying to secure basic rights such as our rights to breaks, health and safety, proper payment or contractual procedures. Because we are considered ‘the talent’, things are not discussed with us face to face and we have no one to go to directly.

I don’t mind witty moaners. I can’t stand the boring, repetitive moaners, but a Withnail is fun

Jon Yes, that’s a good point. Sometimes a ‘moan’ isn’t a moan.

Velma We’re supposed to go through our agents but that’s isolating and breeds the vibe of diva. Similarly, the sins of our agents (“Don’t spend a penny – it’s their responsibility to pay for everything”) are visited upon us (“Your agent was rude and caused a lot of problems”).

Peter I don’t mind moaners – as long as they’re witty moaners. I can’t stand the boring, repetitive moaners, but a Withnail is fun.

John I hate it when people say ‘if you are in work, you don’t have a right to moan’. Of course you do. Sometimes gigs can be hard or boring or tiring. Having work doesn’t nullify the right to moan about a job.

Annie I try to keep positive. I meditate, exercise and (usually) eat the right thing and I find I keep in a good place. Then I tend to just breeze over the moaning.

Ros It’s not just actors.

Rosemary But stage managers just moan about actors, right?

Albert Often quite justifiably.

Ros Yes, often justifiably. But we don’t moan as publicly. Actors are more forthcoming.

Rosemary Tell us what else.

Peter Stage managers moan about company managers.

Jon When I was an assistant stage manager we used to moan about working hours and missed breaks more than anything else.

Ros Yeah, that’s a biggie.

Jon A good old moan can be healthy if it’s a vent. Letting off steam rather than bringing it into the room.

Jon I hate it when rehearsal stops for half an hour to sort something that could have been dealt with over a pint.

Albert I’m all for telling people face to face.

Adam On a slightly unrelated note, actors often get told to “stick to acting” and not express opinions about anything. That annoys me. Actors are citizens too with passions and opinions – some of them political. I dislike any variant of “back in your box, actor-man, and leave the opinions to grown-ups”.

Jon Maybe we should open this up. So far we’ve concentrated on moaning about workload, hours and that kind of thing. Do actors moan too much about each other, directors, or work?

Rosemary It’s dangerous. I’ve seen bullying. I fought on behalf of that person and ended up in trouble.

Albert I don’t think people moan about other people’s work.

Rosemary They bloody well do.

Peter Absolutely they do. Nothing nastier than actors bitching about others’ performances.

I’ve watched a great director taken down by a cabal of male actors who could not bear being directed by a woman

Jon I was in a production once where one of the older actors stood in the wings while the juve leads were on stage saying: “Listen to that, no wonder the reviews were so shocking.” He presented it as banter so he got away with it, but it was horrid.

Rosemary That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve watched a great director taken down by a cabal of male actors who could not bear being directed by a woman.

Gary Moaning is a sign of a high-functioning democracy. Those who moan are fundamentally okay. Long live moaning and liberty.

If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email greenroom@thestage.co.uk [10]