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The Green Room: What makes you angry about our industry?

Bryan Cranston in Network: what aspects of the theatre world make our panellists “mad as hell”? Photo: Jan versweyveld

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

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

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

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

Vivian The lack of imagination when it comes to the stories we tell. The poor diversity and the lack of security.

Annie The whole Weinstein and Spacey situations get me pretty fired up.

Peter That actors often get so little respect. Some directors treat actors like talented children who can be moulded to their will.

Jon Yes, I think sometimes the lack of respect can be generic, and not based on whether it’s deserved or not.

Vivian The lack of respect when it comes to the rehearsal room. Directors’ willingness to take actors’ ideas and take credit for them. The idea that actors are just happy to be in the room rather than integral to the process.

Jon The answer to this question basically seems to be “directors make us angry”.

Peter It’s the perception of actors as shallow luvvies that I hate. Most actors I know are intelligent, articulate, informed and well-read.

Vivian Not just directors: casting directors, writers and stage-door men. The list goes on.

Peter Directors are the most visible face of those who employ us. I also hate it when theatre staff behave as if the building would operate better if they didn’t have actors in it.

Annie I hate not getting a response from people after castings. The Give Us a No campaign is a brilliant idea. After preparing for an audition, the least we deserve is a group email to the people who didn’t receive the part.

Jenny In this age of communication, we should all get answers from people about jobs.

Annie Sending an email takes 30 seconds.

Albert Yes, but if you’ve seen 40 actors then that’s 20 minutes, which might be the time you need to make the call to the actors who actually got the job.

Annie The actors gave you a hell of a lot more time and energy than the 20 minutes it takes to send those emails. Business is all about building rapport and keeping communication open, especially if you want longevity.

Peter It’s not just a business. A subsidised company in Stoke or Wolverhampton is doing much more for its local community than just being a business.

Jon If we’re talking about things that take 30 seconds, then paying invoices would be top of my list. With theatre there’s a weekly paypacket but, for example, it can take a scandalously long time for voice-over jobs to be paid.

Annie Yeah, that’s pretty tough. I’m not sure how they can get away with that.

Albert I’ve been waiting nearly three months for one, but the fee is so small it is hardly worth chasing. Don’t do the job if you don’t like the payment terms. Most of us don’t check the terms, and agents happily sign up for 90 days.

Jenny Three months seems about the average for voice-over payments.

Annie Does everyone involved have to wait that long for the payment? Or just the actors?

Peter Lots of small businesses have cash-flow problems resulting from late payments.

Jon I did a voice-over in September that was on the telly a lot over Christmas. It was tough watching it knowing I hadn’t been paid and had about a tenner to spend on my family.

Annie That’s absurd.

Albert Ninety days is a pretty standard payment term for many jobs in the real world.

Vivian “Don’t do the job if you don’t like the payment terms”? Jeepers, Albert, I’d love the luxury of having that choice.

Albert Sometimes, I just don’t get it. One minute we want to be respected, yet the next we are quite happy to be walked all over. Saying no is one of the most powerful things you can do, and if you’re prepared to just take everything, then how can you ask for respect?

Jon Agents are often too circumspect to chase, as well: “If we make a fuss they won’t use us again.”

Annie That attitude is a general problem across the industry – people have kept their mouths shut for too long.

Vivian On a similar note, at the moment, I hate the way you are expected to agree to a contract that doesn’t begin for six months.

Annie And the way agents treat you as well can be highly ‘entertaining’.

Albert These are all just irritations – I’m not sure any of them make me really angry. In fact, I’m quite proud of the fact that I work in an industry in the UK that is world-class. It’s an area in which we lead the world and which raises a phenomenal amount of revenue from overseas sales, visitors’ theatre tickets and our contribution as actors to the world market.

Vivian Albert, I’m glad they are irritations to you, but they make me angry. And I want my industry to be better.

Jon Plenty to be proud of – but I thought we could do with a good old February moan.

Albert Some people think that is the collective name for us: a moan of actors.

Jon Well, that’s one to be addressed. Let’s talk about that next time.

Peter I also think our contribution to the economy is something to be celebrated. But it’s sad that these days we seem to talk to the powerful as though our financial worth is the only reason for our existence.

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

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