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The Green Room: Have you ever had a diva moment – or witnessed any?

Ria Jones as the diva-like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard at Leicester’s Curve. But have our panel had the pleasure of working with similarly ‘difficult’ types? Photo: Manuel Harlan Ria Jones as the diva-like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard at Leicester’s Curve. But have our panel had the pleasure of working with similarly ‘difficult’ types? Photo: Manuel Harlan

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

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and on tour

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

Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

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

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 I’m ashamed to say I have had a diva moment. Well, a mini diva moment. And I have witnessed so many.

Charlotte Ah yes!

Beryl Don’t think I have – apart from at home! But I’ve also witnessed a few.

Ros And I’ve also had to try to calm so many…

Beryl I feel an “I’m ashamed to be an actor” moment coming…

Jon I’ve heard so many actors tell stories about theirs, which are always positioned as a one-time-only thing. I am ashamed to say that mine (with a fellow actor) included the phrase “don’t you dare question my process”. Fifteen years ago, but I still blush.

Gary A few disagreements. Only one full-on Liza Minnelli moment, though.

Peter I threw a strop once when transport arrangements were changed and no one had told me. Techs are a good time for strops.

Ros That’s when I had mine.

Gary A mate tactfully told me that an actress (who I rather liked and respected) had complained to the company manager because she felt she “couldn’t trust me” in a physical lift. She’d requested I be replaced in the lift. I was enormously hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, emasculated and hit the fucking roof – with the poor CM, of course, not the actress.

Peter Often directors throw pretty good strops. I knew a director who hated the costumes and cut them – turning his Shakespeare play into modern dress.

Beryl I snapped at a choreographer when I couldn’t see and was walking by a fire. I got out of that scene but was mortified and still haven’t forgiven myself. She bore the brunt of my frustration about the whole farcical project.

Ros I’m still very embarrassed about this. I was teching a big show. We were on day three and very behind. We were in an evening session. No one was communicating with each other, I had no idea how people wanted me to cue a sequence, I was working with a very inexperienced director and I was very tired. When we were at a standstill and my name just kept getting shouted, I said I needed some air and left for five minutes. It sounds ridiculous. But I was so stressed out and no one cared.

Beryl Good for you, Ros.

Charlotte I would have done the same thing. A lot of the time I can understand strops during tech as there is a lot of pressure on everyone. But when I was shouted at as I wouldn’t bring an actor a sandwich until I had finished the re-set – that I didn’t get.

Beryl See, embarrassing actor behaviour.

Peter I hope the days when actors treated stage management as servants are over.

Beryl I wouldn’t dream of asking a stage manager to bring my lunch.

Jon Was it a prop? Or just a peckish actor?

Charlotte A hungry actor.

BerylThis makes me want to eat my own head.

Vivian ‘Diva’ for me means when your personal ego gets priority over the feelings and work of everyone else in the production.

The word Diva came to mean ‘a difficult person’ and I think that derivation shows that it sometimes stands in for ‘woman with opinions’.

Jon The word interests me. Diva means ‘goddess’, and it was first used for performers in an entirely reverential way. Then it came to mean ‘a difficult person’ and I think that derivation shows that it sometimes stands in for ‘woman with opinions’.

Vivian I don’t see it limited to one gender, one profession or one specific behaviour. They may not have been wearing pearls or demanding only blue M&Ms, but I’ve seen people get away with utterly unacceptable behaviour. But the gender aspect is interesting, because in my experience the women I would describe as ‘divas’ – irritating, selfish and myopic – presented in quite a masculine way and they had obviously never been challenged. And I wonder whether that was because they didn’t have the feathers and whatever – the traditional feminine accoutrements.

Jon You don’t have to be swanning around in furs demanding pearlised water to be behaving like a diva. What are some of the more micro versions, like Charlotte’s actor with the sandwich?

Beryl Shouting at a dresser in a quick change.

Jon I once saw an actor sweep off stage and shout “Wig! WIG!” at the theatre fireman.

Ros I must say that most casts I’ve worked with over the years have all been completely wonderful.

Peter I’m always surprised at the way actors accept that other actors make mistakes, but expect stage management to always be perfect. There’s often a diva moment after an SM mistake.

Beryl Is that because the actor feels exposed and vulnerable ‘out there’? That is not an excuse, by the way.

Jon Not from you it’s not, but I’ve definitely seen that used as an excuse for poor behaviour from some people.

Beryl Me too! It seems we actors are very delicate creatures.

Ros Some directors I’ve worked with are guilty of the ‘expecting stage management to be perfect’ thing, and have kicked off when a mistake was made.

Jon We’re focusing on funny stories, but in the room this stuff can be damaging. For instance, the actor who jedi-mind-tricks the director into letting them use every choice they want, no matter the effect on the rest of the cast.

Beryl Yep. Selfish.

Vivian On one occasion, I worked with an actor who was a beautiful person – hard-working, young, a delight – and I found out on the last week of a long run that his dresser had been going out to buy him water, keeping it at room temperature and opening it for him. I hit the roof. Mainly from incomprehension. It seemed to me that the dresser had been used to and expected a tiered system where he weirdly placed himself at the bottom, and was creating an environment where the actor felt he could do that. The actor must have believed this was acceptable, which is also very worrying.

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