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The Green Room: How do you cope with first rehearsal days?

The first day of rehearsals does not get any easier, say our panellists . Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shuttesrtock The first day of rehearsals does not get any easier, say our panellists. Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shuttesrtock

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, RSC, in the West End and on the road

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked 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

Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in Oscar-winning film, BAFTA-winning TV, and at the RSC and National Theatre

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

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

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


Rosemary I really struggle with first days.

John They’re always frightening. Don’t drink too much coffee.

Adam Try not to tell the actor you idolise how much you love everything they’ve done.

Rosemary I hope to see a friend. And I make too many jokes.

JonI always think they’re going to get easier, but they never do.

Adam It will never stop feeling as though it’s the first day of school.

Gary I don’t mind them usually, but if you have taken a smallish part, sometimes the read-through can be a ‘humbling’ experience.

John Find someone in the cast who has a mutual friend and introduce yourself, eh Jon?

JonYes, I’d forgotten that was how we met.

Annie Make it about the other people. Find out about everyone and learn their names. I’m so fed up with the old ‘I’m awful with names’ declaration – make an effort and you’ll remember them.

Rosemary I’m quite dry, so I am so deadpan on the first day and people think I am a ghoul.

JonI didn’t think you were a ghoul. I thought you were really funny.

John I’m always most worried about forgetting my name.

Rosemary I just want to get to the read-through. Once the read-through starts it’s okay – then we know who we are and can hide behind the scripts.

John I discussed the first-day thing with an actor on a first day recently and most of it boils down to “I hope they don’t think I’m shit”.

JonI wish we could make it the law to do read-throughs before lunch.

It’s horrific when games start before lunch

Rosemary It’s horrific when games start before lunch.

JonCoffee, meet and greet, scary-saying-who-you-are circle, then send everyone away and let us read it. Games and model box after lunch please.

Gary Games are horrific at all times.

Rosemary Really, whoever said to directors that to loosen a company up, you should play games was an idiot. Once we are all friends, that’s a different story.

JonI think the “hope they don’t think I’m shit” thing that John mentioned is universal. That and “everyone else they’ve cast is brilliant and I’m the only clueless one” during the read-through.

Rosemary Many first days I have thought “I could just leave”.

John It’s good to try to say hello to everyone – you might not see some cast members for a couple of days, depending on rehearsals, and it’s weird to be introducing yourself then.

Ros I spend most of my first days worrying about having enough scripts and whether my stopwatch is working. And whether I can remember all the acting company’s names.

Rosemary I often find myself standing apart for a while.

JonRosemary – I stand apart too, then worry that I shouldn’t be and either revert to someone I know as soon as possible, or go to the loo and hide for a bit, or clumsily barge into someone else’s conversation.

Adam I’m a bit reclusive, I tend to go into myself and watch. That said, it also differs wildly depending on the job. Sometimes I surprise myself and end up being super chatty.

Ros I’m not very good socially on first days.

JonAre stage managers expected to greet us ‘off book’, as it were, without being introduced?

Ros I think, in most cases, yes.

Gary Actors and stage managers are generally good at mixing with one another quickly, but there’s no way around first-day awkwardness. It’s like getting a car started on a frosty morning – it will just make a noise and grunt for a while.

Rosemary Ros, maybe the stopwatch one is something you don’t need to worry about. We all have watches you can borrow.

Ros It’s just a weird deputy stage manager thing. Or a weird me thing.

Gary Have we got any directors on board today? It must be pretty tough for them.

Rosemary They love it.

JonWe don’t have directors here, Gary, this is a safe space.

Rosemary Ha.

JonI know some directors find it more stressful than others. I worked with a director once who did the whole first day from notes. Brilliant director as it turned out, but didn’t immediately inspire confidence.

John Leave your phone in your pocket. You don’t want be the one staring into a black mirror. And bring a snack – I’m always too nervous to eat beforehand, but I know I will collapse if I don’t. Passing out during a read-through would be a little embarrassing.

Jenny Always have an outfit planned beforehand rather than the day itself – nice to start smart. And set your alarm. Deep, I know.

I’m happy if I make it through without walking into a door

Rosemary Blimey, an outfit. I’m happy if I make it through without walking into a door.

Jenny An outfit and an exit.

JonI always take off my first choice of clothes for day one because I worry I’ve dressed for a party (I then put on other ones, to be clear).

Jenny Sure you do…

John I know a couple of actors who like to dress with a flavour of the character.

Rosemary “A flavour of the character”? What a bunch of tossers we are.

John Nothing too extreme. I’m not talking full Elizabethan dress for the Globe.

JonOne actor I worked with decided his non-speaking character was a spy, so came into work in a suit with sunglasses and a Bluetooth headset…

Rosemary Please. I would have ribbed non-stop.

JonTrue story.

John That’s brilliant. He sounds like a real gift.

JonMoving swiftly on…

Adam At least in theatre the first day is followed by a long process of getting to know everyone. For screen work, you often only have two or three days on a project. So every day feels as though it’s the first day.

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