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The Green Room: What are your favourite theatrical traditions?

Photo: Shutterstock

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 new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally

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

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


Beryl Banging on the National Theatre windows is up there.

John Yep, love the NT window banging.

Jon Oh, the NT windows. You’ll make me cry. For those who may not know, the dressing rooms at the National are all located around a central courtyard so the windows all face each other. On press nights, everyone in all three theatres comes to bang on the windows when beginners is called.

Jenny It’s amazing. Always makes me cry and ruins my make-up, though.

Beryl Definitely my favourite tradition.

Albert Mine is first-night presents costing more than £50.

Jenny When I’ve worked in the States, because people left the show all the time due to contracts etc, they had their own interval show called Happy Trails where they all sang a song and then another specifically written with that cast member in mind. A lot of thought and effort was put in. It was always lovely.

Velma Saying, ‘There’s no one I don’t like!’ about the company in week one and two – and then…

Beryl Asking, ‘Are we rehearsing Saturday?’ when you’ve been out of work for three months.

Albert There’s also that well-known tradition of everybody finding a very good reason for not being the Equity dep.

Jon The Equity dep should either be the youngest, or the person who wasn’t rehearsing that day.

John It should be the youngest, with support from someone older.

Peter Agreed. On a separate note, I must say I can’t be doing with all that ‘Scottish play’, ‘don’t whistle’ stuff.

Jenny I like the Baddeley cake they have every Twelfth Night at Drury Lane. It goes back years.

Jon I love old-school backstage calls. Alphabetical order, ladies first. There’s far too much “Act I beginners to the stage” and then that’s it these days. You’re supposed to get all the names.

Jenny I used to love the first-night cards because people put so much effort and creativity into them. That doesn’t seem to happen as much any more.

John Depends how stressful techs/previews/first nights have been.

Peter If your phone goes off, you buy cake. That’s a very good new tradition.

Jenny In the States, if someone brought in doughnuts for the cast it meant they had got lucky the night before.

Albert Bugger the doughnuts. In Stratford, some people used to bring in the person they got lucky with.

Jenny There must be some Stratford traditions, although the ones I have heard about are not printable.

Albert The late and much lamented [director and Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder] John Barton used to hold a wonderful Christmas party for everybody out at his house.

Jon At Pitlochry Festival Theatre, we had ‘Cava Club’. We’d take it in turns to buy a bottle of fizz for the dressing room, which would be necked before going to the bar.

Albert We had a Cava Club on tour. I got killed at the interval and started on it and the people who died in Act II would come to my room and join in.

Jenny I like when you’re on a job and you set up your own little traditions in the cast. Wine and cheese club, comedy night, etc.

Jon Yes. My new touring tradition seems to be escape rooms in the daytime.

Albert Some of the matinees I played on tour were like escape rooms, Jon. You couldn’t wait to find your way out of them.

Velma I like the level of intimacy you can have with your castmates.

Albert What level is that, Velma?

Velma Ha, not that level of intimacy! But there are not many jobs where you can turn around in the office and say “Do my boobs look different today?” as one often hears the like of in the female dressing rooms.

Beryl Female dressing rooms are one of my favourite and rudest places.

Jenny We’d make the men blush if they knew some of the conversations in there.

Velma When there’s the tradition of ‘just my casual, normal clothes for rehearsal photos’.

Jon Oh yes.

Velma ‘Yep, my hair always looks like this’, studiously ignoring the photographer.

Jon It’s always a nightmare when you forget rehearsal shot day. In the programme for As You Like It at the NT I was wearing my sweaty old Fulham FC top.

Jenny I posed all day for my NT rehearsal photo. I was exhausted by the end. Then they printed one of me laughing like a hyena! Mortified.

Jon I miss the ‘three people standing around a script, one of them pointing at it’ rehearsal shot.

Albert On a TV programme I once worked on, one actress used to really dress herself up to the nines for the producers run every week. For the last episode in the series, the others all wore full evening dress without telling her. That was the day she came in wearing jeans, having been out late the night before.

Peter Do you remember when there was a vote as to whether smoking would be allowed in rehearsals? I remember that at the RSC in the 1980s.

Jenny That is amazing.

John Actors never smoke any more.

Jon You’d used to find out who your pals were going to be at the first coffee break, because they were the ones smoking outside with you.

John Exactly.

Jenny Now it’s all about bonding over your vegan muffin.

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