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The Green Room: What do friends outside the profession think of your job?

Friends, some are supportive and some less so. 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

Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

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

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

Peter_Quince

Peter Quince is a 71-year-old actor working in theatre and television

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

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

 

Albert Do people have friends outside the profession?

Peter They’re indulgent.

Jon That’s a diplomatic way of putting it. What do you mean by “indulgent”?

Annie Most of them think it’s pretty cool. Family on the other hand…

Ros Most of mine still don’t understand it.

Annie Some don’t really ask about it because they don’t get it.

Rosemary They think we are loaded and we are ponces.

Peter They either think it’s more glamorous than it is or they don’t take it seriously.

Rosemary Mine aren’t that bothered about it one way or the other.

Peter They’re all horrified when they hear what we actually earn.

John Most friends are impressed with the whole acting lark, and see it as glamorous, not understanding the tiny amount I’m paid.

Jon I’ve noticed that too, with regards to pay. When I get a theatre job some people assume I’m going to be minted.

Ros My friends struggle with my working hours. They still haven’t grasped show call or hours during rehearsal weeks. They also think it’s more glam than it is and that I earn a lot.

Albert I don’t think people understand our commitment to what we do. We live to work, perhaps they work to live.

Peter One thing I’ve come across is people who don’t understand that most jobs don’t have understudies.

Jon Or that line-learning isn’t the hardest element of the job. Well, not yet, anyway.

Rosemary My friends want to come and see shows on the matinee. I hate them for it.

Jon Rosemary – get new friends at once.

Rosemary So tired, and then you have to chat.

Albert Real friends are proud to see you do what you do. Most of them have jobs where they are unobserved – imagine going to watch a mate do a spreadsheet. Not that I have any accountant friends, you understand.

Annie Performers or people in the profession are brave. Brave enough to live a life that often requires us to step outside of our comfort zone on a daily basis – and some people who like a salary and like to know their place, as it were, can find that bizarre, inspiring or sometimes intimidating. Hence different reactions from different people in my friendship circle.

Peter I’ve got loyal friends who travel all over the country to see me.

Jon Yes, that means a lot. It’s the flipside of the way people can sometimes be a bit demanding when you’re in something closer to home.

Albert “Any free tickets?”

Jon Free tickets, or 12 company-rate tickets for a sold-out show. Oh, and ‘who’s famous?’

Ros I did a show with quite a lot of ‘names’ in it and it was the first time a lot of my mates had taken what I do seriously.

Annie There’s always those “when you’re on the red carpet…” jokes.

Jon Or the helpful advice – “Have you thought of getting a job in EastEnders?”

Rosemary People outside the profession are not tactful when you are in something rubbish.

Peter Mothers can be very embarrassing.

Albert Are you often in rubbish, Rosemary?

Rosemary Only ever in rubbish.

Jon Can happen with people in the profession. I was in a play a couple of years ago that people either love or hate and my actor mates who came to see it did not hold back.

Peter Usually, though, the kind words actors use when their friends are in rubbish have not been learned by people outside the profession.

Jon One non-actor friend turned up blind drunk to my National Theatre debut (later in the run, I should add, not the first performance) and very earnestly told me in the green room afterwards: “I’m not being funny, but that’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

Ros My friends outside the profession don’t come to see my shows because they don’t understand what I do, and can’t see me doing it because I’m off stage anyway.

Jon I think the point about working hours is an interesting one. I’ve had people asking why I can’t take a night off for a wedding or a party – although I’m sure there are people who do…

Ros Yep. I’ve disappointed a lot of people.

Peter I know actors who’ve pulled a sickie to go to a wedding.

Ros They also don’t get that on your one day/night off you might just want to hibernate and not talk to anyone. Or maybe that’s just me.

John I’m with you on that Ros.

Jon Ros – that’s universal. But, I’m sure they would say we don’t understand their jobs.

Annie A lot of my friends are outside of the acting world and I find we’re able to keep each other grounded and use our separate skill sets to help each other, which I love.

Rosemary There’s one person I know who always says something dreadful. Last time she said: “God it was so bright, I nearly puked up my wine.” I did a lovely big smile.

Jon That’s the way to do it! And also my congratulations to all of you, that we’ve got through this entire conversation without anyone using the word ‘muggles’ at any point.

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