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The Green Room: How do you decide whether or not to take a job?

Photo: Shutterstock

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

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

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

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

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

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally


Albert It has to work financially. I’m not about making money, though I like that, but it has to balance the books. This is my business after all.

John Career over cash over fun over need?

Beryl Is it going to make me happy? Can I pay the bills? Can I afford to do it?

Jon I think my answer to this is usually “If I get offered it, I’ll do it”, but I maybe shouldn’t admit to that in public.

John I rarely turn down a job unless I literally can’t afford what they are paying – which is often enough, unfortunately.

Albert It has to be a challenge. If I think there is an element of doubt as to my ability to do it, then I’ll take it.

Beryl I try not to do theatre ‘for the money’ – it tends not to make me happy. Television work is different as it’s generally a shorter commitment, usually for better wages. Theatre-wise, I am getting pickier, I think. It has to be something I care about.

Vivian I think that’s mostly what I’ve done. I’m getting to a stage where I have to consider: will it make me happy? Because I’m noticing that the highs are getting higher – when I like a job I’m so happy, but if I don’t like a job, I get so unhappy: “Why am I doing this? I feel rotten.” So, for my own sake I have to be careful, when I have the luxury of being able to choose. A bad job can really ruin my day, frankly.

Albert I love anything I haven’t done before. Anything within 10 miles of home and anything with no matinees.

Jon Ros – what are the criteria for stage managers if more than one offer is on the table? Is it as simple as ‘this show looks more technical than that one, so it’ll be more of a challenge’? Or are things like the script and the colleagues more important?

Ros There are a lot of factors, those included. For me, it’s about what I think will interest me and challenge me the most, followed by logistics and what will make me happiest.

John At this stage in my career I’ll pretty much do anything if it offers enough cash.

Jon It’s interesting that Ros and Vivian both brought up happiness, from different perspectives at the same time. How do you gauge whether a job is going to make you happy?

Beryl If you’re unhappy, you won’t do your best work – you might even say the wrong lines… The writing, the people, the team, the message of play and the venue – they’re all the things that affect how happy you feel.
And happiness is paramount.

Vivian For me it’s all about the team – the director, mainly.

Jon The part?

Beryl To an extent, yes.

‘It’s about what I think will interest me and challenge me the most, followed by logistics and what will make me happiest’

John If it’s a cough and a spit, then maybe no. But even if I’m considering a job I might have a bad feeling about, I still find myself asking: “Is this bad job going to be make me more unhappy than the very boring office job I’m doing to pay the bills?” And actually, I say that I’d maybe turn down a cough and a spit. But a cough and a spit and a great understudy part in an amazing show with an awesome team and more than likely a chance to go on? Gosh, it gets complicated.

Jon Ros, what are the happiness criteria for you?

Ros As an example, the job I’m doing next was one of those ‘I know I’ll be happy’ jobs because it’s a building and place I love, with a great team, working on a really good text. Now I’m settled, I really have to think about moving around.

Jon Do we actors have a size of part we wouldn’t dip under, or does it depend on the other factors?

Vivian Yes. I think I do.

Jon Vivian – I remember the last show I saw you in. You had nothing to do for the first 90 minutes and I thought: “Why on earth has someone in her position taken this part?” And then you suddenly had the stage to yourself, and an amazing 10-minute speech.

Vivian Ha – well, yes, those ones are always nice.

John I often take the advice from my agent on this kind of thing. I trust their judgement a lot.

Beryl I’m not going to leave home for a job hundreds of miles away if I’m going to be bored or wishing I was playing someone else’s part.

Vivian Leaving home is hard.

Jon When I met my husband, I was in a three-year period of work in or near London – the furthest I went from home was the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. Since then I’ve spent three years on the road.

Beryl It gets harder. That’s my age though.

Vivian Yes, I think it depends on where you are in your career. I tell people starting out to do everything – whatever it takes to get on stage and learn.

Beryl Oh absolutely – at the start I did everything.

Careers Clinic: How can I benefit from a ‘small job’?

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