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The Green Room: Have you ever felt pressure not to take work outside London?

Mark Gatiss in The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse. He was praised as an example of a high-profile actor taking a job in a regional theatre. 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…​​​​​​​​​​

Albert_Parker

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

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

Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television

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

Seamus Wallace is in his 30s and has appeared regularly at the National Theatre, as well as at the RSC, in the West End, on tour and on 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

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

 

Peter No. 90% of my work is outside London. There are two reasons for not wanting to go away – private and personal. I’m single and childless, so I don’t think the world ends if I’m not in London..

Seamus Yes. In fact, I am often dissuaded from taking work outside London.

Beryl Not unless it’s something my agent doesn’t think is worth engaging with, which would be the same for a job in London.

Ros When I first started out, a lot of my peers were working in London and I naively thought that was where the work was. But I just didn’t know that much about regional theatre. Now 95% of my work is out of London and I couldn’t be happier.

Adam I think it runs deeper than the geography. Most people I know would take screen jobs outside London, so maybe it’s more about the economics. I won’t do theatre outside London because I’m going to end up in debt at the end of the job.

Seamus TV is different because it is often just a few days here and there, so exceptions can be made. But a months-long theatre contract is a different matter and I think that the reputation of the regional theatre in question plays a huge part.

Albert I don’t necessarily think it’s about the work. I think it’s about where you are in your life. Not being away from family and loved ones can become a priority.

Peter I enjoy the bonding that happens when you’re away from home – and that’s not a euphemism.

Beryl The money is rarely worth being away from home for, particularly if you have a family. I’ve done loads of work outside London, but now I have to be really keen on the project to leave home for a long period.

Peter The problem is that you can do really good work in Manchester, while knowing that more casting directors would have seen you in that little job at the Finborough in London.

Adam I’m lucky enough to have an agent who has never pressured me not to take a job I wanted, but I know a lot of actors who have been told: ‘Don’t go and do a play in X, because you’ll be unavailable in case some TV comes in.’

The problem is bigger than actors. Regional theatres don’t get enough subsidy to pay us properly

Annie I’m not London-based. There are more than enough transportation links to get to and from castings in London when you live elsewhere. I see travelling as part of the job. And self-taping is common now.

Adam Growing up outside London, I saw so many topdrawer actors at my local theatre. It just seemed to be the done thing. Now it feels like it’s a different circuit.

Beryl The problem is bigger than actors. Regional theatres don’t get enough subsidy to pay us properly.

Touring allowances don’t cover the cost of actors’ digs (your views, March 1)

Peter I’m now lucky enough to get the state pension, so that subsidises bad pay.

Seamus I have a young family in London and have always been able to make it work if I wanted to take a job at a regional theatre. I realise I’m lucky in that respect. But the crucial point for me is the general attitude in the industry towards regional theatre and tours. I am often dissuaded from it because ‘no one will see it’.

JonIt’s interesting – and probably a bit dispiriting – that most of us here are saying that we work all over the country, but also that if we do accept work outside London, it will pay badly and not be seen by the people we need to see it. Some casting directors have been quite vocal about the fact that a lot of the people they want to see won’t even come in for jobs outside the capital.

Beryl I didn’t like that. I don’t think they have any idea about the finances of being away – that we often start a job skint and never make up the ground. It falls in the same area as ‘actors should be grateful for anything’ – which is bollocks.

JonCasting locally is another issue. I hear about theatres having their auditions in London and not seeing actors who live a mile away.

Albert I think casting locally is entirely different. Actors who have chosen to go and live in other parts of the country have made a personal choice. Quite often a wise one. But many of them still pretend to be London-based, just to be available for work, often in the theatre down the road.

Beryl Local actors often get bypassed for the London ‘talent’, which is rubbish.

Seamus I’ve had the opposite experience. I was recently seen for a lovely regional gig that I was perfect for and the audition was really good. They ended up giving the part to a local actor without auditioning them because they were local.

Albert Theatre should explore local talent, but it certainly shouldn’t be limited to it. The benefits have to work both ways. The theatre gets the benefit of a name who will attract audiences, but quite often the name doesn’t get the benefit of a salary, and there’s only so much altruism you can have in your job.

Annie You can’t create from a place of abundance if you’re constantly struggling to pay the rent, like a lot of my London-based actor friends are. I’d rather live out, be happy, create my own work and travel as and when. Quality of life is important.

Ros In my experience, it’s going where the work is. If you’re lucky, it’s work that interests you and fulfils you. The older I get though, the less I’ll travel if it’s not something that grabs me.

Albert I think the bottom line is: never be unhappy about turning anything down. Make the choice that works for you.

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