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The Green Room: What’s the most unprofessional you’ve ever been?

Shit-Faced Shakespeare’s shows rely on actors’ inebriation for comic effect, but in most productions being drunk on stage would be highly unprofessional. Photo: Tristram Kenton Shit-Faced Shakespeare’s shows rely on actors’ inebriation for comic effect, but in most productions being drunk on stage would be highly unprofessional. Photo: Tristram Kenton

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

Albert_Parker

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

Abi Egerman is in her 20s and has appeared at London’s Old Vic, the National Theatre and in regional rep

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

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

 

Albert Unprofessional as in bad or as in unpaid? I love the way the word ‘professional’ is thrown out as some sort of threat. You have to be professional.

JonHa! ‘There was this one time I did an entire show and didn’t get any money at all!’

Albert Amateur groups all over the country say: “We’re so professional.” No you’re not. You’re unpaid – you’re amateurs.

JonIt’s a word with two meanings, though, isn’t it? Like loads of words. One meaning is about remuneration, the other is about standards of behaviour.

Abi I won’t name the production, but I once did a job that directly coincided with a large football tournament, and throughout the run we were all avidly watching the games on a tiny TV in the green room. It just so happened that I was playing a character who had a large break at the beginning of Act II…

JonI think I can see where this is going.

Abi One evening, when a very important match was happening, I made my entrance halfway through the act and used my fingers to display the score of the game on my lap. My fellow actors were grateful, but it happened to be a very serious play, a very serious role and a very serious director, and I am really not sure what possessed me to do it.

John I have been drunk on stage many times. Always from the night before.

Jenny Corpsing probably, for me…

Ros I think I’ve already told the story about the time I walked out of tech. And I do unfortunately have a terrible habit of swearing down cans. Usually during tech and dress rehearsals. I’m not proud.

JonThe one that still makes me cringe is when I was in the loo and heard my cue (for a scene change) coming up sooner than I had thought. I got myself together, hurried upstairs and ran on stage, shoving my phone, which I’d been looking at, in my pocket. Problem was, my costume was white trousers and my phone was still lit up. So in the scene-change state I was a little beacon of light.

Ros Oh Jon.

John White trousers? Nice.

JonI suspect I may have been show-reported for that.

Ros I expect so.

Albert That’s how you know you’ve been unprofessional as opposed to fun then, is it? That you make the show report?

Ros Ah, the threat of the show report!

John Ugh. I hate show reports. I never know when I’m in it until the director tells me weeks later.

Ros The amount of times I’ve had members of acting companies come to me, saying: “Please don’t show-report it!”

Jenny Last-matinee show reports should be published in a book.

JonRos – how would you answer Albert’s question? What’s the difference between having fun on stage and doing something show-reportable?

Ros So to me the difference is between something the audience wouldn’t notice and something they would. A small bit of upstage corpsing is not a big deal. Someone bringing a prop on they’ve never used in a scene before without telling anyone: show report.

JonThat seems fair.

Albert That cuts out the possibility of a big dildo gag.

Jenny Gutted.

At a final panto matinee, the muck-ups were so blatant that the audience complained because it distracted from the show

Ros I remember doing a final panto matinee where the muck-ups were so blatant that we had audience members complaining afterwards because it distracted from the show.

Albert I remember a couple of actors getting copies of the show report at Stratford framed when they had appeared in each others’ costumes. Opposite gender, naturally.

Jenny I missed an entrance once – I had no idea I’d even done it, I was already getting changed for the next scene.

John I have messed around on stage quite a lot as well. Pissing around with peoples’ props. Intentionally trying to make people laugh.

Jenny Any shows with props involving pens and paper are just inviting trouble…

Albert Been pissed, been off, shagged the designer’s boyfriend in the stalls.

Jon‘…and that was just the Wednesday matinee!’

Albert Not all on the same night…

JonIn the stalls?

Albert Yes – after curtain down on the way to the first-night party. Lying down in row F, I think it was.

JonRow F? Appropriate. Oh by the way, this particular topic is going in under people’s real names. I hope that’s okay?

Jenny I love all the Judi Dench stories about her naughtiness, especially her running gag with Tim Pigott-Smith and the glove… She’s a legend – an unprofessional legend!

Albert I’ve been the victim of a Dench gag. She’s very naughty – it’s why we love her.

Jenny Phoebe Waller-Bridge has told some great examples of messing around on stage. She really went the extra mile – maybe too far, according to her own admission.

JonThe gobsmacking one I had: a colleague on stage for a whole scene in the Olivier who knowingly had his iPad in his coat pocket and it wasn’t even on silent. I don’t know if the audience heard but for us on stage the scene was peppered with the email notification noise.


Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email greenroom@thestage.co.uk

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