@westendproducer who pays for accommodation when on a national tour/show
— Paul Robinson (@paulrobinson770) January 27, 2019
When doing a national tour, you will receive a touring allowance on top of your weekly wage. This ranges from 50p to £300, depending on the size of the producer’s wallet, and is meant to cover your living expenses – accommodation, food, and packets of Durex.
Some companies will book digs for you – the kind of accommodation you will get depends on the type of show. But mostly it is left entirely up to you to sort out.
Most theatres have a digs list which is made available to actors. It is a well-known fact that the hardest part of any acting job is booking theatrical digs. This harrowing task can take weeks, months or even years, as actors trawl through old phone numbers and speak to hundreds of old dears who offer rooms to young, willing, paying actors. Be warned: if not taken seriously, an actor can spend years staying in the worst rooms imaginable, coping with mould, crusty sheets, brick pillows and previous lodgers’ acting fluid.
Some actors don’t worry about their touring accommodation – they presume the regional theatres will become their homes instead. This is a mistake. An actor needs space away from the company, and, on top of that, many resident crew members hate actors spending too much time in their beloved backstage area: “Why’s that bloody actor here already? It’s only 6.30pm – the show doesn’t start until 7.30pm. Don’t they have homes to go to?”
The cost of digs varies at every theatre, and sometimes actors find themselves out of pocket. One way of combating this problem is to share digs with fellow cast members. You can literally split your weekly rental money in half by sharing a room – which leaves you an extra £50 to spend on local ale.
It was going well until eight of them decided to share the same bed for a week, resulting in arguments, a broken bed, an angry landlady and a suspicious rash
I recall a company touring Half a Sixpence many moons ago, whose touring allowance was literally half a sixpence, so they all shared rooms and beds. It was going very well until eight of them decided to share the same bed for a week. It resulted in numerous arguments, a broken bed, an angry landlady and a suspicious rash.
Most theatre digs lists haven’t been updated or checked since Noel Coward’s production of The Battle of Hay Fever in 1066, so there is no guarantee of getting out of them alive. I actually think it’s very important that this is addressed. Theatres have a duty of care to their employees, and this extends to visiting companies. It wouldn’t take long to do a quick quality check. Also, actors should report if any particular digs are dirty, dodgy or owned by members of the local amdram society: excitable digs landlords sometimes spend the entire time dribbling over their new acting lodgers.
Luckily, there are newer ways of finding touring accommodation – the website Theatre Digs Booker is very popular and there are various Facebook groups. However, if all else fails you can just pitch a tent in the local park. This is a great way of saving money. And don’t worry about bodily functions, as you can perform all these at the theatre – like people usually do in warm-ups, dear.