Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Tina Cerrito is in her 20s. She has worked on a number of productions in leading new writing theatres, as well as film work
Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked professionally as an actor on fringe projects and work for young people and more recently as a writer
Victor Winstanley is 42. His theatre career includes work at the National, the West End, touring and regional work. He also writes for radio and TV
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both national and internationally
Jenny Talbot is 39, with nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV and film
Eoghan There are particular theatres I would love to work in. I love the feel of somewhere like the Young Vic – it’s got life even when the shows aren’t on, it feels welcoming, it’s got great adaptable spaces, and the variety of work is exciting.
Beryl The National, Young Vic, Manchester Royal Exchange – all great.
Tina Who doesn’t love working at the National? A rep system, so you get some lovely days off, great pay and everyone completely respects all the employees. A good theatre looks after everyone, not just the actors.
Victor Before I worked at the National I assumed that all those raving about what a brilliant place it was to work were just being one-up. But (at the risk of the same accusation) it’s just a heavenly place to work. Location, history, loads of fellow actors and creatives in the building, amazing stage managers and wiggies and dressers and crew, and a general sense of being looked after and valued.
Albert I started my career at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, which is a fab space for both actors and audience.
Beryl They look after you there too.
Eoghan I like places where you’re made to feel welcome and there’s a sense of joining a family and community.
Beryl Shakespeare’s Globe is like that.
Eoghan I loved working at London fringe theatres the Blue Elephant and the Rosemary Branch – the artistic directors and whole team in those places cared a lot, looked after us and made it fun and homely.
Albert The Barbican is a nightmare. No light. Everyone used to have a kit in their bags when I worked there consisting of dark glasses, eye drops and paracetamol. I hate it backstage and I hate all those subterranean foyers. Like being in a bunker. Can’t think why the Royal Shakespeare Company keeps returning there.
Eoghan I’d love to perform somewhere like the Orange Tree [Richmond] – playing in the round is so thrilling for me, and the proximity to the audience really exciting.
Thomas In terms of management, what makes a theatre welcoming? What things do theatres do that are ‘best practice’?
Victor A good theatre has a good artistic ethos, a decent rehearsal room or access to one, a good props and costume budget, a dressing room with your own mirror, Wi-Fi, and somewhere nearby to get lunch and groceries. Anything else is a bonus.
Beryl Decent dressing rooms, somewhere to eat, natural light spaces. For a concrete block, the National is great.
Jenny I very much enjoyed my jobs at the National. An entire building dedicated to doing theatre well. Everyone is there for the same reason and really proud to be there.
Albert Theatres should send out information and have a point of contact for actors during rehearsal aside from the production. And send a welcome pack that tells you where Marks and Spencer is.
Eoghan I think making a theatre welcoming is about being accessible to the performers. You’re coming to a new workplace so making sure you are made to feel at home is great.
Albert I like the old green rooms of the big old touring theatres. They’re tucked away downstairs. It’s the new theatres that get it so wrong.
Thomas How about on stage? What makes a space actor-friendly?
Albert I’ve never worked at the Crucible in Sheffield, but I’m told it’s very actor-friendly.
Beryl The Crucible is a lovely space to play.
Albert The people make a difference too. When Jill Fraser ran the Watermill at Newbury, it was a delight to visit, even though the dressing rooms were in the roof.
Beryl It’s all about care. If you feel that the people in the building are passionate about the space, it tends to show.
Eoghan I think part of it is about the audience experience. The building can create a vibe. The Young Vic and the Soho have really nailed their bar set-ups; audiences tend to be in a nice mood before they’re even in the space.
Thomas Has the Soho gone too far that way, though? A great bar with a theatre attached?
Beryl That’s my worry.
Eoghan I don’t know if it’s true, but I wonder if its output of in-house work has dropped?
Beryl A lot of dicks drink there. Sorry.
Eoghan On the flipside, I think the Soho’s very successful at getting people in who might not have been in a theatre before, or who don’t go regularly.
Beryl It’s the same at the Young Vic, actually. When I worked there it was always a bit of a gamble in the bar.
Victor I’ve never come across a theatre I wouldn’t work in again, although some I won’t go back to without various changes of personnel. Generally speaking, when I come to a new theatre I’m newly impressed by the people who work th