Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Eoghan Barry is 30. He has worked professionally as an actor on fringe projects and with young people, and more recently as a writer
Ros Clifford, 30, is a deputy stage manager. She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and 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
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre
Albert Something that utilises your skills as a person and makes you feel validated, and pays.
Jon I ushered during my 20s, but the pay wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to survive in London now.
Beryl I couldn’t work in a theatre. I know lots of young actors who usher, which is fine while you’re studying as you get to see lots of shows. But once you’re out and unemployed, it’s harder to be in that world.
Albert Imagine being out of work and having to watch other actors eight times a week knowing you could do it better.
Peter A job that’s stimulating and well paid, where they give you days off for auditions and months off for work – and yet still welcome you back with open arms. There aren’t a lot about.
Ros In my experience I’ve not really found another job that’s fine with me sodding off for a few months to do theatre work. But I guess I’m lucky, because I’m very rarely out of work for more than a few weeks.
Albert Role play in the corporate world used to be a job that actors thought they could drop in and out of, but now there are so many companies doing it, and they demand commitment. There are many actors who only do corporate role play, so it’s no longer an area for popping in and out of.
Eoghan Working in two areas of the industry is nice, hopefully I’m busy with one if the other is slack and vice versa. But outside of that… Something involving freedom and good pay and the sense of play and fun that we get in acting… so, acting?
Jon There’s the rub.
Beryl It’s a hard one.
Peter When I was young my mother said to an actor friend of mine: “I wish he had another string to his bow.” My friend said: “If he had another string to his bow, he wouldn’t pursue his career with enough passion.” It was okay to say in those days when it was easier to sign on, but these days young actors need another source of income.
Albert All young actors coming out of drama school now have to acknowledge the fact they are not going to earn enough or spend enough time working as an actor to make ends meet, and this other job has to be part of their career plan. Being behind a bar is ultimately not going to offer career fulfilment.
Eoghan I know some friends who are board-game reviewers – now that’s something I could get on board with, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Ros One of my best friends is an actor and he teaches English and tutors in between acting jobs.
Jon A lot of younger actors do performance-adjacent stuff, such as escape rooms, but they’re looking for a certain type of actor (I discovered the hard way I was “not that type”).
Albert Did you not escape, Jon?
Peter Where do you think he’s typing this, Albert?
Jon Luckily there is a laptop in here.
Beryl I know a few actors who screwed up by prioritising their other job over going for castings because they couldn’t get time off. They had to keep the job to pay the rent and are not acting any more.
Jon A friend of mine who couldn’t make a last-minute audition because she was nannying was asked by her agent: “Do you want to be an actor or a nanny?”
Beryl That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s really hard for people with low incomes.
Albert There is a lot of work in the promo world. There are a lot of rip-off companies too. Kru Live is one of the biggest and the best, but again, if you keep dropping out of jobs they find it hard to use you.
Peter Corporate and role play are good alternatives, but I suppose that’s still really being an actor.
Jon People who entered the industry later in life sometimes have an advantage here, because they’ll often have a ‘real CV’, unlike the sad little non-acting CVs we send out: “Duties included filing and data entry.”
Ros Or non-stage-management CVs.
Jon Yes, apologies.
Peter A few people I know have run antiques shops. They never seem to have regular opening hours.
Albert And the thing is, people get comfortable with the money they’re earning outside of acting. There comes a point when you really don’t want to take the day off to do two lines in Emmerdale because you think you’ll be spotted.
Peter When people say: “I can’t afford to do this job”, because they earn so much in their “other” job, you know their career is over.
Beryl I was sacked from every job other than acting apart from bar work, which can be a bit like being on stage if it’s a good pub.
Jon There seem to be quite a few employers who start off by saying: “You can go to auditions whenever you want” and before too long it’s more like: “You can’t have Thursday off.”
Beryl This topic is yet another indicator of the elitism that has crept into drama schools with regard to fees. Working-class people have less of a chance of even starting out.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org