Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Ros Clifford, 30, is a deputy stage manager. She has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management
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
Adam I was asked this the other day and I realised I had no answer.
Peter I’m not sure they need advice. They’re usually so happy – having spent most of their lives making themselves financially secure, they now have the chance to do something they love.
Charlotte I agree, anyone I meet who has decided to change career later on in life seems to be a lot happier and more secure in what they are doing.
Albert When I was at drama school and starting out at the tender age of 18, a 42-year-old woman sat having coffee with us on our first day. She turned out to be a fellow student who, having raised three children, was following her lifelong love of acting. When we finished college and went out into the real world she had it very hard as a 45-year-old actor with no experience. But she persevered hard and went on to do lots of television work and had 20 years of doing what she loved. So everyone should go for it.
Adam Back in the *ahem* old days, you used to be advised to do a one-man show at a good pub theatre and invite casting directors to see it. That’s how old I am.
Jon At least there’s some kind of entry mechanism for actors. It must be harder for designers, directors and stage managers…
Peter There’s a danger that, having finally joined the profession, you’re too eager to please.
Beryl I know an actor who moved back to England having been abroad for many years, she threw herself into everything.
Adam That said, I would advise people to find opportunities to do what you love wherever they may be. Don’t be overly focused on climbing the ladder.
Albert Some older people have more knowledge of how to manage all the bits other than acting.
Adam Just focus on the work. You need to get experience to match others your age who have been in the profession 20 years. Anywhere, anyhow, no matter how small or insignificant. Just try to act where you can.
Albert If you want to do it, do it. Don’t live a life of regret. But also know when not to do it. Know when to step away.
Charlotte I would probably give the same advice to anyone of any age starting out – make the most of every opportunity and be nice.
Ros When I went to drama school I was 18 – and there were a couple in my class who were a lot older than the rest of us who had tried other careers and decided to retrain. I regularly meet stage managers in the industry who have done the same.
Peter Actors who have spent a long time doing other things often have a depth and natural stage presence that is difficult for people who have gone into the business straight from drama school. But I have seen someone who had been a queen in amateur theatre and turned professional when she retired. She thought she knew it all and was reluctant to take direction.
Adam As far as advice goes, find others who entered the profession late and write to them. They may be happy to chat on the phone and offer advice.
Albert My advice is: if you’re over 60 don’t bother, because I do those jobs.
Adam Write postcards and letters rather than emails. Write to artistic directors of companies you love. You’ll be surprised how few actually do that. I knew someone who started late, wrote to Mike Leigh and got an audition.
Jon I know a director who started in his late 30s, after years of directing amateur work. He’s brilliant and has done good fringe stuff but can’t make the usual progression because nobody hires directors in their 40s for the assistant gigs that act as a stepping stone.
Adam Directing must be so hard because the paths to entry are so narrow. And there are so few of them – one director per production rather than several actors.
Ros I know very few actors and directors who came to their profession ‘later on’.
Beryl It is much harder to be taken seriously as a director.
Albert You can’t just step from where you are on the ladder of your life to the ladder of acting. You have to climb down and cross over and start at the bottom. Do some training. I’ve had people who have come in for auditions who have ‘come into the profession late’ who haven’t trained and they looked like fish out of water.
Jon I think that’s key. Understanding that your peers aren’t your peers, as it were.
Beryl Take the classes, take the help where you can find it, and don’t have unrealistic expectations.
Charlotte And remember there will be people younger than you who have far more experience that you could learn from.
Beryl I don’t know that I would say anything different to a young actor.
Charlotte I agree. I don’t think there is much difference from the advice I would give to someone in their 20s.
Adam Go to plays, watch movies and immerse yourself in the work. Develop your taste. Find out what the young companies are doing.
Beryl I guess you may be more ‘certain’ about some things when you’re older and those certainties may be challenged – be ready for that and be open to it.
Jon And after all, actors might benefit from the ‘attrition’ that we keep being told helps you as you get older…
Peter I was told by a casting director that being older and still willing to tour makes you “gold dust”.
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 email@example.com