Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Hari Bairn is in his 20s and since graduating from drama school has worked in the West End, Off-West End and on a number of tours
Emily Cohen is in her 20s and works in theatre and TV as well as running her own theatre company. She is an associate member of a national company
Albert Parker is in his 60s and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
John Pepper is 32 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film
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 and television
Jon There’s been a lot of talk about working conditions in the wake of stories about immersive show Variant 31. What are your non-negotiables?
John Clean dressing rooms.
Emily A rehearsal room that’s not freezing cold or boiling hot, but that never happens.
John Christ, the number of freezing rehearsal rooms I’ve been in.
Jon Temperature is a funny one. In my experience, management will move mountains if things are too cold, but if dressing rooms or stages are terrifyingly hot, it tends to be a case of “get a fan.”
Beryl And the menopausal women of that company ripped out management’s throats…
Albert That’s Britain though. We don’t cope well with any kind of extreme weather.
Jon For some reason, in July, theatres think: ‘Yes, this will be the perfect time to programme the play where everyone wears layers and layers of wool.’
Albert Respect of people’s needs, respect of people’s space and respect of people’s work.
Beryl Don’t be dicks.
Peter Consideration. One show I did recently – and it’s becoming the norm – had bottles of water in the wings with our names on them.
John Decent notice on call times, especially for people with kids.
Albert For all of us. It’s not just people with kids who have lives.
John Aside from protecting basic human rights, it will make it easier for us to do our job and therefore make us better at our job.
Peter And I go back to the point about respect that Albert mentioned earlier. Has anyone been in a rehearsal that started with the Equity Safe Spaces statement?
Beryl Yes, a couple of times now.
Peter It’s a good idea. I like a sociable company too.
Beryl I do like a clean floor in a rehearsal room – I’ve been in some shitholes in my time.
Emily Taking breaks, I think that’s a basic.
Peter Yes, breaks. A lot of actors are good at coughing and muttering “coffee”.
Emily It’s always so rubbish when you’re looking at the clock and thinking ‘we should get a break now’ and then they just keep going until lunch and your tummy is making noises.
Beryl Good management doesn’t let that happen to be fair.
Jon A good deputy stage manager will be on top of that. I know some who will stop a scene.
Albert As a director, I send out schedules a week at a time because I know people want to organise their lives.
Jon I wish more directors did.
Hari Yeah, that’s a game changer.
Albert As a result, I get actors arriving for scenes prepared, keen and ready to work. And if I need to change a scene time by 30 minutes or so I ask the actors’ permission.
Beryl Communication is key.
Jon Some luxuries are becoming necessities now too. Ever rehearsed anywhere without Wi-Fi or phone signal? It’s very stressful for people with kids or elderly parents to be cut off from the outside world for eight hours.
Emily Being paid properly is important. There was all that stuff recently on Twitter about the show that was asking actors to pay £5 to audition and then they had to pay more to be in the show… mental.
‘I had to leave my own father’s memorial early to get back in time for a rehearsal’
Jon Being paid on time too.
Peter I don’t like directors who want everyone there all the time, even when they’re not being used in a scene.
John Yes, that is a little annoying.
Jon This isn’t really working conditions, but I think management could be more reasonable about N/As [Not Availables], which allow people time off within the rehearsal period. An hour off for a voice-over could make a huge difference to someone’s ability to cope financially. And don’t get me started on weddings or funerals…
Hari I agree with this so much.
John Yeah, I hate being made to feel guilty that I have priorities beyond the precious, precious production.
Beryl I almost lost a TV gig last year, which was subsidising the theatre gig I was nearly not released from! The director had no idea how much I was struggling financially – I made it clear and I missed one day. It wasn’t like I was in every fucking scene of the play… I’m feeling mad now.
Hari I wasn’t allowed to leave a rehearsal for 20 minutes once, because we were doing a run, but I was only in the last scene of the show and just sat there for two hours.
Emily Oh Hari, that’s painful.
John That’s absolutely ridiculous.
Peter It’s a question of treating actors
Albert As long as the actors behave
Peter Of course.
Jon I was working in Scotland when we held a memorial for my dad in London. The memorial was on a Sunday and I asked for Monday morning off so I could travel back. They said no, which meant I had to leave my own father’s memorial early. Then I sat unused in the rehearsal room all of Monday.
Emily I’m sorry, that’s so sad
Beryl Disgusting, Jon. And, again, it’s a question of respect and common decency.
Jon And Wi-Fi. Don’t forget the Wi-Fi.
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