Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
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
Vivian Lee is 40 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances.
John Pepper is 31 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
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, Annie has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer
Annie This question is making me realise how quickly the year has gone.
John Not a huge amount of highs for me, work wise…
Beryl Completion and fruition of personal projects that have been on the go for ages were my highs.
Peter I think my high is that producers and directors are starting to listen to Equity and PIPA (Parents and carers in Performing Arts) about making schedules more family friendly. They’re listening. Will they deliver?
Annie Fulfilling a goal to do stand-up, for me.
John Being allowed to come back to the temp job I had left was a big thumbs up for me.
Emily I feel like I’ve been really lucky this year, with many more highs than lows. I’ve been abroad with my theatre company, worked at some great regional theatres and met some really lovely people!
Vivian High: getting some great validation and praise for work I’ve done or been involved in. Low: realising it makes no bloody difference with some casting directors. See – I can bring casting directors into every topic.
Beryl One real low was a confidence plummet I experienced during a rehearsal.
Vivian Low: realising that acting wasn’t doing it for me the way it used to. That I was feeling… dissatisfied and looking for more. High: realising that acting, like any important relationship in my life, evolves and that I was stuck. I was changing, my palate was changing, and my desire to communicate was changing. Is that a bit wanky? It’s true, though.
Jon Not wanky at all. I think we spend a lot of time thinking about our careers and not enough examining our relationship with the job.
John Preach, Vivian.
Emily Not wanky, no. It’s so important to think about.
Jon That Sam Neill thing about: “If you define yourself solely as an actor, what are you when you’re not working?”
Jon Although it should be mentioned that Sam Neill was the lead in Jurassic Park, so…
Beryl How to live as an artist, eh?
Jon Not entirely joking about that, either – it’s easier to have a calm relationship with the profession when you don’t have to spend your non-acting time earning a tenner an hour.
Peter You’ve got to have other things in your life.
John Yes, my low has certainly been the amount of soul searching regarding my relationship with acting.
Peter I know it’s boring, but the low has to be Brexit. The end of free movement is a disaster for our industry.
Jon Yes, although a high is that it hasn’t happened yet!
Emily Oh my gosh, Brexit – where to even start with that fuck-up?
Beryl Politically, it’s been fraught!
Emily A low is the way ethnic minorities have been treated. Someone found my email address and sent some absolute hatred, but the high of that was that lots of people came out in support of the whole thing.
Vivian That’s awful. I’m so sorry.
John That’s really rough.
Emily Yeah, it was mad actually.
Jon Dreadful. We fool ourselves that there aren’t people like that in our industry, but I’m afraid there are.
Beryl Low: the fact that this shit is happening and the rise of the far right. Sorry, I know it’s not specific to our industry but I am genuinely fearful.
Emily Yeah 100%.
Peter The way some MPs (particularly women) are treated is terrible.
Jon And, within the industry, there are still mistakes being made. I can think of theatre shows this year which, however well-meaning, really screwed up when it came to their relationships with disability, gender and ethnicity.
Vivian Highs: Being able to call out this behaviour. The fact that people will be believed. The emergence of #MeToo. The fact that problems are being identified and shared. So, hopefully not suffering in silence.
Jon I’ve found discussions of #MeToo in men’s dressing rooms really encouraging. I’m sure there are people in the industry who think it’s a load of nonsense or a witch hunt or whatever, but they’re absolutely not emboldened to speak, even in male-only spaces. (caveat – in my experience.)
Vivian A locker-room convo I’d be happy to hear!
Jon Just yesterday, one of my colleagues was questioning his own behaviour and asking our advice.
Peter And of course, some men experience sexual harassment too.
Jon A few more highs to finish on?
Emily I did my first TV job. I loved it.
Beryl I worked with new tech in theatre, which was exciting.
Jon Ooh, same. The show I’m in uses projections for the set and it’s beautiful.
Beryl Virtual reality is also quite something.
John I’m getting a feature film project off the ground. Exciting and scary.
Peter That despite everything some brilliant work is being done. There’s been some terrific TV this year.
Annie I’ve worked solely in projects I believe in and have begun creating my own work and owning my voice. That’s a massive high for me.
Vivian The Equity diary has arrived.
Annie Massive high! One perk of being an Equity member.
Emily I love hearing these.
Jon And God bless us, every one!
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