We have given our panellists pen names and used stock images, but their biographies reflect their real career details.
Gary Abblett is a 38- year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and on tour
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
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 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances
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 at 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 had leading roles at the RSC, worked on numerous new plays, and toured nationally and internationally
Emily That shouldn’t be different? More flexible working hours. This weird intense hierarchy. More shows need to pass the Bechdel test. More flexible working hours.
Gary Optimism. That should be different. We should trust the audience – they love us more than we realise.
Albert I think at the moment it’s hard to imagine coming back.
Peter What I’d hope for – but don’t expect – is funding of the arts rather closer to the European average. The complete dependence on box-office takings is what is killing many theatres.
Adam Hopefully, people will realise how important live performance is.
Emily Early and mid-career artists should have space to develop and flourish.
Charlotte I hope there’s more care for mental health. Not making people work ridiculous hours.
Ros I hope there’s more provision for a better work -life balance. And I hope that during this period theatres also have taken stock of spending, so when we go back there’s less wastage and more creativity.
Charlotte Oh yes – that’s a big one. Waste less, reuse and borrow or hire rather than buy (especially from Amazon).
Peter In my early days in rep the idea that each set was made from completely new materials would have been laughed at. Admittedly, it was when sets were basically flats.
Albert There’s a difference between theatre and theatres. I think that’s what the problem is at the moment. Are we trying to save theatre or theatres? People or buildings?
Beryl I’m so used to hearing budgets from bigger companies and knowing it’s not necessary.
Vivian And I wonder if there is an opportunity to really evaluate what and who we are as a sector. The numbers have been bandied about. We are a very healthy capitalist venture and we create a lot of money. But we don’t seem to be of any concern to anyone outside the theatre world.
Peter We need to demand that the money for recovery doesn’t just go to major institutions in big cities.
Jon There needs to be a little more understanding of our personal finances too. I’ve said it before, but a voice over can be two months’ income for an actor, whereas for a director it’s someone arriving at rehearsal at 11 not 10.
Adam I’ve worked with a number of directors who weren’t in any way understanding of that.
Gary As a performer, I’ll happily take a slightly shitty wage or miss a wedding if there’s some meaty play in the offing.
After all this, I hope people learn to respect us and what we do
Vivian I won’t. I’m sick of that and I think it leads to disrespect. We aren’t respected, otherwise there would have been a bailout earlier. Not holding on to the right to having a work-life balance opens us up to exploitation.
Gary I respect that. I wouldn’t do it if it felt exploitative.
Adam I also thought we were making really good progress with diversity. More women and people of colour involved in all stages of the theatremaking process. My worry is that when we return, theatre will be more conservative because it will become a financially risk-averse climate.
Emily Diversity quotas aren’t enough.
Ros I worry about taking steps backward in that respect too.
Gary Financially risk-averse and going back to all-white posh people doesn’t follow, though. Times have changed.
Adam I hope so, I really do. But I come back to ticket prices again. Certainly in the commercial theatre.
Jon The fact that we’re looking at Jerusalem, a knight of the realm in Hamlet and The Mousetrap as pretty much the only things announced, does seem to suggest a certain risk-aversion.
Vivian We give up so much, we create money. We follow the rules. And we are still nearly left to die as an industry. After all this, I hope people learn to respect us and what we do.
Ros It feels like everyone’s just gone: “Oh well, they’ll work it out.”
Jon I’d love an industry in which we weren’t conditioned to be meek.
Adam It’s always held over us that there are so many people ready to do our jobs and do it for peanuts. And they might. Once. But that’s no way to sustain a career.
Ros I think people just assume we’ll always be here. No one thinks we’ll just not be able to function any more.
Adam True. All that ‘theatre will rise, it always does’. I suppose it’s such a hard question to answer because I just want theatre to be back. I don’t care if it’s different.
Gary The essentials of theatre are far simpler than in other industries. We need an audience and a play. If buildings can be kept open, the theatre world will bounce back.
Charlotte The arts will come back in some form or another. It’s what we do and will continue to do. The problem is that working in theatre is already seen as a hobby and all the online content that has been put out for free is making people think that we are actually okay.
Beryl I’ve said it before, art is not valued in this country by our politicians.
Gary Don’t get down in the dumps. Whining artists hugely irritate the general populace. Let’s be resolute and positive and never lose sight of how enormously lucky we are to have had the careers and experiences that we’ve already had and will – with guts and good spirits – continue to have in the future.
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