Actors and agents claim the “extortionate” cost of train travel is pricing performers out of auditions, with castings at short notice and multiple call-backs leaving many hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Equity is now ramping up efforts to tackle the situation, which some actors claim has become “untenable”.
Actor Jessica Daley, who lives in Middlesbrough, told The Stage that she has to travel to London for auditions if self-taping is not an option. She said a return train ticket can cost up to £150, even with a Railcard.
“I’ve never known it to be this bad, so much so that it was cheaper for me to fill my car for a recent audition and do a return five-hour trip drive instead,” she said.
She claimed driving often meant she had to set off the night before an audition, and miss out on freelance work as a result.
“I essentially give up earning money so that I don’t have to spend a lot of what I do earn on a terrible, sometimes extortionate, train journey,” she said.
Actor Chris Clarkson, who is based in Manchester, added that he has to pay up to £90 per ticket, and the same again if he is recalled.
“Imagine a West End show with six rounds [of auditions]. That’s £540 just to get a job,” he said, adding: “I now don’t head to London for the cattle-market casting or those where the fee is stupidly low.”
Agent David Ball said he has clients all over the UK.
“For actors outside London and the surrounding areas, travel costs are most definitely a contributing factor as to whether they can accept an audition,” he said.
He said he recently paid for a client to attend a musical theatre audition and added: “It seems to be getting worse, which is a shame.”
The Stage has also learned that some venues outside London will hold auditions in the capital, meaning performers local to those theatres are still required to pay travel fares.
Equity is now planning to redouble its efforts in this area, with the launch of the Cast It Here campaign, which will encourage theatres to audition local talent as a matter of course. Its forthcoming West End agreement is also expected to make tougher demands around auditions.
Assistant general secretary Matt Hood described travel costs as “a big burden” for members and as one of the “hidden” costs of the working in the entertainment industry.
The Casting Directors’ Guild said it was “mindful of the actor’s position in the audition process” and encouraged members to “be aware of the costs and keep them to a reasonable minimum”.
It said it encouraged casting directors to give as much notice as possible and not to recall actors unnecessarily.
“Last-minute sessions do happen for reasons beyond our control and on these cases, if travel is too expensive, then a self-tape or internet audition can substitute,” a spokeswoman said, adding: “We are very aware of the weight of this situation and look to avoid excessive financial burden wherever possible.”