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Alex Waldmann: Marriage isn’t always easy when you’re both married to the job

Photo: Shutterstock/BBernard
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My wife Amelia and I have known each other since we were 16, long before we’d got involved in the business.

She’s a director, I’m an actor. Being involved in the same industry while not doing the same job means we understand the inherent challenges of our profession, but we’re not competing with each other for gigs.

Amelia has directed me only a couple of times and that was before we’d got together. I’m looking forward to the day when we get to work together as actor and director professionally. I’d like to think we’d rise above it, but there is a nagging sense that if she asked me to “move a little stage left”, I’d hear a subtext of “Can you clear up that enormous pile of clothes on the floor of our bedroom that’s been there for three weeks?”

We did end up on the same job once in 2008 – she assisted Michael Grandage while I played Sebastian in the Donmar West End production of Twelfth Night. It was a joyous experience – we kept our relationship professional throughout and many of the cast didn’t know we were together until well into the run.

Becoming parents, as we did in 2011, puts a whole new set of pressures on any relationship. Your level of love, respect (and resentment) for each other deepens, and you see your partner throw themselves into the most difficult role of their career.

The most important thing is now making sure your kids are safe, healthy and happy. It helps keep our industry in perspective. Your own success matters less and it takes away some of that sense of uselessness when you’re out of work. But there is also the pressure of making enough money to support your family.

We’ll have periods when neither of us are working, where we are both around and our kids get to see much more of their parents than they would if we did ‘proper’ jobs. When we are both working, you end up losing money, paying someone to look after your kids to have the privilege of going out to work. We both know that going out to play in a room full of actors is the easier option, and can’t help but feel guilty when we get a gig.

In 2010, we set up our own company Seared to make the kind of work we are interested in and to have more control over decision-making in an industry where you are always at the mercy of others. I produce and Amelia directs the shows.

This works well for us and gives us something to talk about at dinner-time other than our kids’ appetites, sleeping patterns or the colour of their poo.

We have our first world premiere in London opening later this month, then I’m off to Stratford to play Brutus in Julius Caesar for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I know our relationship, which goes back 22 years now, and our mutual respect for each other as people and creatives, means we’ll be strong enough to withstand the inevitable pressures of being away from home again.

Years of Sunlight runs at Theatre503, London, from January 25 to February 18

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