Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Paul Clayton: Don’t blame actors for moaning – it’s about as far as our resistance can get

Photo: Shutterstock
by -

The dictionary tells us that the collective noun for a group of actors is a troupe or a cast. A ‘whinge’ or a ‘moan’ may be more appropriate.

The pubs around rehearsal rooms are not full of actors at kicking-out time because of the booze – though that probably helps – but rather it’s the chance for a good old grumble about what the director has you doing in Act III.

But those grumbles don’t stop at the rehearsals, you’d better believe that actors have something to say about pretty much anything affecting the industry.

Swiftly following news that audiences would prefer earlier starting times for West End shows, actors made it known that they would not. It would mean getting to the theatre earlier and break even further into the day.

It would be impossible for working actors to do the school run, and there’d be little chance of slipping in a few lines in Doctors if the warm-up call was 3.30pm.

Is there really anything so wrong with a good moan?

Is there really anything so wrong with a good moan, though? My mother, so often featured as a source of indubitable wisdom in this column, always said: “Itʼs the squeaky wheel that gets the grease”. Sometimes you have to raise your voice. Quite often itʼs the actor who says no who gets the better treatment.

Given it’s unlikely Equity will ever organise a strike, and there’s always an actor willing to do the work, perhaps grumbling is about as far as the resistance can get.

As an actor, I have a moan of my own at the moment, and it’s about the monumentally infuriating hashtag #actorslife doing the rounds on social media. Not because I don’t want my colleagues lifting the lid, but because none of it bears any resemblance to an actor’s actual life.

Dear West End Producer: ‘How can we end the hideous #actorslife? And what is theatre doing to compete with Netflix?’

“Phone calls-meetings #actorslife” is not likely to be a recall for Danny Boyle’s new James Bond movie but the bank about extending your overdraft – followed by heading to Lidl for an interview as a checkout operative.

“Went out to get milk and watched Pointless in my pants #actorslife” would be more believable. Why do actors do this? Certainly other professions don’t feel the need to give a digital massage to the state of their careers: “Cleaned tools and washed my plunger #plumberslife”.

One of our greatest qualities as actors is honesty. Authenticity. When that question “What have you been up to recently?” rears its ugly head in an interview, nothing sounds more hollow than buffing up a few old credits. Find something positive.

“Been using my free time to get some decorating done at home” works just as well. We all know that resting is hard work. No reason we shouldn’t let the world know that too. (Moan Over)

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.