What does your job entail?
Given that most of the acting work I’ve had has been rural touring and such, it’s hardly been the glamorous lifestyle of a Hollywood superstar. Still, touring is brilliant and after a few weeks of 9-5 rehearsals where you get things horribly wrong and break through your crisis of confidence, you hit the road. You do a good 12 hour day – loading the van, driving two hours to a venue, unloading, setting up the stage and equipment, a quick warm up, into costume, fly through the show, then break everything down, load the van and back home you go. Sometimes we stay away from home and that can be anything from a few nights to a few weeks. There’s no room for a precious ego and you certainly have to make an effort to get on with people and get your hands dirty. 90% of actors are out of work at any one time, so the job entails having another job most of the time!
What’s the best bit?
That moment of performance where you’re totally absorbed in your role and what you’re doing. There’s an energy around you that is simply magical. In rural touring you also get to meet lovely people around the country who normally wouldn’t get the chance to see professional theatre – they’re wonderful and so appreciative.
And the worst?
The money is pretty dreadful. For my last job I was paid £25 a show for a very long day. You also work unsociable hours, but that’s part of the fun.
How did you get your job?
By luck. I was doing an amateur show for fun and got asked by a professional director to fill in for a sick actor on a short tour. I helped out a few more times and then studied at drama school after that.
What qualifications/experience do you need?
Drama school training really helps if you want agents to take you seriously, and it does turn a good actor into a better one, but I’ve met plenty of actors that didn’t train formally. If you want to work in front of the camera you need to have the right look. It’s also a different skill to working on stage. Clearly talent is important but this needs shaping with practice and experience – again drama school helps there, but so does working in good fringe theatre. London has the most opportunities but is also very expensive and most acting jobs don’t pay. You also need to be easy to work with, driven and a good networker – as Simon Callow once said – ‘you’ve got to have a talent for being talented’.
Image courtesy of the Mad Dogs & Englishmen website.