Monday, 20 January 2014

West End Producer's New Year Message

My dears –

Over the last few weeks I have spent many a naughty evening chatting with old, new and dear friends. Each evening has been full of merriment, joy, and vulgarity – but also I have heard countless stories of worry and concern about the entertainment business. So I just wanted to offer some constructive words at the beginning of another year.

To actors - before you jump into 2014 just take a few moments to consider what you want to achieve in the New Year.

Do you want to appear in a musical, do a school’s tour of Puppetry Of The Penis, jump up and down in a physical theatre piece, or merely work for no money at a lovely little fringe venue? This is the time of year when you feel like you can start again, with a new vigour - and do whatever your flexible little dramatic body wants you to do with it, dear.

Sadly, some actors out there will have had a tough time in 2013. Each year the business gets harder – with less work being produced - and the work that is often gets stolen by well-known faces.  On top of this, every single year new actors hatch out of the drama school egg and fly into the world of professional theatre. And this terrifies many a seasoned actor. They live in fear of the new breed of actor bursting onto the scene with fresh energy and vigour – devouring the roles that would otherwise have been handed to the more mature players. To these worried actors I say – ‘remain calm and act on’. You have a talent and experience in the business that the younger breed do not. Yes, the youthful actor has age on their side, they have skinny jeans, floppy hair, and some of them can even walk and talk at the same time. But this is nothing to worry about. Indeed, some of them may even be quadruple threats – but you must remember that they are new and have lots to learn. YOU are the Prefects of the playground and the bullies of the bikeshed – you are the ones who have real life theatre experience – so do not be disheartened. These new actors have no idea what it feels like waking up next to sweaty old landladies off the theatre digs list. You have that experience, and know always to avoid nibbling on their mouldy cornflakes. You are aware of the strains and excesses of working on an equity minimum tour – and the thrills that can come of drinking yourself into a stupor every night as you drown out the pain of repeating the same lines night after night after night. You have been there. You have the t-shirt, and you are qualified in the art of being an Equity-Minimum-Approved-Actor. And for that you should be proud, dear.

And for those newly graduated actors – you have the thrills, spills and hills  of an actors life to look forward too. Days, months, and possibly years of keeping the house bills down by warming your body with the application of Deep Heat. Breathing heavily down the phone at your agent until they blag you an audition for the RSC – even if the role only requires you to stand at the back dressed as a Shakespearean tampon. One day you may even be elevated to an ‘ASM with understudy responsibilities’ - where you spend your whole time setting props, smiling at the ‘real’ actors, and praying that the actor you are understudying dies in an unfortunate accident involving the iambic pentameter  - giving you the chance to display your own rhyming couplets. And indeed, before you know it you will be thrust into the limelight and your big chance will arrive. And when this moment happens you have to remain calm, speak clearly, face the right way, and to quote Olivier - ‘DON’T F*** IT UP’.

‘F***ing it up’ can have horrendous circumstances, and in severe cases, horrendous circumcisions on your professional life. It can result in a career of TIE, your agent not inviting you to their spring swingers party, and Sir Peter Hall heckling you (and then pretending that he was actually asleep). This COULD happen. But it WON’T, dear.

2014 is the year you take control. It is the year when you stop moaning about what actor you want to become and simply become it. If you get offered a job that involves playing a trumpet, putting up the set, saying two lines, and providing your own costume – and this job doesn’t thrill you – then simply turn it down! Never accept a job because you think you should, or because your agent tells you too. YOU are in charge of your career - not your agent who needs to pay for their new walk-in-wardrobe, dear.

Over the years I have heard actors stating that they don’t feel prepared for auditions, or don’t feel they have any power in the business. Well use this new year to take control. If you feel unprepared, learn a new song - or at least start singing one you already know in a different accent. And if you feel you don’t have any power in the business - start writing, or start a company, or just kill everyone that looks like you, and heighten your chances of success. Every little step you make in progressing your career will make you feel more positive.

And that’s what you need. A positive outlook. But of course if a positive outlook makes you feel nauseous, just drink copious amounts of alcohol and blag your way through the business. Many actors have done this their entire lives, and still do. These people shall remain nameless – but you can always spot them in the curtain call. They’re the ones stinking of cider and dribbling all over the front row. Bless.

And if you are feeling down? Do a lunge, or a ball-change, or simply display your jazz hands for the world to see. It is amazing what a spontaneous jazz-hand can do to your mood. And indeed not only your mood but the mood of everyone else around you. And a ball change? A ball change is accepted anywhere. Do it in your gym, your local Tesco, The Ivy, or even half-way through David Walliam’s Shakespeare speech when he’s letting Michael Grandage fiddle with his Bottom.

To those working in theatre - celebrate, live, and be merry – you are actors. You are crew. You are wardrobe. You are Front Of House. You are Producers. You are Dressers. You are Bar Staff. You are Lighting Designers. You are Directors. You are working for Anthony Sher’s RSC. Whoever you are – you are in the business of SHOW. Embrace it. Love it. Enjoy it. Be proud of it. Because after all – you’re not in it for the money. You’re in it for all the beautiful people. And let’s be honest – sometimes you’re in it for the ugly ones as well, dear.

And if all that fails – get yourself a nice bottle of bubbly and celebrate the fact that at least you’re trying.

To every single person out there who works in theatre, supports it, or simply loves it – have a marvellous 2014.  And throughout this year lets all help keep theatre alive. Support it. Cherish it. Because if we don’t the government and local councils will do whatever they can to squash us - they’re already trying their hardest. We are the ones that keep it alive. And if we can all keep creating, striving, and offering new theatre and entertainment to the public then we will thrive. And possibly even get some of that money back that has been robbed from the arts. Lets not remember 2014 as the year the arts were ruined by bloody funding cuts.

Bless you.


  1. I adore you and your attitude. Thank you for this wonderful pep talk for a fantastic 2014. All the best to you too, dear.