As the leaves fall, we reach that time of year when we see another flood of graduates join the professional waters of this tidal wave of an industry we call acting. Simultaneously, another stream opens to wash them into the trickling tributaries we call training. To quote a multi-million-pound production from a multi-billion-pound corporation written by a multi-trillion-pound musician, it’s all part of ‘the circle of life’, and what a glorious thing it is.
Someone told me recently that there are around nine thousand graduates flying the drama school coop into the acting profession this year and some colleges I’m aware of have up to ninety students in this coming third year in musical theatre alone! How will we fit them all into Pineapple?! The simple answer is, we won’t.
With less small, subsidised shows shows being produced and larger, long-running shows taking up residence in the West End, actors currently in employment are going nowhere fast and, unless shoved harder than Humpty Dumpty by the powers that be, will sit tight until the world of theatre wakes up a little more. And quite frankly, why wouldn’t they?
The thought of doing the Joseph megamix three times on a Saturday may be suicide-inducing, but not as much as a double shift at Frankie and Benny’s. Yes, the money on a double shift is undoubtedly better (and the uniforms less embarrassing) but at least in Joseph you’d have your dignity. OK, scrap that, but you know what I’m saying.
When I graduated, not only did we still travel by horse and carriage, but somewhere there was still a tiny glimmer of hope. We had thirty people in each graduating year, there was work for dancers, non-dancers, classical singers and pop singers, fat people, thin people, tall people and Elaine Page. There were opportunities for everyone, but now it’s a Hollywood world in Theatreland and, personally,I think Hollyoaks has a lot to answer for. Nowadays, before an audition I find myself bleaching body parts I didn’t know could be bleached, straightening hair, curling hair, fake tanning and toning and to be quite honest, I’m knackered. I try my best to go to Pineapple and stay supple and fit, I go to the gym and use their watercooler, but I can’t help feeling beaten before I’ve even taken my place on the pilates mat.
Shows like Les Mis and Phantom were made for women like me, getting creaky in the joints but mature in the vocal folds. There are lots of scenes we can sit down and ‘Sing out, Louise’. At The Queens Theatre, I always feel, one can have a good old sing with no need for a fan kick, but I’m already classed as too old for anything other than ‘Old Hag 1’. Too old? I have an iPhone, I drink alcopops – I’m not f**king old! Am I?
Now it seems Fantine can only be played by a foetus and Cossette by her younger sister. Carlotta is a new graduate and the Phantom is a member of One Direction. What happened to character and wisdom? When did stage make-up take over from genuine wrinkles and greying hair?
That’s it, I’m done! Pack me up and put me away at the top of the wardrobe with my pointe shoes, I’m finished. Retired. There’s only one thing left for a beaten down, cynical old actress like me. I’m putting my diseased views of the world to good use. I believe that children are the future, teach them well and make a healthy amount in commission while you’re doing it. That’s right, I’m becoming an agent! Just as soon as I get my next job…