The fortnightly blog post was clearly a lie. I apologise. I do hope you’re okay with it and that we can move forward together despite my apparent lack of timekeeping skills. However, surely it’s better to write more frequently than it is to write less? I guess only time (and my friends who are on quality control) will tell. This week’s post is just a little ‘Food for Thought’. It’s an opportunity for me to let off some theatre themed steam and I’m hoping that in reading it you’ll discover a shared experience. It’s hopefully a pat on the back if you’re a graduate and a forewarning if you’re a student (remembering forewarned is forearmed). Here we go then…

Since graduating I’ve found it very hard to answer even the simplest of questions. “What are you up to at the moment?” “What’s new with you?” “How’s everything going?” There are endless word combinations that all culminate in the same scenario of me stumbling over my words, trying to justify my existence, and resenting the questioner. Now, how I expect to have a conversation with someone and this question not come up I do not know. I do know, however, that I didn’t have this problem two months ago. It is obviously the curse of an out of work actor. We all know there is no shame in not having a job (“That’s showbiz, kid”) but you still want to be able to paint a picture of the glamorous life you are living – even when, as in my case, you only have waitressing, theatre trips and a blog to show for yourself.

As soon as you choose this career path you (or at least I do) constantly justify yourself to those who “don’t get it” – the friends and family who aren’t in the business. It is undeniably easier to say: “I’ve got a part in _______, I start next week” than it is to explain the ups and downs, ins and outs and confusing reality of auditions. This is something I expect to have to explain/justify to family and friends though. I’ve been doing it ever since I first applied for drama school so I don’t get phased when they ask what I am up to – it’s like the answer is on tap. Why though am I struggling to tell people who are in the industry and consequently “get” my situation?

I’ve always instinctively asked graduate friends what they’re up to. It’s not to be nosey, it’s not to find out what they’re being seen for, it’s not to rub salt in any rejection wounds and it’s not to remind them that they still have post show blues (*COUGH*). It’s because all you’re hoping for is for them to turn around and tell you that they have a part in the aforementioned _______, and that you can gleefully hug it out. I had, until I became the out of work actor on the receiving end, always seen it as a caring question filled with hope of a positive response. I’ll admit that I sometimes got the defeated look with the “just auditioning, you know” response but I had never considered that the person could have been worn down by having had that conversation multiple times that day. Now that I am that person I can safely say (having seen many people I needed to catch up with recently at a theatrical event) that it is hard to come up with a multitude of positive replies!

What is the solution then? Not asking that question is near impossible. You want to ask in case the answer is a cause for celebration, you want to ask because you care but you don’t want to ask because you don’t want to be a reminder of their lack of opportunity. I genuinely don’t think there is a solution. Pointless blog post, you ask? I certainly hope not. I hope it provoked some thoughts in you, please let me know (@beccaridout) if you share any of these feelings on the asking or responding end. I know writing this has been like therapy for me! It means that next time I am asked I will know to control my death stare and will no doubt chuckle away to myself before launching into: “Well, it’s funny you should ask that because…”

Additionally, tonight I am off to see half of my year group for a mini reunion and to see ‘When Midnight Strikes’ at the Gatehouse Theatre. That will mean a minimum of 25 times being asked a combination of the above questions. Bring it on. I may not have an acting job currently but I’m spending time with people I love, seeing what I love. ‘When Midnight Strikes’ is written by LSMT’s own Head of Music – the man, the legend, Charles Miller (not forgetting his lyricist partner Kevin Hammonds). I know, even before I get there, that I am going to love this production with LSMT at its heart, actor friends in the cast (who, guess what, still had the same reply as me to the above questions in early August) and a top notch creative team. I cannot wait! Also, as I am typing this, the sun is currently shining in London town after days of miserable weather. It must be my happy thoughts. Remember: when in doubt, Ridout will sort you out. Or, if that fails…ask Mary Poppins (we are practically the same person after all). Happy question and answering!

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My new mantra before answering.

In regards to having a positive spin for every seemingly negative answer:

“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way”

– Rebecca Ridout