Archives for posts with tag: Story

Last year I posted a blog (‘No more questions, please…’) about the fear of being asked “what’s next?” as an actor. At the time it didn’t even occur to me that I was in the best possible position to be answering that question. I was a recent graduate (who am I kidding? I still am) and didn’t have the added pressure from previous successes begging the question of how long it would be before the next. It’s become increasingly clear to me – through working with some incredible people –  that after each successful stint you have as an actor many people expect that something else will automatically follow. The questions people ask you change from a vague “what are you up to at the moment?” to “what have you got coming up next?” (sometimes with an added time frame) and I  have started to put a huge amount of pressure on each step I take in the industry as a consequence. For instance, it has taken me weeks to write this post and writing isn’t even my profession! I found that the ‘pressure to please’ following the success (more readers than I could have imagined) of my last post ground me to a halt on what was to follow. If “what’s next?” had me shying away from writing, can you imagine the amount of ‘pressure to please’ I feel when the “what’s next?” is to do with my career? I’m sure many of you can.

To add to that pressure of instant success, there are many other pressures that I know people can relate to. At the moment I’m struggling with the fact that, in an industry as small as this one (there’s only one degree of separation instead of the usual six,) it’s impossible to not be connected in some way to the people up for the same job as you. When you’ve already built yourself up for having to succeed at that next audition, a la the opening of A Chorus Line, you then add to the pressure pot by directly comparing yourself to people you know in the room. “They know so-and-so…”, “They’ve got ____ on their CV already…”, “They’ve done a West End show. Kill me now” when really this might not be the right show for them at the right time but you’ve stuffed up your chances by psyching yourself out before you’ve even started. It’s a vicious circle of ‘not worked, wont work’ that I know many of my graduate friends are in. But there are also people who’ve been there, done it, got the cast sweatshirt and are out there looking for the next job (which people are expecting them to automatically get) who are just as in need as you are. That’s why you have to remind yourself that (*CHEESY METAPHOR KLAXON*) we’re all running the same race just at different paces and with different goals in sight.

In case you’re one of the people that read the last post and are thinking “hold up, Ridout, you’ve used that one before” it’s because I had previously aimed that cheesy metaphor (I do love a good metaphor) at people wanting to audition for drama schools but I believe that the same thinking can, and should, be applied to life on the other side of training.  If anything, training is only the starting line and you’ve got a whole marathon ahead of you to pace yourself for. In addition, like in any race, it is hard to take your eyes off the people running past you and focus solely on what you have to do. It’s easy to want to give up or to expect someone else (eg. your agent) to push you along but you have to do it for yourself – cheering crowds or no cheering crowds. I’ve certainly needed reminding of that in recent weeks and I hope that it strikes a chord with people in a similar situation.

Now that the cheesy metaphor and soppy bit is out of the way, I want to be able to share with you some stories of people at different stages in the race (okay, the metaphor isn’t over, I lied) so that hopefully you’ll feel comforted that you aren’t alone. To put some of these stories in perspective, I asked some friends of mine to tell me a bit about their experience in the industry so far and if they had any advice they’d like to give. In amongst the answers there are people who waited years for a West End debut, people who walked straight into professional work, an Olivier award winner, a National Theatre original cast member and people who are still running towards these measures of success that people (or, indeed, they themselves) put on them. They’re all doing what they love though. I say they’re successful before you even begin to read what else they have to say.

On running your own race…

No. 1 (guess who)

I graduated, signed with an agent and went away with the National Youth Music Theatre to work on their production of ‘West Side Story’ over summer. Somehow, I thought that was me set (clearly because I was playing the ever hopeful ‘Somewhere Girl’). I then didn’t work until Christmas. I did a revue show at the Jermyn Street Theatre and have since been very lucky to be swing in Molly Wobbly. No, I didn’t get seen this year for the show that I  had always intended to jump straight into but, do you know what?, that’s showbiz…kid. And by that I mean that everything happens for a reason. I’ve worked with some amazing people and I’ve kept my passion, that’s the most important thing. I’m in it for the long haul. 

No.2

I don’t know why we do this. We just don’t know whats round the corner do we? Even when we are lucky enough to be rewarded with a West End contract it can quite easily be ripped out from under us.  I mean, look at We Will Rock You and The Full Monty. It’s happened to me, I was making my West End debut and we were given our notice 5 months before our contract was due to end. At the time I was devastated. I’d have stayed in that show until they kicked me out. But looking back, it paved the way for the rest of my career. If I’d have stayed in that show I wouldn’t have got my next West End show. This was certainly a high point in my career, an original cast of a high profile show. I stayed in that company for 2 years and had a truly wonderful time. I was then out of work for 8 months. This was the lowest part of my career by far. Sometimes not getting recalls, sometimes not even getting seen for stuff. I recall auditioning and getting to the finals for the tour of Guys and Dolls, I’d convinced myself I’d got it. I’d looked up the tour venues, I’d practically spent my first few weeks pay checks. I can also unfortunately remember word for word the telephone conversation when my agent called to say “It wasn’t going to work out”…. I was stunned. I actually cried, TO MY AGENT. But yet again fate led a hand and within a few weeks I got my next West End job which has led on to other jobs since. I believe that things happen for a reason.

No.3

I remember being offered a Christmas show at the Tabard Theatre one year. I spoke to my agent who told me about the money, which wasn’t bad for a fringe venue. I could probably pay my rent but not much else so after careful consideration, I called my agent back to say I couldn’t afford to do it. I said I could earn more doing my reception job than the play, to which he replied, “But you’re not a receptionist, you’re an actor”. That was a lightbulb moment for me.

Of course the thing I wanted most was to work in the West End. I wanted to experience the community and live in London for more than a few months without going off on tour. But the longer I waited the more I started to give up on it. The prestige of it seemed unachievable. I felt like I was the boy who would always tour and do regional theatre, not quite good enough to do West End. At my lowest point out of work, a period of about 2 years, I was blaming everything and everyone. Then I thought to myself, ‘Oh fuck, it’s me’. I literally changed my whole demeanour. I was active. I changed agent, I quit my job that was taking over my life just so I could pay my bills and took a more part time position. I made more time to go to theatre, I started hanging out with theatre people I hadn’t seen in a while. But mainly I said YES to everything. It took me 7 years to finally land a job ‘in town’. I didn’t strive for it by then, it didn’t covet it as much as when I came out of drama school. But the sense of achievement was great. You know, the way your parents can say, “Oh, my son is an actor in the West End”. If I’m honest, I much prefer regional theatre than any other kind but I had to experience West End. I’m very lucky to have done so.

 No. 4

However much people wish to acknowledge it, pressure to rate yourself amongst the success of your graduating class is intense! This industry is competitive and solitary, fuelled by news and gossip. I’ve spent too many hours trying to analyse the success of others and apply myself to their given set of circumstances. ‘Who got what agent’, ‘oh… they got to that final’, ‘I never thought they’d get that’, ‘they were always gonna do well’. This way of thinking primarily comes from fear. Fear of not getting what this dream offered you when you first signed up. You can’t control the success of others, nor what those people on the panel are going to think about you, so why bother to think about it. The only controllable factor in all of this, is you. You look, sing, dance, act the way YOU do. I’m a big believer of acknowledging what I have to offer and staying true to that.

I’ve had a decent run since college. I got my first job before graduating. I’ve gone from literally thinking the sun shines out of my back side, to trawling through items to possibly sell on eBay. Which brings me to another key point. This is a money making business and every job will have its last performance. And I cherish the times in which I’ve been metaphorically burnt by this business as highly as I do the times in which it’s brought me acclaim. Why? – the lessons.

No. 5

When I graduated I did the fringe circuit – profit shares and unpaid work – and I learnt very quickly that it’s a difficult world and it provides no living! However, one of the greatest step ups was when a production I was in, unpaid, had a paid transfer and it was the right show for me to showcase myself – casting directors knew me for it for a while. I have since slipped out the loop mind and most work has been through recommendation and I’ve had some amazing opportunities and diverse characters to play. I used to want to jump into the National or the Donmar, but the more I’ve worked the more I have appreciated actually getting the opportunity to play. That is exactly what I’m doing and making a living from it. I’ve got my whole life to work at the National, whats the rush? All I want now is to be creative, learn, make  a living and meet amazing people.

No. 6

Having graduated from Drama School last year I was in the lucky position of moving straight into acting work. Rehearsing and performing in my first professional show was fantastic and I loved every minute, although in retrospect, and using the wonderful power that is hindsight, I can see I probably didn’t appreciate quite how lucky I was at the time!  After performing and touring for 5 months, the first job finished and I began the process of moving my life into London. My first experience of moving, was the sudden realisation of how poor I was going to be. And it is completely true what they say – that we do this job for the love of it, not for the money. And certainly not for the terrible jobs actors find themselves doing between jobs. Since graduating I have answered telephones, made cold calls, poured drinks and served food all over London and that is only a few months! I can’t say I have much experience living this life yet but I can say that doing all these terrible jobs will be worth it for when you nail that one audition and get the acting job you want. I read an article recently In the stage about acting being the “long game” and I firmly believe this is true, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first!

No. 7

After drama school I had 18 months agent-less & miserable. I did do 2 small jobs – a musical in Pontefract & then an unpaid musical at The Union (from which I signed with an agent). I took a full time job with Halifax on their phones, but then landed the BIG ONE – the West End contract that was the game changer. I had massive success, and then afterwards… For about 12 months, not much at all. Things have been steady since and I’ve ticked some things off my list. But everyone told me I’d be a superstar by now… But I’m not. Depends on so many things! (And depends on what you class as ‘superstardom’) I do believe a little bit in what will be will be and that we all have a path to tread, but that you also have to go out and make it happen. My 30th birthday is getting closer and I can say now, that life is about so much more than just booking the next job. I am a very happy lady (and Mama); still performing, and loving it.


When I first told people that I wanted to work in Musical Theatre I was told by my choirmaster (yes, my choirmaster) that a girl who attended the choir before me went into the industry and spent 5 years waiting for her big break. She may have waited 5 years but she did it, she got there, and is now doing famously well – and I mean famously (I’ve kept everyone else anonymous so I’ll keep this one anonymous too, even though it might be killing you). Since knowing that I’ve been determined to wait as long as it takes to do what I love but, sometimes, I need to remind myself of that when my self-belief starts to slip. Knowing that my friends have, and are, going through the same thing as me makes the rejections, the auditions and the waitressing in between jobs so much easier to handle. But not everyone likes to admit they are struggling (understandably) so I hope that in putting this out into the world some people gain some of that comfort they are otherwise scared to seek.

One last addition to the metaphor (I know, I’m sorry): ‘The Wall’. In a Marathon, runners attest to the existence of an invisible obstacle which makes you body and your mind want to give up near the end of the race. Many people experience it but it doesn’t have to be there at all. Research has shown that if you train and race intelligently you may cross the finish line without ever having to “hit the wall”. You need to find your pace and your target and stick to it. Apply that to your career and I think you’re onto a winner. Happy running your own race!

“My friends you have to run run-a, run-a, run freedom, run away!”

– Rebecca Ridout

In true theatrical style, let’s start at the very beginning.

Firstly, let me explain the title of my blog. Whilst in my final year of training at the London School of Musical Theatre (from here on in I will use the acronym LSMT) I got a reputation for always having the answer to any kind of theatrical trivia question. A phrase soon came about stating “When in doubt, ask Ridout” and it caught on pretty quickly. Inspired by this I then used it as a way of getting people to pronounce my name correctly (when in doubt, its pronounced ‘Ridout’) – two birds with one stone: a nice little nerdy reputation and a correctly pronounced surname! Then over the course of the year the questions that were asked of me developed from musical theatre trivia to…well…absolutely anything. You name it, I was asked it.

Therefore, I think “When in doubt…Ridout” captures exactly what I want this blog to be (questions about my life answered) However, I’m still unsure as to what content will fill it on a fortnightly basis! Sometimes it will be an insight into the highs & lows of being a new graduate, sometimes it will be me needing to tell you all to read/watch/listen to something and sometimes it will just be a way for me to let off some musical theatre themed steam. I hope all of the above will be worth a read though! It may occasionally be an inspiration and it may occasionally have the ‘Jeremy Kyle’ effect of making you feel better about your own situation (even if its a case of schadenfreude at my expense) but that’s all it needs to be.

So here goes everything. My first experience of highs and (a very big) low since graduating.

On my first Monday morning as a graduate I had what you could call an exceptionally good day. I signed my contract with my agency, I went to the Tate Modern with some of my best friends pretending to be oh so cultured and finished the day drinking wine and rubbing shoulders with half the cast of Downton Abbey at Spamalot’s after show drinks for Hugh Bonneville’s debut. I felt pretty damn jammy. Life continued like this for two blissful weeks whilst knowing I was soon to start rehearsals for National Youth Music Theatre’s (from now on ‘NYMT’) production of ‘West Side Story’. High after high after high watching friends smash their professional debuts and thinking “that will be me soon enough” Then on the 3rd of August I lugged my suitcase (with pilates foam roller in hand) across London to head to Kent for rehearsals.

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Now I could write an entire essay on what an incredible experience ‘West Side Story’ was and what it meant to me as a performer. I won’t here though. If you’re interested though you can scroll back through my twitter (@beccaridout) and see what was happening and how blissfully happy it made me. My friend Amy replied to my tweets saying “Oh, are you enjoying your West Side Story experience then Rebecca? You should’ve said” and if you already follow me on twitter you’ll know exactly what she means. I was an incessantly happy tweeter. So I won’t bore you with it on here too!

The Saturday night performance of ‘West Side Story’ has now become what I’d like to call my “patronus moment” (just in case you aren’t a Harry Potter fan I mean one of the strongest, happiest memories you can recall). I was stood on the top of a shipping container on our incredible set and as soon as Amara said “Te adoro, Anton” I felt the vibrations of our 33 piece orchestra play out the closing chords of, arguably, the greatest musical ever written.

I think this photo shows how unbelievably elated I was – look at my little beaming face.

That was the ultimate high. In true dramatic fashion I do fear if it may genuinely be the ultimate high of my career. Not because I feel that my career won’t move onto bigger things than an NYMT production but rather because West Side Story is my favourite (and as previously stated, arguably the best) musical. It was a unique site specific production where we (or rather the creatives Nikolai Foster, Drew McOnie and Tom Deering) re-invented a classic. I can’t put it quite as eloquently as Mark Shenton did in his blog for The Stage so I’ll share what he thought:

“The joy of Drew McOnie’s work is that it is classically inspired, just as Robbins’ was, but also pulses and shimmers to its own distinctive vision, beautifully displayed by this eager young cast. There’s rawness and eagerness, vigour and danger in every step they take, and re-make; the usual critical language of dubbing it bold and breathtaking just won’t do. Instead, it does something even more vivid: it makes you look at the whole show in a new way.”

It really is going to be difficult to top that patronus moment I tell you!

Then after the high, as much as I tried to fight it, came the low. Hungover, I was driven back to London the following day (not helped by the bumpy road surfaces for miles stretching out of Manchester. I shudder at the memory) and BAM. Reality. I had a life admin to-do list as long as my arm and an insane amount of washing. I was no longer singing about a glorious place for us all or needing to have a dance off with someone over a small tiff. I had post-show blues. Then to add to this, on my kitchen table there was a letter from my school – it contained my diploma. Instead of being thrilled with my result I realised I had not mourned my loss of training because of the hiatus (remember? those two blissful weeks?) between graduation and ‘West Side Story’. These post-show blues then spiralled out of control because of combining with post-school blues. Ouch.

It’s been an emotional couple of days with tears springing out of my eyes at the most inappropriate moments (namely when I hear the words ‘somehow’,’someday’ or ‘somewhere’) However, as I learned from Uberfacts on twitter this morning: “Crying is good for your health – Flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.” I’ve medicated my broken heart with 3 trips to the theatre in as many days, spending time in the sunshine and probably most significantly starting this blog. Rather than sitting down and thinking “I have nothing tangible in the future to look forward to” I’ve been thinking I have a great expanse of unknown in front of me in regards to my career and, to quote my favourite composer*, I am ‘excited and scared’ to start exploring it.

*I won’t say who it is, I’m hoping you’ll guess.

If you’ve got this far, thank you so much for reading this. I hope you return. Who knows what the next fortnight will hold but that’s the beauty of the industry. I guess any lessons from this experience to any newly graduated performer is to make sure you deal with any ‘no more training’ emotion before you may have to face post-show blues! Make sure you have tissues and friendly faces waiting for you when you return to normal life and if you’ve been away on residential have plenty of washing powder stocked up!

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Then when you’ve finished posing in front of a poster for a production you’ve just been in, giving it your best ‘sad face’, dust yourself off and step leap towards the next opportunity.

“Hold my hand and we’re halfway there, hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow, someday, somewhere…”

– Rebecca Ridout