Opening tonight: The future for aspiring student actors in the performing arts

Performance including Megan Smith at Hykell and Hyde

The curtain’s been down too long in theatres across the country, perhaps too long? Joshua Ketteridge delves into the industry and students wanting to pursue the theatrical arts.

We all know by now that lockdown has been infused with chaos, and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty for a majority, if not all businesses, big or small, and its labour force.

And theatres and those involved in the profession are just one, huge example of how an industry can collapse in a matter of months.

One theatre as such is Chorley Theatre, a small, self-sufficient venue that’s almost entirely run by volunteers, that have faced the brunt of lockdown and closed their doors in June last year.

Ian Robinson, the Operations Director at Chorley Theatre has worked there for the past 32 years, he’s explained the surge of issues him and theatre workers have faced since their closure.

Ian said: “Chorley theatre is mainly volunteers, it’s a social thing, so not being able to see anyone has affected us—these people are our friends and we see them on a regular basis.

“It’s a shame for those acting, they were all set to be in shows, we had Legally Blonde which would have been open in June last year.

“They were having a great time rehearsing, but those shows had to be abandoned! It’s a great shame that we had a brilliant cast, and brilliant shows—but those shows are probably never going to happen.”

In March 2020, the performing arts industry was set to lose over £330 over the next 12 weeks, and the same amount in the 13 weeks afterwards.

Last year, the only form of support for theatres from the government through a £1.57 billion fund to tackle the crisis and help support cultural organisations.

And theatres solely contribute a ticket revenue of £1.2 billion according to an article referencing the data from 2018.

With that in mind, performers I’ve spoken to have still not felt the same level of support for theatres, as they’ve seen for other industries like sport.

Joshua Talbot, 18, and Megan Smith, 20, are both musical theatre students, studying at the Leeds Conservatoire, and have each had their share of the limelight in shows across the country such as; Legally Blonde; My Fair Lady; and Jekyll and Hyde.

Megan Smith, far right, in ‘My Fair Lady’ Production, 2020.

So they may not be the most experienced like the works of Elaine Page, or Patti Lupone, but there’s no question that they’re apart of this industry that’s been so heavily cloud.

Megan said: “Performances have it really hard, just because the government doesn’t really see the creative arts as the most important industry in the world—and it’s not the most important—but it’s a really essential jobs sector.

“I just feel like performers and actors, who work in the industry have been left out and not thought very much of.

“Because without those freelance people, there wouldn’t be theatre.”

However, the negligence does not diminish the students’ and in fact they’re “quite hopeful”

Both Megan and Josh believe that lockdown has somehow gave people who maybe wanted to pursue the performing arts, a chance to “sit back and reflect” on what they ultimately want to do in the future.

They went over the prospect that because lockdown has limited or set some form of cultural embargo on the British population, that there will be a greater appetite for those who want to get back in theatres, and agents looking for actors.

Josh said: “People are going to be hunting for new people, new minds, new ideas.

“Also if you think about it, from other people’s perspective, everyone was losing their jobs at this time, it just so happened that finding jobs in theatre is difficult anyways, but finding jobs in theatre with a lockdown, while also probably being furloughed from your part time job, really did put people under a lot of pressure to kind of have that attitude to be like, we need this, we want this we have to have this.”

“There’s a hunger for it now, and there’s going to be more of a drive to go watch theatre and there’s gonna be more jobs for us to then get hopefully, fingers crossed.”

Interview with Joshua Talbot, Megan Smith, and Ian Robinson about the future of aspiring actors.

This speculation is again reiterated through Ian back in Chorley, where he believes there is “great opportunity” for aspiring actors in the future.

“I think it could be quite like the roaring twenties once lockdown is over, I mean I know things will be differently come May, but the theatres will definitely be bustling with those wanting to get back to theatre venues.”

So perhaps after lockdown, after insanity ensued, the future for actors is projected for stability and they are soon expecting greatness in the time to come.