Why I believe that the Actors Centre has a role today
The original idea behind the Actors Centre when it was set up was as a hub for continuous professional development by working actors. I'd never been anywhere near the centre in 22 years as a working actor until the read through of the Ali G movie some 15 years ago. I didn’t feel the need to use the centre when I was in work, and when I was out of work all my energies were focused on getting more work.
In 2008 I was asked to join the board, mainly for my expertise in the corporate market, and for two years I attended board meetings and looked at spreadsheets not really understanding why I was there. My corporate expertise was never called on, and the Actors Centre seemed a self-contained little haven for the people who came to it.
In the current climate, and certainly since the recession began, things have changed. Tuition fees mean that drama training is a huge investment. People need to ensure they get a return on that investment quickly, or they move onto something else. The chances of a long and sustainable career these days are much less than they were for those of us who started out in the last century.
The repertory theatres employ fewer actors for fewer weeks of the year. Television is shot faster on digital cameras which means fewer days employment doing an episode of a TV show and therefore lower fees. Actors need to be more proactive with their careers, create more work for themselves, and skill themselves in many more areas.
The traditional drama school training offered in Britain, still the best in the world, cannot necessarily find time to do all the above. As young actors emerge into the world, they need supporting, nurturing, challenging, and possibly above all, guiding. There is a bridge to be crossed from the rarefied world of training into the real world of work. Some people leap across the gap, but many others find it a difficult journey to make. That’s something that the Actors Centre does best, and while I know we are still here for all actors at all stages of their career, it's great to see the building full of potential. People who are exploring the world they have trained for and finding their feet. If the Actors Centre helps them stay on their feet for just a little bit longer, then it’s done its job. And that’s when I can put my feet up.
Paul Clayton - Chair of the Actors Centre