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Confessions of a theatrical landlady

April 29, 2020

What's it like to share your home with touring thespians? Fun and enriching, says

JANE BARKER 

 

Can you help us out? A simple question from a neighbour opened up a second career for me as a landlady.

  The neighbour had agreed to take in a Belgrade actor but found herself double-booked. Naturally we said we’d help out. The kids are grown and gone so we have the room, the lodger would be with us for only a week, what could go wrong?

  Well nothing actually.

  Now, almost 50 thespians on, I can say there hasn’t been a single regret. The opposite – it’s been a joy to host interesting young and youngish people, all with a story to tell, all with insights into the world of acting and theatre.

  It might sound corny, but they have enriched the lives of two retirees rattling around in a house several sizes too big.

  They have not all been actors. Among the 50 have been stage managers, wardrobe chiefs, sound engineers, dancers and musicians, all at different stages of their careers, all talented. They are resourceful and can look after themselves as you’d expect, but travelling around the country from one set of digs to another can make for a lonely life, far from the glamour of the stage lights and a standing ovation.

  So we found ourselves staying up late one night with P, talking through his break-up with his girlfriend (he made a return trip a year later with a new one). J’s husband came to stay a night so he could see him on stage. L, doing a particularly long run, had her boyfriend to stay.

  We’ve met proud parents and we’ve seen people taking the first steps to (hopefully) stardom. M landed a part in a TV soap while she was with us, and A got an audition for The Crown. Imagine the breathless phone calls and the excited jumping up and down in the kitchen.

  We’ve seen what a hard life it is and what people have to do to make ends meet when they are “resting”. One got a job hosting birthday parties for the children of a weatlthy American businessman. Apparently the cake was as high as the ceiling and the kids’ party bags included real pearls.

  And we've seen what "the show must go on" really means. S managed to suffer a severe stomach upset (not our cooking, the guests all sort their own food out), had to have a tooth out, and, unbelievably, broke her arm, all during the run of her play. She missed only one performance. What a trouper.

  The headaches have all been minor – one lost key, failures to get to grips with the burglar alarm, a broken light fitting (never understood that one). But among the big pluses, apart from the extra spending money – the free or cheap tickets to see the shows. We’ve seen things we would probably have missed otherwise – a Bollywood musical, panto, thrillers and more experimental stuff, and enjoyed (nearly) all of them.

  But with the theatres closed, most of these young thespians will be struggling to survive. They will be hoping the lockdown ends soon, no doubt. We are too of course, and when it does we will be welcoming them back into our lives.

  If you’re interested in hosting theatre professionals go to: https://www.theatredigsbooker.com/

 

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