Most actors are asked that question many times throughout their careers. It’s asked an awful lot more
when that actor is also not only a parent but a single parent. Despite the fact that most people think we
just ‘play’ for a living being an actor in the current climate is incredibly tough. Mainly because we are in
a saturated industry and there is always someone else who is just as talented as you are willing to work
longer hours for less money. For those of us with caring responsibilities this only adds to the problem.
The simple solution would be to walk away. To find this elusive ‘proper job’ everyone keeps telling me
about. But as an actor I have in my life done many jobs. Whatever we do or don’t do, working as a
single parent is always going to be a challenge. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who told me
to do the thing I loved no matter what because life was too short not to. I want my son to grow up with
that same belief, that he can do whatever he wants to if he is prepared to work hard enough.
The first job I applied for after having my son was a theatre job. Low paid but enough to make it worth
the 1h 45 minute journey to rehearsals. The audition went incredibly well. So well in fact that I was
virtually offered the job on the spot. The director had even suggested we pop along to the venue to see
the space we’d be working in. On this walk the conversation turned to something which led me to
casually mention my son. I instantly felt the director bristle. “You never mentioned you were a
mother…” We had stopped walking by this point. “I’ve had trouble with mothers before.”
After that she suddenly remembered she had a few other people left to see and she would let me know
as soon as possible. Naturally I never heard from her again. Acting is one of those jobs where our
commitment to it should be above and beyond everything else in our lives.
The problem with this is that it means the people who make and are a part of the arts that we see are
only ever going to be the narrowest slice of the society in which we live. Theatre, film and television are
all at their best when we can see the whole of society reflected back at us. We need to hear the stories
of parents, of carers, people of colour, working class, LGBTQI+. We need to understand what it is like to
walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, the challenges we face and how we can all work together to make
our society better and fairer for everyone.
That’s why what SHE are doing is so important. By recognising that being inclusive means
understanding the different needs that people have they are able to make it so I am able to both work
with them and make sure my son is cared for. Providing a childcare subsidy means I can source and pay
for appropriate care. Finding childcare to wrap around school is hard enough but finding good reliable
care during school holidays can be a nightmare. I often end up paying around 50% of what I earn to
secure good childcare and I usually pay for it when I don’t need it to make sure I have a place when I do.
The way we work is changing, not just for actors but across the workplace so employers who can react
to that and help parents/carers are essential.
I’m thrilled that I can work with SHE again, but I’m especially pleased knowing how they are working to
make theatre more accessible for EVERYONE.