Monday, 17 December 2012

The Bleak Midwinter

Christmas. A time when it’s totally fine to sit around the house all day drinking port and eating your body weight in Stilton (it is fine, I promise.) Everything starts to gorgeously wind down and it suddenly becomes OK to watch A Muppets Christmas Carol, ET, Elf, Home Alone and Santa Claus The Movie all in one day. But there’s a sinister side to all this tinsel-framed jollity and that’s the terrifying lack of work that makes itself known to us actors at this time of year. 

Y’see, unless you’re blessed in the art of panto or you make a particularly good elf, December can be a tough month. Everyone else has decided to start winding down and because our lives are governed by the timetables of others, we have to wind down too. I mean, of course, we’re used to be it being quiet all the time. It’s Valentine’s Day soon or there’s a Y in the month or it’s the anniversary of Noel Coward coming up with another amusing quote. Whatever it is, you can guarantee that actors will use it as an excuse for work being a little thin on the ground. But Christmas is a whole different ball game with rules that mean however well you know them, you still won’t win.

As an actor, you’ll be used to the, “So, what acting work have you got on at the moment?” question. I’ve written about this before and it’s a painful question to be faced with if your current career prospects are looking as bright as an energy saving lightbulb. I realise that if you’re a not an actor, it’s the most natural question to put to someone who insists on showing off for a living. Of course you’re going to ask what they’re up to. What else are you doing to ask them? Whether they’ve got a holiday booked? How their stocks and shares are doing? Of course not. No, instead you ask them something that’s guaranteed to make you wish you hadn’t bothered. Because they’re either working on something and you then have to sit through half an hour of them boring the bum off you about what a wonderful, life-affirming piece they’re part of, or hey’re working on nothing and you have to deal with the awkward excuses as to why their life currently has no meaning. 

If you are the type of person that asks actors these type of questions, take a tip from me: if they tell you that they’re not working, just leave it at that. Or, if you do have to add something, just say that you understand that Christmas must be bit tough. Don’t suggest that they "just do Panto instead." I mean, feel free to offer your advice but just be aware of the repercussions and whether you mind receiving a swift clip round the ear straight after. I also suggest not being tempted to use other nuggets of advice such as ‘Oh, I suppose this is a good time to brush up on your skills.’ Yes, it is but it’s also a good time to eat Jelly Babies for breakfast and a whole box of Lebkuchen for dinner.

 I realise that if I used all my quiet time to brush up on skills that by now I’d be a multi-lingual, martial arts, one woman band extraordinaire. But I don’t. And because of that, Christmas will probably always be a time for unemployment. And y’know what? I’m secretly pleased.


  1. There's a good time for NOT eating Jelly Babies for breakfast? Oh...

    1. It's always a good time to eat Jelly Babies for breakfast. I just don't want everyone realising otherwise there'll be a shortage.

  2. I love Christmas and the chance to see non-London-based friends and family, but I hate the prospect of having to 'defend my career choice' when people ask me how it's going. The worst is when they start suggesting alternative careers ("... well why not put that Psychology degree to good use?"), and honestly, I sorta want to give them a good old slap. It's making my already shaky faith in myself even more shaky!