Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Adam Gale, 39, is a director who has worked extensively on musicals. He has taken many shows to Edinburgh and runs a youth theatre
Jane Keeling, 52, trained as a stage manager and has been an assistant stage manager, deputy stage manager and a company stage manager
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured national and internationally.
Peter Quince is a 71-year-old actor working in theatre and television
Tina Cerrito is in her 20s. She has worked on a number of productions in leading new-writing theatres, as well
as film work
Dale McKenna is 25. He trained at Laine Theatre Arts, has performed in West End musicals and is currently touring the UK
Beryl I started young – at infant school. Then, encouraged by my mum, I joined local drama groups and that was it.
Dale My mum tried and failed to get me involved. Then I decided one day to go to some classes and fell in love.
Albert You sound like you’re in A Chorus Line.
Thomas I love it that you had to find it for yourself.
Peter My mother was an amateur actor. From an early age, I used to take her through her lines and attend rehearsals.
Dale Peter’s story is much better than mine.
Albert I remember seeing Olivier’s Richard III on TV and getting an old copy of the Complete Works from the bookcase at home. I wandered around the living room reading out the opening speech with a cushion stuffed up my back.
Peter I’ve done some teaching and you can see some kids getting drunk on their ability to make the others laugh.
Adam My story is very similar to Peter’s. My dad did a lot of amateur theatre and aged five I used to sit and run lines with him. When watching the show I’d then recite the whole script in the audience. As a teenager, I took part in a summer project to put together an entire show in a week and a half, and utterly fell in love with it. I joined a youth theatre and it changed my life – it gave me the best friends I’ve ever had, who, 21 years on, are still my closest and set me on this career path.
Albert I’m welling up, Adam.
Adam The people that worked with us were inspirational. Now, I actually run that youth theatre because it was so important to me. I love keeping its ethos alive and seeing the next generations experience the same.
Thomas So: mothers, one father, some amateur dramatics and a youth theatre are all to blame for your decisions to become actors, writers and directors. How about you, Jane?
Jane I got involved with technical theatre through my school and found I enjoyed it. There was a prospectus for a drama school in the careers block – Central, I think – and I noticed you could train in stage management, so I did more research into courses.
Tina Being part of a youth theatre was very important. I was a member of a weekly drama group, but also went away in the summer to one of the big national companies. It was an incredible experience – you learnt loads, but it was also about making friends outside school and the experience of being away from home. That was almost as influential as the actual classes and rehearsals.
Thomas I can relate to that – the growing up you’d do away from home in the holidays.
Jane I didn’t belong to a youth theatre, but I have heard from other people that they are brilliant for young people wanting to gain offstage experience. Many youth theatres have better access to equipment and more expert knowledge of backstage roles.
Thomas That can be true, especially with regard to expert knowledge – but some school theatres are very well kitted-out these days.
Jane Yes – that’s true.
Albert Throughout school we were encouraged to do drama, even though it was quite an old-fashioned grammar school. School plays were one of the highlights of the year.
Peter But look what’s happening with EBacc.
Thomas Yes – it’s depressing.
Peter It’s been reported that the number of kids getting the chance to perform is declining.
Thomas Following on from Albert’s Richard III story – was anyone inspired by seeing a show as opposed to participating in one?
Dale An amateur production of Guys and Dolls blew my mind.
Thomas What was it about the production?
Dale The performers, the music and costumes were all so cool and so confident. Looking back, it must have been awful, but for me it was everything.
Peter In my teens, I saw Josephine Baker at the Olympia in Paris. She was glamorous and funny, doing comedy sketches topless. It was the antithesis of 1950s Britain.
Tina I wouldn’t worry Dale, as I have said before – for me it was going to see Starlight Express. It blew my mind.
Jane We went to see quite a bit at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. No specific show sticks out, but I just remember the experience of being in Stratford and the trips as a whole as very