by Philip Joel
I was on holiday at home with my family in Cornwall, relaxing and chatting to my parents when my mum casually asked “Do you miss not doing town; not doing eight shows a week?”, and it hit me: even though I have a television series coming out; a UK tour and a show touring the world on the seas, and even though I’m working for a big reality TV show later this year and have a panto booked in at one of the most beautiful theatres in the UK, this still isn’t seen (by others) as ‘the best work’ out there. So I tweeted what I thought: that the “West End” seems to be the biggest, most glamorous place in people’s minds, so that, until we as performers have attained this, in people’s opinions we haven’t achieved the goal and (like most of us know)... the glamour of it!
Now this isn’t me saying the West End is not a wonderful and well-paid career. I love the West End; I love my friends in West End shows and I’m always proud when someone announces they are heading into one (even better when I get to go to the opening night and celebrate with a bottle of bubbles afterwards!) However, I’m also just as proud when friends head out on to a cruise ship or announce they are performing in a fringe show. So where has this stigma come from? This stigma that if it isn’t the ‘Westend’ you still have something to achieve? Something to tick off?
One of my “big breaks” came from choreographing a fringe show. I got paid (not a lot but I did get paid) and thanks to the right people seeing that show, two months later I was being flown out to America to choreograph for one of the biggest production cruise liners in the world. If it wasn’t for that fringe show I wouldn’t be where I am in my choreographic career today. What is interesting is the different mentality Americans have over the British. They see any work as a big deal - a ship, a regional production, an American tour, or a workshop are all just as amazing as performing on Broadway. They celebrate everyone’s achievements and recognise that work is work, a credit is a credit and money is money.
Do I have the answer as to why we have this mentality not only to each other’s successes but also in the pressure we put on ourselves? No! Do I think it will change anytime soon? Probably not. But is there a more important question to ask? Yes... and I think this is it: are you genuinely happy in your life & career? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then in my opinion you are the real winner and nobody else’s viewpoint on your success should detract from the happiness you feel because at the end of the day, your happiness and fulfilment is all that matters.