NEILSON’S COLUMN (April 27, 2017): What on earth is a West End Wendy?

Michael Neilson
Michael Neilson

April 23, 2017. A memorable day for all.

No, not because it was St. George’s Day, or even the 37th running of the London Marathon. It was of course the fourth annual gathering of the West End Wendys.

“What on earth is a West End Wendy?” I can hear you asking yourself. Well, to explain, a West End Wendy is someone who has appeared in, or worked on a West End show. And so it was that the great and the good (totally out numbered by the not-so-great and the downright bad) of show business, met to chat, laugh, drink and tell stories.

It was a joy to see old friends such as the talented choreographer Stephen Mear (Gypsy, Kiss Me Kate, Crazy for You) and the irrepressible musical director Jae Alexander (Oliver!, Beauty and the Beast, 42nd Street) and, as far as I know, no one asked either of them for a job!

Everyone was there to relax, especially Kenny Linden who arrived having run the London marathon, raising money for Guide Dogs. I don’t think I have seen so many people receive and give so many hugs during the course of an afternoon. If it had been a sponsored hugging and kissing event, we would have raised a million pounds.

Of course, such expressions of affection can be seen by non-theatricals as possibly disingenuous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Theatre people forge firm friendships that can last a lifetime. You see, there are not many of us in the profession and not many of us work regularly. I have seen figures suggesting that, at any one time, 95 percent of actors are out of work and only around ten percent work regularly. When you take into account that there are fewer than 40,000 Equity members, then it is easy to see why so many West End Wendys know each other, when there is such a gathering. Also, if you get yourself into a successful West End show, you could be working with the same people for a year or two, maybe more. In fact, I personally know one actor who was in a show for 12 years and another, who only did one show for his entire theatrical career – he was in Cats for 21 years! He only left because the show closed.

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