• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

In response to the current economic climate and the lack of job security, Creation Theatre is set to create a repertory company with actors on full-time contracts.

Members of the Creation Theatre rep company
Members of the rep company have signed initial two-year contracts

Creation Theatre

A theatre has recruited six actors on full-time contracts to make up its theatre rep company as part of efforts to improve job security and boost wellbeing.

Oxford-based Creation Theatre has given the six actors initial two-year contracts but says it expects them to become permanent roles.

The arrangement is intended to create stability for the actors, providing them with a fixed monthly income and the ability to live locally, as well as greater flexibility in the event of illness, compassionate leave or maternity leave.


In the process of formulating the arrangement, Creation worked with academics at three UK universities who undertook research into actors’ mental health. They discovered that many were under extreme pressure, due to factors including short-term contracts, the need to find digs when touring with a company, and a fear of being seen as "difficult" if they advocated for themselves.

“On very short-term contracts and freelance contracts, performers are always under so much pressure to be nice,” Lucy Askew, Chief Executive of Creation Theatre said.

“What it means is often tiny things, that in a normal working environment people are confident to correct each other with, often don't get addressed, and it can really build up.

“You can get a strange thing where on one level everyone’s being very nice, but actually underneath that they're quite unhappy, and it's often things that actually as producers you could fix if you knew.” 

Increased flexibility

Askew felt the solution was to provide a small group of employees with permanent roles, creating strong bonds and eliminating issues that often negatively impact performers' mental health. These include the need for freelance actors to search for new work while in the middle of their current contracts and the time and costs associated with constantly auditioning for roles.

Hiring actors full-time also allows the company to offer increased flexibility, for example in the case of mothers returning to work after maternity leave, who might want to work part time or establish a job share.

“Once you've got a full-time group of people there, you suddenly realise all of these [flexible working arrangements] are possible. The challenge with the freelance system is that when you're doing short-term contracts you are constantly recasting,” said Askew.

“When you've got a stable base, it's much easier to imagine really flexible and agile ways that you can accommodate different people's needs.

She added that the arrangement can create a different dynamic with audiences as they see the same actors adapt to different roles.

“I just adore the idea that someone maybe starts and plays Romeo and then stays with us and one day plays King Lear,” Askew said.

“Audiences will be able to see actors at different times of their lives and see them be challenged to play wildly different roles.”

The theatre’s new hiring model is not reliant on external funding, ensuring its long-term sustainability. Askew expects the arrangement to result in some savings relating to actors' digs and travel costs

She is also confident it will free up time for Creation’s producers to spend on additional forms of work, including educational work both online and in person, which the rep company can assist when not busy with productions.

“We’re not really spending more than we would have done before, it’s just going more directly to performers instead of to admin,” she says.

Another advantage of working consistently with the same actors is the ability to remount particularly successful shows.

“We've always been in that thing where you get to the end of the run and you can't get the same people back again and it just becomes logistically really difficult,” she said. 

“So we're looking at making some shows this year that can then sort of go into storage, so it's made to be something we could pull out again, or that we can tour.”

Creating opportunities

Long-term, Askew hopes that the resident company will offer long-term job security for members, while also creating opportunities for other actors.

“We don't think it will be a closed door and no one else will perform with us because there'll be times when people decide they're moving house or somebody wants to change their life or do something different,” she said. 

“We think there will be opportunities for that rep company to naturally evolve and have new people in and, if it goes very well, to expand, because obviously a lot of shows need more than six people.”

Stephen Duncan-Rice, East & South-East England Official for Equity, said the theatre has been “wonderfully progressive in their ambition and in their aspirations”. 

“When Creation came to us with the proposal to engage performers on permanent contracts we thought very carefully about the implications,” he said. 

“For our members working on short-term contracts the prospect of being placed on PAYE can be of great detriment (resulting in a greater tax burden, for example). 

“However, with this arrangement Creation have provided an opportunity for a group of artists to experience long-term stable income with decent work-life balance, while also providing them with a space to develop their skills as artists. A rare opportunity indeed.”