Actors to job-share on touring production

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MEI Theatrical

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Ruth Calkin and Lizzie Wort in rehearsals for Twirlywoos

A stage show based on a children’s TV programme is to become the first touring production to have a job-share between two actors.

The role in Twirlywoos, as seen on CBeebies, will be shared between Lizzie Wort and Ruth Calkin.

“I really hope we will see the start of more new ways of working in theatre,” said Calkin.

“It took courage to push the issue, but to be met with support from the producers was incredible.”

The actor-puppeteer said she wanted to accept the role as soon as she was offered it.

But she feared the “intensity” of the tour would have been “too punishing” for her family.

“It never occurred to me that my tentative suggestion of a job share would even be considered, let alone that it would evolve in the way that it has,” Calkin added.

She said making the job-share happen was “amazingly empowering… not only as performers but also as mums with young children.”

The move follows the first job-share in West End history last year, when performer Charlene Ford won the right to share a role in the musical 42nd Street.

“So many performers of my age still want to do the career they love.” Ford told The Stage. “When you become a mum you don’t lose that or who you are.”

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BBC Pictures/Ragdoll Productions

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Twirlywoos was first broadcast on CBeebies in 2015

The job-share was called a “landmark moment” by campaigning body Parents & Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA).

Its co-founder, Cassie Raine, believes on-stage job-sharing has the “potential to revolutionise” how theatre-makers approach touring and “increase access” for many who do not see touring as a viable option.

“We need to move towards a more people-centred culture, on and off stage,” said Raine.

Calkin said the job-share would “open up possibilities, not just for performers with children but for all of us with commitments and responsibilities needing to run in tandem with professional life.”

Twirlywoos Live! begins its three-month tour at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley on 12 February.

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