Has London’s West End changed for the worse? ‘The starlet’, now a singing teacher from London who would like to remain anonymous, has had more then her fair share of performing on stage. A star from the Fifties through to the Nineties, she made a success of her talent and ambition, putting many young creatives of today to shame. Coco Evennett-Watts went to see her to find out what life was like for a West End star back in the days.

QueensOfVintage: What inspired you to become a West End performer?

The Starlet: It was my singing that inspired me to get onstage. My parents would often take me to musicals and I would sit there numb with emotion, in awe of the performers and the costumes that they were wearing.

QoV: How did you feel when you were onstage?

The Starlet: It took me longer to gain confidence as an actress but the passion that I felt for singing helped me overcome my fear and learn to act. I was always a bag of nerves and had no self-confidence. Until one night, I had to walk onstage singing. I can remember looking out into the audience and seeing one lady in particular smiling up at me. I knew that she couldn’t be smiling at anyone else, as I was the only one on stage. I thought to myself ‘well you must be doing something right Jayne!

QoV:  Who were your role models?

The Starlet: I think I was selfish enough that I didn’t admire a particular singer or actress, as I wanted the part for myself!

QoV: What was a typical day like for you?

The Starlet: Before I got the part as leading lady my typical rehearsing day started at 10.00 a.m., we would have an hours break for lunch at 12.00 p.m. and then carry on until 5.00 p.m. As the opening night drew closer, we would work longer hours often not knowing when we would finish. It was hard work!

When I was a leading lady, I would often sleep in the morning unless I had to make a personal appearance. The afternoon would be rehearsal and then in the evening I would perform. After the performance I would often be expected to go to a party, as there were people there that wanted to talk to me. I found this very nerve-wracking as I saw the public as my biggest judge, I would worry about what they were going to say to me. I would also be extremely tired and nothing sounded worse then forcing a smile and conversation with a lot of strangers.

London_sixtiesQoV: How much did you use to get paid?

The Starlet: When I first started singing and acting I earned £10.00 a week (which at the time I thought was a fortune). I had to save some of it for times when I was out of work (which was luckily never) and also sent some home to my mother. Of course nobody does that anymore.

The most I earned was £500 a week. I saved enough so that I could afford to have my own flat in London with a mortgage. Your wage really depended on who you worked with and what type of role you were given. I was leading lady so I made more than most of the cast.

QoV: What did you wear when you were rehearsing?

The Starlet: I would wear whatever I felt like when I rehearsed. As it got closer to the opening night, I would wear a long skirt to get used to the costume. Occasionally I would borrow something. It was important to me that I made the best of myself at all times, I would never turn up in an un coordinated outfit and a face with no make-up!

QoV:  What was your proudest moment?

The Starlet: One day I had an audition to go to. I remember I was wearing a red dress with a detachable collar, matching stilettos and white handbag. It was important to me that I always made the best of myself. Even if you feel awful on the inside, no one can tell if your hair and make-up is done and you are wearing a co-ordinated outfit.

I walked into the room where the audition was to take place and the director gave the part to me on the spot. Shocked I asked him if he wanted to see my audition first. He explained to me that he had already been to a few of my auditions of which I had been unaware, as I wasn’t auditioning for him.

Apparently I had a reputation for always having co-ordinated outfits. If other young women heard that I was going to try for a part in a play or musical, they wouldn’t bother going to the audition. It was such a compliment! It was also a shock to hear as I lacked confidence and often felt my acting wasn’t good enough.

QoV:  Do you have any tips for any aspiring actresses or singers?

The Starlet: It’s important for performers to look after themselves. Theatre make-up can be extremely hard to take off and can be tough for your skin. I was constantly toning and moisturising my face, which obviously worked because my skin doesn’t look worn.

It is so important to believe in what you are doing. Only the most ambitious and passionate will succeed!

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