Keep up, Mike – the ‘suits’ matter
Yet again The Stage has chosen to publish another tranche of outdated, ill-informed nonsense from Mike Bradwell (Do theatres really need so many suits?).
While he admits that some of his views are exaggerated for effect – and that a degree of paranoia pervades a corner of the community that shares these views – does he really think that we can operate now as we did in 1959? Fings indeed ain’t wot they used t’be. The theatrical landscape has entirely changed, as has the way in which audiences and potential audiences make their choices.
It is deeply insulting for the marketeers, fundraisers, administrators and education practitioners to be accused of prising funds out of creative hands, and of lacking integrity – artistic or otherwise.
These dedicated, hard-working, creative and talented individuals work, invariably, for peanuts – compared to what they could earn in comparable positions elsewhere in the creative or commercial industries – with the sole intent of putting work on stages. They too are not unfamiliar with 120-hour weeks.
While Mr Bradwell’s ignorance of the contribution that these people make to his colleagues’ work shines through in every sentence (calling marketing “voodoo” places him firmly in theatre’s Jurassic period, while asking what an audience development officer does leads one to answer that he should make it his business to find out before dismissing their work).
It remains a mathematical fact that the number of writers, actors, directors and designers employed by theatres would be dramatically smaller if they were depending on the vagaries of subsidy and ticket income alone. Indeed, Mr Bradwell assumes that income will materialise out of nowhere, and subsidy will be handed over from public purses without question or accountability.
The creative industries have flourished in this country. Artists have been given the freedom to experiment, and audiences have been presented with a wider, deeper choice, which they have embraced with fervour, thanks to the increasingly innovative, imaginative and professional ways in which theatre and cultural institutions are run in the 21st century.
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New venues no Matcham for old
Peter Seekings-Foster writes wise words (Letters, September 27). One weeps not only for the numerous fine theatres that have been demolished since the 1960s, but also at the neglect of those few remaining derelict listed buildings that could be restored at a lower cost than building a new structure.
Most are owned by property developers who bought the theatres for their site values. While the theatres rot, local councils, who have the legal clout to either compel owners to maintain the fabric, or else do the work themselves and forward the bill, do little or nothing.
Burnley Empire, Morecambe Winter Gardens, Workington Opera House, Doncaster Grand, the Theatre Royal Hyde and others are ‘proper’ theatres, which are capable of accommodating touring shows that are not viable in smaller units.
There are councillors who do not appreciate the value to the local community of a large, vibrant theatre that attracts trade and tourism, and that does not require people to pay the expense of travelling over long distances to visit the nearest playhouse.
Instead they promote, as an equivalent, some small multi-purpose venue, which lacks proper facilities for both audiences and performers alike. Burnley, Scarborough and Workington are cases in point, while we hope Dudley council may alter its initial decision to demolish the Hippodrome.
New buildings are not necessarily the answer, as many do not have the size or ambiance of the old. The great architects, such as Matcham, earned their living by designing theatres, and they got it right first time – whereas modern theatres can be a one-off from the architect’s drawing board.
Newer theatres are very expensive, often well over budget, and are known to have shortcomings. A comparison between the new Leicester Curve and that city’s demolished Palace or Opera House serves as an example.
Well done for telling it straight
Having read The Stage for more than 30 years, I would like to congratulate your reviewers for pulling no punches in their criticisms of productions – Michael Coveney and Mark Shenton being shining examples.
A theatre friend of mine once assumed that The Stage would be too kind with their criticisms. But at a time when cuts and a recession bite even deeper, leaving many more actors unemployed, one surely expects the best, especially in the West End.
Capital cock-up causes divide
I would like to point out a small error in the obituary of Max Bygraves. It’s a small point, but a lot of people are making the same mistake with regard to ‘cockney’ actors – Max was born in Bermondsey, as was Michael Caine. They were not born in East London, as was stated.
Bermondsey/Rotherhithe is south of the river, ie south-east London, whereas the East End is north of the river. There is quite a distinction, and not a little rivalry between the south and north banks of the Thames.
Apart from that, I really look forward to receiving my copy of The Stage each week. Keep up the good work.
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Twin role was thrice a favourite
I was deeply saddened by the recent death of actor Herbert Lom. I became an avid fan at a very young age when, as a small child in 1948, I was taken to see one of his early films, which was set in a circus. I can remember my long-suffering stepfather taking me, at my request, on three separate occasions to see the film, during the week that it was showing at our local cinema.
Lom played a double part in the film – twin trapeze artists, one of which commits a murder – which was called Dual Alibi. I was about 15 when he sent me a signed photograph, which I still have. He will be very sadly missed.