Similar name, different school
As ex-pupils of Corona, we the undersigned were saddened to read your report (Winstone saddened by prospect of Corona Theatre School’s closure, February 21, page 4). Not because you said that Corona was due to close due to financial problems, but because our school came to a dignified end 24 years ago.
For more than 40 years, Rona Knight and her sister Muriel Martin, with the loving support of their family, ran Corona Academy, a world-famous stage school that brought generations of new blood into the business – both in front of and behind the cameras and tabs.
Their idiosyncratic rule could never be replicated, and when the school ended in 1989 upon the sisters’ retirement, many of us came back for a final time to say goodbye to them. It was understood very clearly that a new school, the Ravenscourt Theatre School, was not to use the name Corona or, aside from the uniform, the academy’s history. Sir Robin Phillips, the owner, respectfully agreed to this. Their legacy would be us and our memories of a unique time and place.
Sir Robin himself retired five years ago. Within a couple of years his school, RTS, also closed. The name Corona was then adopted in what some might regard as a cynical marketing ploy by later management.
Subsequent changes in ownership, limited companies, premises, staff and pupils give the lie to the impression of continuity going back to 1948, which has been irritating to us for the last four years and has now been given credence in your report.
This new Corona’s history and alumni started four years ago. Some reference to RTS pupils who moved over to the school with the staff, and to ex-RTS students who have been successful, is acceptable.
What is not acceptable is what has been said in your article linking the Corona Academy Stage School with this Corona – they are not the same place.
Jayne and Malcolm Knight, Erin Geraghty and Michael Audreson, Martha Baker (Pitwood), Lesley Beagley, Tara Bearcroft (Carman), Danielle Carson Smith, Elizabeth Chamberlain, Samantha Chamberlain, Gillian Chapman, Hayley Chisnell, Melinda Clancy, Lawrence Cohen, Julie Croft, Larry Dann, Cheryl Dhaliwal, Jenny Donnison, Vanya Donnison (Lowther), Amanda Druce, Cyma Feldwick-Cassar, Simon Fenton, Gemma Flanders, Stephen Follett, Victoria Gadsden, Kelly Jo Gold, Penny Gold, Leigh Goldsmith, Emma Greenhill, Haydn Gresty, Antoinette M Gridneff, Nadine Hanwell, Frazer Hines, Christian Holder, Emma Holmes, Medina Jessop, Sally Ann Jones, Melody Kaye, Michaela Kelly, Nigel Kingsley, Barbara Loft, Sara Maddern, Sarah Matheson, David Morris, Richard Mottau, Traci Mottau, John McGlashan, Gemma Murphy, Paula Newman, Janet Osborne Williams, Steve Padwick, Amanda Partridge, Natalie Payne, Daniel Payne, Nigel Rathbone, Darryl Read, Tiffany Reed, Zuleika Robson, Teri Scoble, Johanna Sheffield, Sarah Stone (Brannon), Teresa Charlotte Smith (Blackburn), Rebecca Emily Smith, Larry Viner, Angela White, Nicola White, Sophie White, Peter Whitmarsh, Abby-Lee Widger (was Knight), Juanita Willmer, Loretta Wren, Jon Yallop, Dawn Zimbler, Paul Hand, Vivienne Williams, Candy Bonstein, Alex Wright, Karelle Plummer, Esta and Beth Charkham (casting directors).
Way forward for Moray Council
The good news on your front page (February 21) was that Newcastle City Council has decided to back down on its plans for 100% cuts to arts funding in the city. There are now plans for support that could amount to as much as 50%.
However, this was followed on page 5 by the news that Moray Council has now opted for 100% cuts in arts funding. Sounds familiar.
Is there any chance that the Scottish council will review the situation in view of the turnaround at Newcastle, and find a way in which it can still support the much-needed arts input? Let’s hope so.
Web reviews can spread the word
I was interested to read Mark Shenton’s piece on young theatre critics (Stage Talk, February 14, page 7). As a young(ish) male of 33, I have recently started making video reviews of theatrical performances to encourage new theatre audiences using new media technologies.
Each week I will make a short video review of a show, which people can view on smartphones, the internet or smart TVs. I hope to convert an electronic word of mouth review to an individual purchasing a theatre ticket.
I think we are living in a somewhat soulless society, in which too many people are glued to mobile phones. Subconsciously, people feel the need for the shared environment that theatre provides. We should embrace that experience and tell others about it, so more people can enjoy the beauty and magic of live theatre.
I will see a wide variety of professional productions in the north of England, as well as performances by local amateur dramatic societies and visiting West End shows.
It is great how most people who love and care for the theatre want to nurture and protect this artform, so it lives on for future generations. We need to educate people, and say to them: “Instead of spending money on a few drinks, why not buy a ticket for a theatre show? Instead of getting drunk, expand your mind, stretch your imagination and experience the beauty of art and creativity. Go and see a show – if you like it, tell someone else.”
Let’s get as many people as we can engaged and educated about the beauty of theatre.
Email address supplied
West End high-prices itself out
If the health of Theatreland is to survive, why doesn’t it do something about the ludicrously high ticket prices, unavailability of tickets, uncomfortable seating and poor in-house facilities?
With each successive year I miss more and more plays simply because the ticket price is too high, coupled with bookings that are impossible to secure, especially online.
Time for a shake-up.
Email address supplied
The man always made an impact
Michael Winner would have been delighted with your obituary (February 14, page 45) and that you had given him half a page.
I was his assistant director, and knew him reasonably well. Michael’s start in the film industry, as it was in those days, was with Harold Baim, whose films were screened in the big cinemas. Michael then got the Danzigers to let him direct the second unit of Mark Saber, a black and white TV series – his unit took shots of doors opening and closing, as well as shots of Big Ben.
After this, Michael formed his own film company and set about making features – using locations, not studios, if he could help it. There are legions of stories about this volatile man, who could scream and turn on you at a moment’s notice. But on the other hand he could be the kindest and nicest man you could wish to meet on a rainy day.
Michael always had his ‘big boy’ with him on every film, who knew what he wanted, and when, for his personal comfort. As for the crew, he would hire them and fire them at will, regardless of position.
He edited all his films, and his one view was that if the first five minutes were okay then nothing else really mattered – although there were one or two exceptions, including the first Death Wish with Charles Bronson.
I last saw Michael when he sent me to Vienna to get Gregory Peck to play the highwayman in his remake of The Wicked Lady, but Greg rightly refused and told him what to do with his script.
His films may not have done so well here, but I can tell you that in Asia his name meant big box office returns.
Joe M Marks