How do you want to spend £1.2m?
Readers may recall my earlier letter (Stage Talk, January 17, page 8), and union members may recall my information to them circulated late last year by branch secretaries, advising of a forthcoming court case to determine how £1.2 million referred to as ‘unknown funds’ should be dealt with.
Equity wishes to gain approval for the funds to be used for ‘general purposes’. However, it is considered by many that this is members’ work-related earnings that, over several decades, has remained undistributed to those to whom it belonged, or to their estates.
The court wishes to hear alternative arguments to how the funds should be used “to the benefit of union members” past or present, or their estate representatives. There is now a potential window in court procedures to permit the case to be heard in June.
Arrangements with Equity for independent legal representation are under discussion, and I am working towards early April for the submission of papers that will present the argument to the court for those who wish to see the funds used to the “benefit of members locally, nationally, individually, collectively or in any way whatsoever, instead of ‘general purposes’”.
Anyone who wishes to add suggestions to the list still has time to send proposals to me. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me by letter.
ATG bosses must value staff
Following on from your story relating to the proposed redundancies at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham (News, February 21, page 2), the general manager continues to press ahead with the restructure and does not even seem to take into account the staff’s concerns in the matter.
Earlier in the year the front of house department was restructured, leaving one full-time manager to look after 60 staff – he too had to fight for his own job. Staff had to resort to lifting stock in for the bars because there was no cellar person.
I have been invited to speak to the general manager. However, I see no point in this. In this day and age, employees should not have to fear this kind of management, but ATG seems determined to bring the theatre to its knees. This is a company that is making millions of pounds worth of profit on the backs of people that are doing the job because they love it, and not because of the wage that they are receiving.
Name and address supplied
Who you gonna call? Us, please
Do you have a story that you cannot explain? Have you seen a ghost in the theatre?
As students at Manchester Metropolitan University, we are developing the Theatre Ghost Project. Our aim is to investigate theatre ghosts and what they mean to different people.
We are looking for individuals who have worked in theatres, in any capacity, to contact us with any personal stories that they have experienced in relation to theatre ghosts. Ideally, we would like to hear of any sights, sounds or memories you have.
It would also be interesting if you could provide us with information of your own working background, religion, age, professional status, and where you were and what you were doing when you had this experience.
We may use your stories anonymously as part of a display of our findings to take place at the Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, in September.
Please contact us via email at email@example.com with any information.
Dean, Asmaa and Joseph
Email address supplied
Vocal actor was pitch perfect
Richard Briers, richly recalled for his wonderful television and theatre work, was also a memorable and adventurous voice actor. From the original Noddy to Griffin in the Midland Bank commercials, he carried on enthusiastically into the interactive era of radio in the 21st century.
My enduring memory of Richard on microphone is directing him in the Heathcote Williams play Hancock’s Last Half Hour in 1988, 20 years after Tony Hancock’s suicide, in which Richard finally took on the long-deferred role of the comedian.
When the BBC Radio 3 photographer positioned Dickie to evoke a famous Hancock pose, the actor was firmly commanded not to show his new, sparkling white teeth by flashing his own famous smile. “If you knew how much they cost…”, he murmured, happily assuming the grumpy Hancock look. Whatever they cost, he didn’t keep those particular teeth, and the opportunity to play Hancock had been a long time coming.
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who wrote Hancock’s Half Hour, had invited Richard to play the lead in a new series after parting from Hancock. But Richard, shy of following the star, had declined. This probably meant that he could eventually take on the classic roles for Kenneth Branagh that followed in the theatre, but I suspect many memorable half-hours were also lost.
In Hancock’s Last Half Hour, the eponymous performer drifts into death in Australia. When I spoke to Ray Galton about his and Simpson’s reported doubts about Richard’s – and Heathcote’s – version of Hancock, he said there had been no such doubts, and that the reported comments concerned another Hancock version – a television travesty. But Briers performance was fine, as they’d always known it would be.
The last time I saw Richard, laying flowers for Noel Coward at Drury Lane in 2011, he flashed the toothless smile of Tony Hancock, so totally not the Briers’ smile. That came immediately after.
A most wonderful actor and man will be missed in voice, vision and person.
Email address supplied
Generous Briers was a true gent
On reading the many deservedly glowing tributes to the late Richard Briers (Obituaries, February 28, page 45), I am reminded of one occasion some 30 years ago when I was working as house manager at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, where Mr Briers was appearing in Shaw’s Arms and the Man – his first pairing, actually, with Peter Egan, prior to the hugely successful Ever Decreasing Circles.
Arthur, the old stage door keeper at the Lyric, who had known Mr Briers from Middle Age Spread, staged some years previously, had suddenly retired owing to ill health.
His family had decided to have an afternoon tea party at his home, which was in a high-rise flat some distance from the centre of town, on a Wednesday – matinee day – to which many of the theatre staff were to attend.
Word of this reached Mr Briers, who asked if he too could attend. It goes without saying that Arthur’s family were delighted at the addition of this extra, illustrious name to the guest list.
The great day came and, following the matinee, several of us, Mr Briers included, made our way in cars out to chez Arthur for afternoon tea had been set out.
Arthur, dressed to the nines for the occasion, was delighted to welcome us all, not least his distinguished guest, who, throughout the party, was never less than a guest, and who ensured that Arthur remained the star of the occasion.
When the time came for us to make our way back to the Lyric, we said goodbye to a very happy ex-stage door keeper, who had clearly been hugely touched by the occasion, not to mention the presence of his distinguished guest.
As far as I’m concerned, the brief interim between matinee and evening show has always been a pretty sacrosanct time, when one has a quick bite to eat and puts one’s feet up – briefly – prior to changing into the frock for the evening show.
That the star of the show, whose name was in lights on the canopy, was willing to give up this time to spend it with an elderly, retired stage door man, really goes to show what a sheer and utter gent Mr Briers undoubtedly was.
(Elderly, retired theatre manager)
Email address supplied