The Royal Shakespeare Company has agreed to pay amateur performers appearing as part of its 2016 tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, following negotiations with Equity.
As part of his first full programme as artistic director of the company, Gregory Doran announced earlier this month that the show would feature local amateur performers to play the Mechanicals.
He said that the touring production, called Dream 16, would involve six different Mechanicals in each of the 12 regions of the UK that the show would visit.
The RSC was initially planning not to pay the non-professional actors. However, the union expressed concerns about the plan and the company has now agreed to provide the national minimum wage to the amateur performers.
Amateurs will receive payment for all rehearsals and performances that involve the professional RSC cast. Additional rehearsals conducted independently from the professional cast will not form part of the agreement.
The show will be presented as a co-production with each of the amateur companies and partner venues that the RSC will work with to stage the tour.
Equity assistant general secretary Stephen Spence said that amateur actors could be considered workers when they are directed independently and cannot be easily substituted. He said that the union considered the Mechanicals, which include the role of Bottom, to be substantial parts, which are likely to fall under these rules.
He said: “The way that these amateurs will be used by the RSC means they will almost certainly create a worker issue. The Equity deal with the RSC resolves any ambiguity. The way that the RSC is proposing to use them is that they will be directed individually and will not be able to be substituted because Bottom and the other Mechanicals are parts with substantial lines.”
The RSC is also planning to use different sets of local schoolchildren across the 12 regions to make up Titania’s fairy train. Spence added that there were no negotiations for the children to be paid.
RSC producer Jeremy Adams said: “Our Dream 16 project has been formed in close negotiation with Equity. At their suggestion we are approaching this project as a co-production with each of our partner theatres and amateur companies.
“When the amateur performers are rehearsing and performing with the RSC we are planning to pay the national minimum hourly wage rate in line with the Equity guidelines on employing and working with supernumeries. We are still working on further details with Equity as to how the logistics of this exciting project will work.”