Musicians’ Union hits back at NT’s Nick Starr

War Horse at the New London Theatre. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
War Horse at the New London Theatre. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
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The Musicians’ Union has hit back at claims made by National Theatre executive director Nick Starr that the musicians in War Horse should have been axed in 2009, following the show’s transfer to the New London Theatre.

As previously reported in The Stage, Starr said the transfer of the show would have been “the moment to tackle” axing the five musicians in the production.

He also said: “Of the £1 million the NT spends on music each year, it felt odd to be hiring people to be sitting in band rooms, completely unknown to the audience.”

The show’s five musicians, who each earned around £50,000 a year for their performances in War Horse, had their contracts terminated in March, with the NT describing their employment as not being a “good use of money”.

Naomi Pohl, MU London Regional organiser, said: “The MU is disappointed to read again that Nick Starr believes live music is only of value when the musicians are visible to the audience.

“This is an argument we find very surprising given the majority of our members working in theatre, and those working for the opera and ballet companies, tend to work in an orchestra pit and are very rarely fully visible.”

The MU remains embroiled in a dispute with the NT and continues to fight for the reinstatement of the band.

“The insinuation that this had anything to do with the removal of the War Horse band from the show at the New London Theatre is frankly bizarre. Especially given that the musicians were also part of the ensemble and appeared in costume at various points during each performance,” Pohl added.

1 Comment

  1. Within theatre, musicians spend most of their time in the pit, or behind a curtain, or up on a balcony, playing hidden from view to illustrate, create atmosphere and fuel the visual. To justify the sacking of musicians because of this, (ESPECIALLY as the ones in question wear costume and take part on stage), is simply ludicrous. Live music is special and essential, whether it is performed on stage, from a pit, projected from a back room or behind a curtain – it adds a unique and indefinable element to theatre that will sorely be missed, especially with a production such as Warhorse where puppetry (albeit excellent, with esteemed puppeteers) needs music to give it life. Keep pushing Musicians Union – you have my vote!

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