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The Green Room: One year on, what effect has #MeToo had on the theatre industry?

Artistic director of London’s Royal Court Vicky Featherstone. The venue’s executive team led the way in the wake of harassment allegations by drawing up a code of behaviour for UK theatres. Photo: Rosie Hallam Artistic director of London’s Royal Court Vicky Featherstone. The venue’s executive team led the way in the wake of harassment allegations by drawing up a code of behaviour for UK theatres. Photo: Rosie Hallam

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​

John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film

Rosemary Crackers is 50 and has worked extensively in TV, film and theatre for nearly 30 years

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Jenny Talbot is 39 and has 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays

 

Peter A big effect.

John Greater awareness – he shouts into the echo chamber.

Jon I’m aware that some of us might feel that, as men, we should be listening rather than talking on this one.

John I disagree. Men need to be part of the conversation… without dictating it.

Peter It’s given women more confidence and made men more careful. But it could easily slide back.

Rosemary Personally, I have not seen much effect. I’m doing a job now where the men are paid considerably more than the women.

Jenny It was a big effect until Roxanne Pallett [who became the focus of online abuse earlier this year after falsely accusing a fellow Big Brother contestant of assaulting her] set it all back to square one.

Rosemary Some things have changed, but I also feel there is a lot of placating and waiting for the women to shut up so that things can go back to how they were. Only the women will disclose their salary on the job I am working on. One man did and the shit hit the fan.

Jenny I’ve worked more on screen this year and every job has been helmed by a female director, bar one. That’s pretty exciting.

Vivian I’ve seen men – actors, directors and writers – all be a bit more careful. I’ve seen them halt, briefly, when trying to ask, suggest, or get me to do something.

Harassment survey: 80% of theatres update policies in light of #MeToo

Peter When predatory men see what has happened to really powerful people in the industry it must make them pause.

Jenny I’m surprised more people haven’t been accused of harassment. There must be a lot of lawyering going on behind the scenes.

Jon I know what you mean. One director with stories stretching back 20 years came to see a show I was in and all our pub talk afterwards was about how extraordinary it was that he hasn’t been affected.

Peter We all know people we are amazed have escaped.

Albert It’s great that it has made people more aware of not walking over anyone, whoever they are, but as a man I do feel threatened by it at times.

Vivian I’ve seen positive and welcome changes. I’m sure there are men who wouldn’t welcome it – ‘it’s gone too far’, ‘not me too’.

AlbertI think trust rather than policies are what work best. A freedom to speak up inspired by the director, not enforced by policies.

Peter But some directors are bullies, Albert.

Vivian Policies give that freedom. I don’t see the need to rely on the director for that.

AlbertHow can we restore that trust now, rather than feel that as men, we are in the wrong?

John By calling out unacceptable behaviour.

Vivian Perhaps work on the reasons why you feel threatened by it at times?

Rosemary I think disclosing salaries is important. I know I am banging on about it. But there is respect in that.

Jon I wouldn’t necessarily trust I was being told the truth about salaries. How many times have we been told ‘it’s a flat company wage’ only to find very quickly that it’s no such thing?

Rosemary We should disclose to one another.

Albert I can’t believe I’m saying this, but well said Rosemary.

John I think the reason men feel threatened is because their position of power is at stake. But that’s exactly what should be happening whether men like it or not.

Jon The removal of privilege feeling like oppression, and all that.

John Absolutely. It’s happening all over the world.

Jenny It’s a huge change, and some people are going to feel usurped, but the balance has to be shifted.

Peter It’s when people are isolated that they are vulnerable. One day’s filming, for example. Who do I complain to?

A year on from #MeToo, how much has theatre really changed?

Albert Yes, and that’s the threat. No one starts with a word with people. They yell it from the rooftops. The alleged behaviour of the Weinstein types has been horrendous, but it has been used to try to censure MPs for a touch on the arm. Now even women are saying it’s gone too far in places.

Vivian I’m curious. Women are saying it’s gone too far in places? It’s been used for a touch on the arm? I haven’t come across that.

Rosemary A touch on the arm? What nonsense. A man has made that up.

Jon I’ve heard some discomfort from women about the movement – for example with the Roxanne Pallett incident that Jenny mentioned – but I’m not sure how widespread it is.

AlbertTake the BAFTAS this year. A celebration of #MeToo led by Sue Perkins. Every joke had men as its butt. If a man had done that about women it would have been shameful. Balance is what is needed. Mutual respect. Not just tipping the scales the other way.

Rosemary No. Tip the scales the other way first, then bring them back.

Jon The question is whether, after decades of being in charge of everything, we can suck up some jokes at an awards ceremony. I think we probably can.

Rosemary Quite right.

Albert Why would women want to lower themselves to our level, then?

Vivian Don’t fret. You can use your higher pay packet to comfort you at night.

Albert But perhaps it’s a higher pay packet because I’ve earned it?

Jon Moving on…

Jenny I think it has made everyone check themselves. Men and women. What they will allow and what they perceive to be welcomed. This business is always going to be touchy-feely.

Click here for all The Stage’s coverage of harassment in the theatre industry and advice on who to contact if you or someone you know has been a victim

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