Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Ros Clifford, 30, is currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years
Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End
Charlotte Osmand is in her 30s and has worked as a stage manager on and off the book in venues across the UK, as well as in event management
Albert Parker is in his 60s and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is in his 70s and is an actor working in theatre and television
Jenny Talbot is 39 and has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV and film
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer
Adam I have so much to say about this. It upsets me that the arts are consistently required to make this case in a way other industries aren’t. It’s as if they are a huge white elephant – a luxury in government spending. The implication is always that there is no case to be made, except for wailing: “But opera is important”, yet the arts contribute more than £30 billion to the UK economy.
Charlotte I think many people are imagining that they will all be able just to go back to the theatre next year when it’s safe, forgetting that all of us are without work and will be until then.
Ros We seem to be the forgotten industry.
Jenny The arts generate a huge amount of money for the economy but we are always the first to be nudged out of budgets.
Albert No doubt there is a case, but it’s going to be a matter of priorities. Creative arts and theatre are not going to be at the top of the list.
Adam This is usually the argument; opera versus ventilators. But it is not asked of any other commercial industry that is going to get a mammoth bailout. It was not asked of the banks. But when it comes to the arts, we have to sing for our supper, despite contributing huge amounts to the public purse.
Jon It’s a shame to have to make the utilitarian ‘£3 for every £1 invested’ article when people are literally using our work to get them through lockdown.
Annie I don’t understand how the arts are one of the main things pulling people together and keeping them sane during this time, yet the value in what we do is overlooked.
Adam We are an industry that relies on public gathering. We cannot realistically go back to work until there is a vaccine.
Jenny In South Korea they have started performances again. No vaccine but massive amounts of testing going on there.
Jon It’s a shame that our entire society is based on asking if it makes money, rather than if it is good for people.
Albert What if I’ve got a choice between somebody singing to me or somebody keeping me breathing? I know which I’m going for.
Jon I don’t think that is the choice, is it?
Annie You’d think this pandemic would make the government realise the importance of health care, physical and mental, and how creative endeavours help both.
Albert The West End will have to sort itself, and given the sort of things we normally say about the West End in this room, I think it has to bail itself out. But the subsidised sector will need a lot of help.
Peter The problem is the breadth of our industry. The government won’t let the National die. But will they save the Nuffield?
Beryl Why should they stay open if no one can go?
Jenny Disney is closing one of its Broadway shows. That says a lot. And apparently Disney Theatrical gets no subsidy from the big Disney company. They’re on their own. For such a big producer to cite Covid-19 as the reason for closure is going to resonate. Look at the amount of money two of our biggest theatre owners have. They are minted – personally and business-wise. It’ll be up to them how much of a hit they want to take on their finances. I hope there is a lot of soul-searching going on.
Jon It’s depressing if the answer to: “How do we make the case to the government for saving our industry?” is: “We don’t, they won’t and we’ll have to go back to the sponsors.”
Albert There is a very good case for saving our industry; for what it gives to the soul, for how it helps people’s spirit.
We need to get out there and convince people that investing in the arts will make the world a richer place
Adam We have been so browbeaten by years of underfunding that we are defeatist and have forgotten how to make the case strongly.
Albert Do we need to get out there and convince people that investing in the arts will make the world a richer place. And it will give a return to people in terms of rebuilding community. And, if necessary, give them a banner on the side of the building.
Peter The theatres with reserves aren’t getting help. But the reserves won’t last long. I worry actors will be asked to work for nothing.
Albert There will be no work anyway. Everything will go to Sheridan Smith.
Jon I think there will be some public money given to the industry at some point. But it’s whether it’s a big stimulus to the sector, which would be useful, or a kind of ‘fighting one fire at a time’ situation, where theatres are saved one by one. It could get a bit whack-a-mole. You save theatre one but then theatre two goes, so you rush there, and so on.
Adam If you think the arts are not essential, let’s try living through lockdown without any.
Jenny I’m completely confident that theatre will return – in what form and how will be fascinating to watch. I’m missing it so much.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email email@example.com