We have given our panellists pen names and used stock images, but their biographies reflect their real career details.
Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in film, BAFTA-winning TV, at the RSC, National and West End
Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has had leading roles at the RSC, worked on numerous new plays, and toured nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is in his 70s and is an actor working in theatre and television
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer
Peter It’s important that some of the money goes to freelancers.
Adam The money can’t just be for buildings, or just for London theatres and companies. It has to reach the people who work in the industry otherwise there will be no one left to put on plays when things reopen.
Adam It’s important to say it is a significant amount of money, but I am so mistrustful of this government that I am waiting to see who and where it’s earmarked for.
Beryl Buildings are nothing without the stories within them.
Adam How are industry people expected to work after the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme runs out and before the theatres safely reopen?
Albert Obviously not one penny of it should go to the West End, which is a totally commercial concern.
Peter Although I was delighted theatres would be saved, I was cynical. I thought all the money would all go on buildings and administrators, but I was at a meeting the other night with a panel of five artistic directors who promised they would help freelancers and seemed sincere.
Albert The money should go to theatres that have genuinely struggled because of the pandemic and not theatres that have been badly managed and are looking at this as a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Peter It must not all go to the “crown jewels”.
‘The money can’t just be for buildings, or just for London theatres and companies’
Annie The announcement that you can now do shows outdoors puzzled me. Does the government think we just have shows at the ready, as well as the money to pay people to do these shows? We can’t sell tickets that quickly.
Beryl Outreach outside of London should be given some money.
Adam The pandemic has also highlighted the huge gap between theatre and TV/film. Generally television and film are itching to return and some productions at Pinewood Studios have already returned.
Albert Instead of half-price meals at Nando’s, what about half-price tickets to theatres, independent cinemas and galleries?
Peter The VAT reduction is a big help.
Albert The VAT reduction is only helpful if it is actually passed on to the ticket buyer.
Adam The government doesn’t seem to realise what a huge ecosystem theatre is and its excellence in this country. It thinks if three productions are mounted outdoors then the whole of theatre is saved.
Jon We (allegedly) have £1.57 billion. What are we doing with it?
Beryl We need to help theatres that serve their communities really well. Theatres in Leeds, Chester and Leicester are all vital to their communities and future generations.
Peter Someone said: ‘If we don’t help the freelancers it is as if the AA mended the car but left the occupants by the side of the road.’
Annie The money should go towards providing some sort of financial support for freelancers. An allowance perhaps? It should also go towards providing bursaries to help people and houses put on plays and shows.
Adam I just hope the person in charge of the chequebook has some vision. This amount also covers museums and galleries. So how it’s apportioned is crucial.
Annie Yes, Adam. Here’s me selfishly just thinking about plays and productions. Galleries, museums, cinemas, libraries – they all need help.
Albert Who is doing the apportioning? Is it Arts Council England, which already has its favourites?
Adam The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme should be extended for freelancers who work in theatre until the theatres can reopen. That seems like common sense.
Beryl I agree. It seems unlikely to happen though. We’ll be fruit picking before you know it.
Albert I think the fundamental flaw in the plan is that the money will be spent on saving buildings and the long lists of people called “carpet adviser” or “ice-cream-tray stacker” rather than people who are brought into the theatres to make them actually work – such as designers, stage management and actors.
Adam The point of subsidised theatre is that it is not a commercially viable enterprise – hence the subsidy. But the value to the community makes it worth funding.
Beryl I wonder if they will look at theatres that were already in trouble and say: ‘Well, bad business model, not viable...’
Albert If a theatre has been badly managed, then that needs sorting out before it is given money. We just have to make sure the right people are in charge of getting this money to the right places and I’m not sure that is the
Adam I wonder why it took so long. It seems to me that there was a ‘Let the bastards sweat’ vibe about it.
Albert There’s a saying: ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ Manchester’s Royal Exchange, London’s National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Theatre Royal Plymouth were all squeaking very loudly.
Beryl We need a shake-up.
Peter It’s also important the battles that were being fought on diversity are not forgotten.
Annie Yes. I don’t know what to add. I’m so paralysed by it all.
Adam What scares me is that the scale of what’s been announced is a portent of how bad things are going to get. They must see an absolute tsunami of economic ruin coming our way, and not just in our industry.