Tennant and Jacobi among performers demanding ACE justifies Orange Tree cuts

David Tennant in Richard II at the RSC.
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David Tennant, Simon Russell Beale, Penelope Wilton and Derek Jacobi have added their names to a letter urging Arts Council England to explain its decision to remove Orange Tree Theatre’s entire grant from next year.

They are among nearly 800 theatremakers who have shown their support for the London venue by signing the letter, which claims the removal of Orange Tree’s annual £380,000 grant will leave it in “dire straits”.

Written by Equity’s west and south-west London branch chair Andrew Macbean, and due to be sent to the funding body’s chair Peter Bazalgette this week, the letter says the Richmond venue is “one of London’s most prolific producers of plays”.

 It says the cut is a “reckless and destructive” decision at a time when new artistic director Paul Miller has taken over from Sam Walters, after the latter’s 43-year tenure at the theatre.

Other signatories include Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director Daniel Evans, Lyric Hammersmith’s artistic director Sean Holmes, and actors Oliver Ford Davis, Samantha Bond, Harriet Walter and Stephanie Cole.

The letter says: “The theatre has brought remarkable UK, European and world writers to the public’s attention and regularly sells out. It has run one of the most successful trainee theatre director programmes of any theatre or training establishment, and employs huge numbers of actors of all ages and backgrounds.”

It adds: “We don’t expect to be party to private discussions between ACE and the Orange Tree, but please help us understand why a theatre we value so dearly is considered unworthy of financial support… We place huge value on the Orange Tree and want to see its future secure.”

ACE’s director of theatre and London, Neil Darlison, said competition to become an arts council national portfolio organisation for 2015-18 was “extremely fierce”.

He said ACE was currently in “positive discussions” with the Orange Tree about its future plans, and was “committed to working with it to help the organisation realise its ambitions”.