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‘Insanely low’ wages for directors are damaging diversity in theatre sector, warns Jeremy Herrin

Jeremy Herrin in rehearsals for The Absence of War. Photo: Marc Douet

Jeremy Herrin has warned that pay for theatre directors is ‘insanely’ low, and people from minority ethnic backgrounds may be locked out of the profession if nothing changes.

In September, Herrin became co-chair of Stage Directors UK [1], a new industry group that represents theatre directors and lobbies on their behalf on issues such as pay and copyright.

Discussing director’s wages at a press event for People, Places and Things, he told The Stage: “We don’t get paid for prep, we don’t get paid for auditions, we don’t get paid for the design process. We get a small fee that means that actually, in order to make the same amount as a junior marketing person, we probably have to do six or seven shows a year at a certain level.”

Earlier this year, London’s National Theatre director Rufus Norris added fuel to the pay debate when he revealed he did not earn more than £10,000 [2] per year until he was 36, which Herrin branded “insane”.

He said: “It is insane. And I think the danger is that our theatre culture will be all the poorer for it, and it’ll be only a certain sort of story that gets told from a certain ethnic background. I think it’s really important that directors come from everywhere and lots of stories are told.”

Herrin also suggested that the recent controversy over Trevor Nunn’s production of The Wars of the Roses – which was criticised for featuring an all white cast – was an expression of frustration over the lack of minority ethnic people in positions of power in theatre.

“The recent thing about Trevor Nunn and his casting for The Wars of the Roses, I think was much more about the sort of people who get to make those decisions,” he said, adding that Stage Directors UK aimed to widen entry to the profession “and make sure that there’s no barrier to people becoming directors”.