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Musical producer found ‘personally liable’ for £185K unpaid cast wages in landmark ruling

The Golden Voice was due to take place at London’s Arts Theatre in 2013
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Equity has won a landmark case against the producer of failed Off-West End musical The Golden Voice, resulting in a personal liability of more than £185,000.

The show was due to take place at London’s Arts Theatre in 2013 but was postponed multiple times before being cancelled, leaving cast members and stage management owed tens of thousands of pounds.

Almost two years after the event, the show’s producer Rob Hewitt has been found personally liable for the claim, brought about by 19 individuals involved in the show. Including interest, this amounts to £185,316. Costs of £36,008 were also awarded.

Following a trial at Cambridge County Court, Hewitt was found personally liable after the court heard that the incorporated company he attempted to contract the performers to was not in existence at the time their agreements were drawn up.

Cast members and stage management were among the 19 individuals to submit the claim, which was fought by union Equity. It is understood that performer Darren Day, who was also involved in the show, embarked on separate legal proceedings, the results of which are unknown.

The show’s difficulties began when its performances were postponed twice in June 2013. Two months later, the Arts Theatre confirmed that the production was no longer due to run at the venue.

Despite claiming at the time that the complications were down to a cash flow problem and that £1.5 million of investment due to come from China was “tied up in international banking red tape”,
the money never materialised.

Equity organiser Paul Fleming told The Stage: “This is an important ruling for Equity on two counts. One, because we secured a judgement against the individual, not a company, responsible for causing our members such distress and financial hardship. This means we will be pursuing him directly for the monies owed to our members and it highlights to other would-be producers that they could be liable if they refuse to take the responsibilities of mounting a production seriously.

“Secondly, it demonstrates yet again that members working together with the union get results and bring bad employers to book.”

The union said it is unclear as to whether any money will be recovered from Hewitt as it is understood that he has declared that he has no assets. Hewitt could not be reached by The Stage for comment.

Cast member Sebastien Torkia said the judgement brought Hewitt to justice and proved that “you can’t get away with things like that”.

“I think it has proved that it was worth sticking with and pursuing because we have had the right result, regardless of whether we are going to see any money or not. These things shouldn’t happen, so it’s good to know that it has been pursued and that we have been given the right result,” he said. “I know for some of the younger members of the company it was really difficult. It can take your confidence away from wanting to be in the business. It’s a tough enough industry as it is.”

The original production was due to be directed by Guy Retallack and was general-managed by Julian Stoneman, who gave evidence at Hewitt’s trial alongside the musical’s writer Nick Fogarty.

After the production’s collapse in 2013, Fogarty reworked the show and staged it the following year at London’s Landor Theatre under the title Best of Friends.

In a separate investigation, Hewitt was arrested in February 2014 on suspicion of fraud and released on bail until November this year. At the time it was reported that police enquiries into The Golden Voice would make up part of the investigation.

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