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SDUK chief apologises after ‘crap shoes’ blunder

Stage Directors UK chairman Piers Haggard Piers Haggard, chief executive of Stage Directors UK
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Stage Directors UK chief Piers Haggard has apologised after being accused of comparing Bill Kenwright’s shows to a “pair of crap shoes”.

Actor Peter Sandys-Clarke made the accusation after Haggard criticised Bill Kenwright Productions for using quotes from a 2013 staging of Before the Party, directed by Matthew Dunster, to promote its own recent tour.

Speaking to The Independent about the situation in a follow-up article, Haggard said that stealing the quotes was cheating the public and like “selling a pair of crap shoes with a Nike label”.

Sandys-Clarke called the comparison “careless” and insulting, and said he was surprised that Haggard had made the remark given his “position of authority and responsibility”.

“Perhaps you watched our production and didn’t enjoy it? In that case you would be entitled to your opinion – although it would be a rather heavy abuse of your office to express that opinion in an official capacity to a national newspaper,” he said in a letter to the SDUK chief.

The actor added: “If you didn’t see it then it would seem a statement of knee-jerk prejudice against touring theatre and more specifically BKL.”

In his letter to Haggard, Sandys-Clarke admitted that the practice of stealing quotes was “unacceptable” but said the cast and crew in the Tom Conti-directed show had not been aware of what had been done.

“I fail to see why we should be tarred with the same seemingly broad brush with which you are, quite justly, going after BKL,” he said.

Responding, Haggard said the remark “had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual touring production”, which he said he had not seen.

“Perhaps clumsy, it was an attempt to express, under pressure during a phone interview, my anger at the passing off of one production as another, grossly deceiving the public, and ‘borrowing’ our member’s reputation without his permission,” he added.

Haggard apologised for any offence caused “to the people creatively involved in the production itself”.

“Absolutely no aspersions were being cast at any of them, and I do of course appreciate that none were involved in this deceit,” he said.