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Panto producer under fire for charging young people to appear in its shows

Sleeping Beauty, which will be staged at Beccles Hall.
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A production company has come under fire for plans to charge young people up to £100 to appear in its shows.

Spark Live issued two casting calls on its own website for productions of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

For Sleeping Beauty, which will be staged at Beccles Public Hall in Suffolk, it said it was looking for 12 young people aged eight to 18, and said any successful applicants would have to pay a fee of £50 to be in the show.

A screenshot of the Sleeping Beauty advert from Spark Live's website
A screenshot of the Sleeping Beauty advert from Spark Live’s website

Its production of Cinderella will be staged in theme park Pleasurewood Hills, near Lowestoft. Spark Live initially said it was looking for young people aged 10 to 18, to be part of the ensemble, with a fee to appear in the production of £100.

Although the £100 fee for Cinderella has since been dropped – with the company calling it a “mistake” – the £50 fee for young people to star in Sleeping Beauty remains, with the company claiming the fee will help cover costs of the production.

A screenshot of the Cinderella advert from Spark Live's website
A screenshot of the Cinderella advert from Spark Live’s website

The decision has been criticised on social media, with Equity also warning potential applicants against paying fees to appear in the show.

Peter Lister, who runs a music shop in Lowestoft, told The Stage: “It’s completely outrageous that young people are being asked – if they are successful in auditioning – to then pay to be in the production.”

Another person, who did not want to be named, said she had a daughter who had trained in dance. Prior to her training, however, she said she would have considered paying to enter her daughter into productions, such as the ones advertised by Spark Live.

Now, she said, she would advise other parents against paying for their children to be part of a show.

“I am horrified, and if any child I was aware of was thinking about paying to be part of it, I would tell them not to. If you’re not good enough to be paid to go on stage, then it’s no different to a school play,” she said.

A spokesman for Equity said: ““We would advise members to immediately contact Equity if they are asked for a fee to audition or perform in any production.”

Spark Live is run by Ryan Holt, who said he needed to charge the under 18s £50 to cover the cost of the production, which he described as a benefit to the community. He has staged a pantomime at Beccles Hall since 2015.

“The productions [at Beccles Hall] have never made money, it just breaks even. The people who have taken part previously have always been consulted and asked if they were happy with the fee. It’s for the benefit of the town and to help the venue out,” he said, adding: “The fee helps cover the cost of production, otherwise it’s not financially viable for us to do it.”

Holt said only the young people would be charged and added that the main adult cast was paid.

He said Cinderella was more of a “commercial” production and the £100 fee should never have been advertised.

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