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Claims mount against London’s Courtyard Theatre as actor training company severs ties

Courtyard Theatre, London

Performer training company the Actors Class is cutting ties with Hoxton’s Courtyard Theatre after seven years due to claims of non-payment and unprofessionalism, amid ongoing calls for the venue to be shut down.

Another theatre company, Lunar Entertainment, has also come forward with numerous allegations against the theatre, including unclean working conditions and aggressive behaviour from staff.

Earlier this year, The Stage revealed a string of malpractice claims against the venue from seven different theatre companies [1]. These included complaints of non-payment, late payment, unclean working conditions and verbally aggressive behaviour from members of the management team.

Now Mary Doherty, who is artistic director of the Actors Class, has come forward with similar accusations against the venue.

Doherty told The Stage that her company has run classes at the Courtyard Theatre since 2013, and she believes the Actors Class to be the venue’s second most regular booker.

The artistic director alleges that she is owed £400 in refunds from the venue for spaces which she hired out for classes that were double-booked by the Courtyard. She has lodged a county court claim against the theatre.

Other claims she is making against the Courtyard include a lack of communication and aggression from management, “filthy” surroundings and noise from other bookings interrupting classes.

Doherty said: “The lack of respect that the management has shown me and my company is nothing short of disgusting.

“I believe it is crucial that all who have had negative dealings with the Courtyard Theatre speak out. They must be held accountable for their actions.

“It truly saddens me that a building that could be absolutely wonderful is being run into the ground. I sincerely urge all industry professionals to not book any classes, theatre space or have anything to do with the venue while it is under its current management.”

She added: “It needs to be shut down. It cannot possibly continue to operate under these circumstances.”

The Stage also spoke to Sophie Soanes, Naomi Emmanuel and Joyce Omotola of theatre company Lunar Entertainment, whose show Omish ran at the theatre in November last year.

They claim to have experienced issues including disruptive noise during a performance and subsequent verbally aggressive behaviour from staff when confronted about it, men walking through the dressing rooms where female members of the cast were getting changed and dirty working conditions.

Other allegations include failing to provide equipment they had been promised, other equipment not working, and props going missing.

Soanes, Emmanuel and Omotola said in a joint statement: “We’ve had our confidence knocked, because now we don’t see the theatre industry as being as transparent or lovely or supportive as it could be, so it’s made us wary about putting on work again, but at the same time our company was established to provide more opportunities for women in entertainment, so it has empowered us to really try to make a change.

“The experience was horrible and to this day it’s still affecting us. The management needs to be overruled, there are no ifs, no buts. We don’t want anybody, especially other young females, to go through what we went through, something needs to change. There needs to be an Equity investigation and there need to be repercussions.”

The Courtyard Theatre did not respond to a request for comment.

Equity declined to comment.