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Brexit fears prompt German theatre to rule out hiring UK actors for English-language show

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A German theatre has declared it will not be considering most British actors when casting its next production, sparking fresh fears over Brexit’s impact on the entertainment industry.

In a casting notice posted on Spotlight, the English Theatre of Hamburg said it was only interested in seeing actors who will hold a passport for a European Union member state from April, and that UK performers must also have an EU passport to be seen for a part.

The theatre told The Stage that the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s planned departure from the EU on March 29 meant it did not know what visa regulations would be in place for British actors when the work contract begins on April 1.

The advert has prompted fresh concerns regarding the proposed loss of freedom of movement and the threats this could pose to theatre workers.

Brexit cited as major concern for the theatre industry in 2019

It attracted a strong reaction on social media, with choreographer Philip Joel tweeting that the “repercussions of Brexit have started”, while actor Josephine Liptrott said: “It’s such a shame. UK actors get a fair bit of much-needed work in Europe, and European theatre audiences and students get a chance to hear Shakespeare et al performed by native English speakers. I guess we’re all going to lose out now.”

The English-language theatre in Hamburg stages four productions each year and has relied on a wide pool of British actors since its inception more than 40 years ago. It is casting a production of Ron Hutchinson’s Moonlight and Magnolias, which will begin performances in late April.

The theatre’s associate director, Paul Glaser, said he hoped that by September, when it will need to employ the subsequent cast, the situation around what visas or work permits British actors need to work in the EU would be clearer.

“I will find a way to go back to hiring UK actors for the English Theatre of Hamburg at some point, but to be able to find a way through that, I need to know where the dust settles first,” he said.

He also warned that increased levels of bureaucracy surrounding the process could mean British actors were less desirable.

Glaser said: “It will definitely be a much longer process than we have now. We have four productions a year and varying numbers of actors in each production. So if that process is taking up to two months, for example, it will be impossible unless we hire and cast much earlier to be able to go through all these hoops.”

He said the theatre would be developing casting channels and networks in Ireland as a result, in order to widen the pool of actors who were English-speaking but also hold EU passports.

Gordon Griffin, who has acted as the theatre’s UK-based casting director for nearly 30 years, added that he felt Brexit would have “catastrophic” effects on UK actors.

Equity reiterated warnings that a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster” for its members, and said it was urgently chasing responses from the government over plans for its members wishing to work in the EU after March 29.

The union’s deputy general secretary Stephen Spence claimed there was “little appreciation” from the government of the impact that the loss of free movement rights will have on creative workers.

“This is an issue of considerable concern; three quarters of respondents to a members’ survey we conducted before Christmas had worked in the EU in the last three years, and this work accounted for approximately one third of their annual income.

“If free movement does come to an end, the union will be stepping up lobbying – on both the European and EU side – for a reciprocal multi-entry visa for creative workers as part of a future UK-EU trade deal,” he said.

Sonia Friedman: ‘Brexit means the theatre industry must prepare for difficult times’

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