Actors who worked for the collapsed Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre have spoken out for the first time, revealing they feel “really angered and upset” after allegedly being left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre Ltd ran pop-up venues in York and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire this summer, with plans to return to York in 2019.
However, the company went into liquidation following “unsustainable losses”, with producers citing the “economic uncertainty created by Brexit”. Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s parent company, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, has also gone into administration.
Equity has said it is supporting 76 members with claims ranging from unpaid wages for a cancelled tour to the Philippines to missing pension contributions and outstanding holiday pay and travel expenses.
A spokesman for the union told The Stage the claims currently total about £15,000, but some of the actors who worked for the company said they believed this figure could be much higher.
The Stage has spoken to 10 actors who were working at Blenheim Palace, all of whom wished to remain anonymous. Of the 10 performers, nine claim to be owed pension contributions of £500 or more.
One performer told The Stage that both the employee contributions that had been deducted from their wages and employer contributions had not been paid into the actors’ pension pots.
“It compounded the feeling of being really let down” she said.
She added: “We were asked a lot of over the job and we were willing to give that, but then to not be contacted at all by anybody about the liquidation and then finding out about the pension contributions has really angered and upset people.”
Another actor said he was “incredibly angry” after being left out of pocket for around £1,000 in holiday pay and expenses.
He added: “The thing that’s annoyed me the most is there’s been absolutely no acknowledgement from the producers, they haven’t even bothered with an email to say sorry, it’s all been through the liquidators and through Equity.”
The Stage also spoke to an actor claiming to be owed more than £2,000, including two weeks’ pay for the cancelled tour in to the Philippines as well as travel and holiday expenses.
“I was absolutely gutted. […] My holiday pay is my money, I earned that money,” he said.
Two other performers told The Stage they were each owed about £2,225 – two weeks’ pay for the cancelled tour, plus unpaid pension contributions and holiday pay.
One of them said: “You always expect to have to fight for a job; you do not expect once you have that job to have to fight to be paid the money you are owed. There were lots of actors who were parents on the job, or expecting children. This was several people’s first job including mine.”
She added: “Our hope for the future is for contracts to protect those who are technically at the bottom of the food chain in the business, but without whom these shows cannot go on.
“At the very least, we would hope that SRT and Lunchbox will make an apology. They employed us as professionals, and owe us this respect.”
The performers also criticised the managers of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre for a “lack of marketing” for the productions.
One actor, who claims to be owed around £1,500 in pension contributions, holiday pay and expenses, said: “It’s really disappointing because it was such a lovely company to work for. We know over the summer that we weren’t getting the audiences we should have been and we kept saying ‘you need to do a better job at marketing’, and I suppose we felt ignored. We were staying in Oxford and we didn’t see any advertising for the shows.”
Another performer added: “As cast we repeatedly fed back to the marketing team simple ideas to spread the word but they fell on deaf ears.”
A spokeswoman for Lunchbox Theatrical Productions previously argued that Equity’s statement was “misleading” as it allegedly “[implies] that all 76 actors have not been paid for their work on Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre”.
The statement added that producers believe there are a “very small number of actors who opted to invoice the company rather than be on the payroll” that are owed money for a cancelled season in Manila, the Philippines, because their invoices were reportedly submitted to the company after it went into liquidation.