Britt Ekland has criticised the “very dated” backstage facilities she has experienced while touring regional theatres, claiming the run-down conditions at a venue in Devon left her with a chest infection.
In a letter to The Stage, the former Bond girl, who is touring the UK in a production of John Willard’s thriller The Cat and the Canary, described the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple as “one of the worst I’ve ever experienced”.
Ekland said the theatre had “through draughts strong enough to fly kites on and buckets required in the dressing room to collect rain water”.
“I am a Viking warrior but is it any wonder I became ill with a chest infection? It’s not a lone example, but certainly one of the worst I’ve ever experienced.
“Venue management’s reason was: ‘Oh, it’s an old theatre’, as though that’s acceptable. While I fully realise all the money is made front of house, don’t theatres in this day and age realise actors and producers – who bring the money in – will simply refuse to return?,” she said.
Selladoor Venues, which runs the theatre, said: “We are very sorry that Ms Ekland did not enjoy her visit to the Queen’s Theatre. We took over the operation of the theatre in 2019 under a management contract from North Devon Council. Whilst Selladoor Venues is responsible for the an ongoing maintenance programme within the building, the maintenance of the structure of the building (including the roof) is the responsibility of North Devon Council.”
“Ms Ekland’s visit coincided with the extremely severe weather conditions experienced across the country in early February, which unfortunately caused damage to the theatre roof. When concerns were raised, theatre staff responded as soon as it was safe to do so and rectified the problem. This incident emphasised maintenance issues which had already been highlighted to North Devon Council, who have subsequently agreed to undertake a survey to identify the full scale of the problem and the best course of action for repair. This survey is due to take place this month.”
A statement from Equity said it “recognises that the backstage conditions vary across the UK and we are sorry to hear about Britt’s experiences”.
“We advise any member who is unhappy with their working conditions to discuss it with the Equity representative on the show or get in contact with us directly.”
Performers have previously raised the issue of backstage facilities at venues across the UK, calling for the “shocking” state of some theatres – including mould, leaking drains and rats – to be improved.
Earlier this year, performers in immersive zombie show Variant 31 lifted the lid on their health and safety concerns at the production’s premises in London, likening the building to a “building site”.
They said mould and fungus were growing in backstage areas and claimed several performers suffered respiratory issues as a result.
This story was updated on March 5 to include a response from Selladoor Venues.