Claims of malpractice against Hoxton’s Courtyard Theatre are “just the tip of the iceberg” and are indicative of wider issues of exploitation within the industry, the Independent Theatre Council has warned.
The comments from ITC chief executive Charlotte Jones follow a number of accusations from theatremakers against the Courtyard, including non-payment, verbally aggressive behaviour from management and “filthy conditions”.
Jones told The Stage: “We’re aware of dozens of buildings where this kind of practice is happening.
“They’re usually set up under club-type rules so they’re not falling under any regulation.
“People are usually having to pay to put on their work, the conditions are particularly bad, the audience experience is pretty awful, people are uninsured, the health and safety rules are appalling, the level of cleanliness is outrageous and the public are kind of duped by it.”
Jones argued that workers in the theatre sector are “terribly open to exploitation”.
She added: “There are too many people out there who are desperate to work and will work for almost nothing, there’s a real need to have spaces to put on work, so it’s particularly heinous when an organisation exploits that position.
“We’re very aware of it, there’s a lot of horrible practice going on. [The Courtyard is] the tip of the iceberg.”
Jones urged theatre companies and artists to look into whether venues they are considering working with are members of a professional association such as ITC, which asks members to commit to guidelines of best practice.
She added that audience members also have a responsibility to question the working conditions in fringe venues.
The Courtyard Theatre is a member of the Society of Independent Theatres, a membership body for independent venues with under 300 seats.
Chair of the Society of Independent Theatres, John Plews, said: “SIT has read , with concern, about conditions at the Courtyard.
“However we have had no direct contact over the allegations with either the Courtyard or the theatre companies involved so it would be impossible for us to comment on these specific allegations.”
Plews added: “We expect all SIT members to uphold good business practices and health and safety standards but we are not a regulatory body. Our venues are encouraged to support all theatre practitioners in the best possible way, especially new and young companies on the first rung of the theatrical ladder.”