Producers have come under fire for allowing West End cast members and stage managers to find out on social media that shows they work on will not reopen until next year.
Their actions have been labelled “genuinely distressing” to actors and crew.
Equity has vowed to investigate instances that have emerged this week, with performers and stage management on The Book of Mormon and Dear Evan Hansen claiming they learned their shows would not be reopening until 2021 through reports shared on social media. Producers have not put anything official out to say these shows are not reopening before 2021, but performers claim they found out on social media that they would not be on stage again before then.
They have shared their dismay at finding out this way, labelling it “disappointing” and discourteous towards employees.
Jed Hoyle, who appears in The Book of Mormon, found out the show would not reopen until 2021 via Twitter, and said: “As much as I’m not surprised by this news, it is disappointing and upsetting to have to find out via Twitter, but what’s new?”
Fellow performer Adam Bailey said it was painful to find out this way.
“It hurts to find this out on Twitter rather being told by our employers,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, agents Phil Belfield and Mark Ward said they had clients who had found out through social media that shows would not be reopening until 2021.
They told The Stage that performers have to obey strict rules about social media usage, and expected producers to do the same.
“As agents, we strongly feel that as West End contracts all have tightly worded and very specific clauses about any cast member posting on social media and the sharing of any information about the production, that this responsibility should be on both sides,” they said.
They added: “It’s such a difficult time right now with so much uncertainty about when any theatre will be reopening and for many it’s a particularly emotional time. For an actor to find out on social media that the terms of their job have been radically altered again, without any forewarning from the management, feels basically unfair and genuinely distressing.”
They said producers have a “basic responsibility and duty of care to formally notify everybody”, onstage and off, “before any social media posting or press release is issued”.
“Forewarned is forearmed and is it not perhaps simply common courtesy?” they said.
Responding to news that Dear Evan Hansen will not reopen until next year, actor Aaron Sidwell defended cast members and said: “Would’ve been nice if they’d told the cast that first ay?!”
The Stage Management Association has also said it will be taking the issue up with the Society of London Theatre.
Equity said it was looking into the matter.
“Equity is aware of some cast and stage management teams finding out about later show reopenings via social media; we are looking into the circumstances where it has happened. Our agreements have protections to guard against this unfair practice. Our solidarity is with all members affected,” it said.
Producers of Dear Evan Hansen and The Book of Mormon have been contacted for comment.