Why are schools not taking up offers of theatre trips? (Your views May 23)
In response to your story (School visits in sharp decline – leading theatres) my team – the South Devon Players Theatre and Film Company, Brixham, in conjunction with our local venue Brixham Theatre, is working to put on low-cost (£3 per pupil) shows for schools. Even at £3 and with a number of schools in easy – half-hour maximum – walking distance, it is hard to find uptake.
We have had to cancel events after schools pulled out at the last minute, leaving us all in the lurch. Only one school so far is signing up for this, although the door is open for others.
The school we are working with now is really excited to be able not only to access a classical text they are studying on stage, but to take the students to a fully working theatre. We are all learning from each other as we go – what works best to make the most effective schools event, the venue and the production company.
We had a similar experience when we started the Shaftesbury Fringe Arts Festival. We had no interest at all from the local schools, but plenty from other performers, with 80 shows in the first year.
Our model meant all the venues were free to perform at and performers kept all the money. Registration was free for 18s and younger.
We did a presentation to the local sixth form and not one person showed any interest. Sometimes it seems like it’s too much hard work to give people what they say they want.
Opportunities for working classes
We need more people from ordinary backgrounds making a name in acting and directing, as the working-class are woefully under-represented (Vicky McClure backs network to boost working-class representation).
I come from a working-class background and I got into the National Student Drama Festival, but couldn’t afford it as I was at university and I was already working to pay rent. I tried the university and my local council for funding, but I could not make the cash I needed to pay and stay there.
I will always regret not getting that experience. More kids from council estates, like me, should be given subsidies and help to get the same opportunities.
Brilliant. It’s so frustrating seeing actors from privileged backgrounds winning awards year after year. We need more authentic voices and talents on our screens and stages.
This totally chimes with the work we’re doing in parliament (as part of the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group) to get working-class creatives the same chances others.
Tracy Brabin MP
I am middle class and I couldn’t get anywhere. However, I have several working-class friends who have been successful and some I didn’t know that went to the same college course in the same town and did really well. One of them was Sean Bean.
Praise for quiet shows
‘Sometimes the quietest theatre can have the loudest impact’ argued Lyn Gardner. Long may this continue. A German Life at London’s Bridge theatre was the quietest of theatre but it cried out and is still echoing.
When Maggie Smith as Brunhilde Pomsel told us her story, earlier this year, we collectively leant forward and held our breath. We also hardly noticed the ‘quiet direction’. The set moved slowly away from us – our storyteller moved, almost imperceptibly, towards us and we were drawn in to this gem of a play.
We need more regional theatres
It’s wonderful to hear about new theatres opening (Hytner and Starr unveil King’s Cross plans), but they’re nearly always in London. It would be nice to see more investment in regional theatre. For example, the former Derby Hippodrome lies derelict but could be brought back into use, according to the Derby Hippodrome Trust, securing cultural and economic benefit for the city and region.
Equity support for bullied actors
If you are a member of Equity (Equity president recalls bullying and urges discussion of mental health in the arts), don’t forget there is a dedicated helpline – 020 7670 0268 – and email – firstname.lastname@example.org – you can contact if you want to get in touch in complete confidence about any issue you may have around bullying and harassment.
Quotes of the week
“I’ve been trying since 2009, when I was in Othello [at Trafalgar Studios], to move away from that happy-go-lucky image and comfort zone. I like to play characters who are flawed — the big man brought down.” Actor Lenny Henry (Evening Standard)
“Medicine and theatre investigate human beings in different ways but for the same reason: trying to work out what’s going on. What is the confluence of all these things in this person’s life that has brought them to the present moment? Why are they where they are? There’s an obsession with human behaviour and there’s an obsession with human damage.” Actor and director Prasanna Puwanarajah on swapping a career in medicine for theatre (Financial Times)
“It’s important no one is excluded in terms of price. Theatre should be available to all. At school I was a disaster academically but being involved in drama helped me find another pathway into things. Theatre became my education.” Actor Roger Allam (Observer)
“[As a playwright] you have to have faith in yourself to do it in the first place and to say things so you’re not following the crowd, you’re not writing the sort of thing you think goes on these days, you’re not following trends, you’re being truthful to yourself. That play that you think: ‘Oh, they won’t put that on’, that’s what you need to write.” Winsome Pinnock (speaking on a panel as part of the Women and Power festival at Shakespeare’s Globe)
“Before we go on, I get a low level of anxiety unlike any other play I’ve ever done, which has to do with that sense of starting the precision work where you can so easily slip off and, if you lose concentration, you’re not quite sure where you are. So it’s tiring in that way, but not emotionally tiring. It’s not like Lear or Hamlet.” Actor Simon Russell Beale on performing The Lehman Trilogy in the West End (Sunday Times)
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