Letters of the week

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Two bards not better than one

Further to Annie Bright’s letter (Stage Talk, July 4, page 8), this is an ‘all stations alert’.

As readers will know from Annie’s letter, a petition in person requesting that the government institute Shakespeare Day on April 23, 2015, and annually thereafter as a calendar date, was lodged on Midsummer Day (June 24) at No 10.

That afternoon, unknown to the Shakespeare Day team, a person by the name of Caroline Ball created an e-petition calling for Shakespeare’s birthday to be made a public holiday.

Ms Ball possibly acted in the belief she was being helpful to our cause. Not so – as the leader of the House of Commons has made plain. Another petition on the same issue cannot be entertained. Even if this were so, if I went ahead and published our own it would spread the support for a Shakespeare Day across two petitions, making it difficult for either to reach the essential 100,000 target.

Furthermore, the government has turned down numerous applications for national holidays, with a Winston Churchill Day, Elizabeth I Day and a Diana Day among those rejected. Also, a recent application to make St George’s Day a public holiday was turned away. One such casualty has been our e-petition, identical in wording to Ms Ball’s, ‘Make Shakespeare’s birthday a bank holiday’.

It was turned down on the grounds that the cost to the economy of an additional bank holiday would be considerable. That, in times of recession, it did not seem to be sensible to create another permanent public holiday, during which ordinary business is suspended.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills wrote: “The most recent assessment for the additional holiday for the Diamond Jubilee is that bank holidays [across the UK] cost employers around £1.2 billion.”

Meanwhile, to help rectify the situation, the assistant secretary to the leader of the House of Commons has passed our email address to Ms Ball, with the suggestion that she may wish to get in touch. I hope she will – we are on the same side, after all.

While it makes eminent sense for Ms Ball to take down her e-petition, almost three weeks have elapsed since it was published, and all attempts to locate her have failed.

Might the real Caroline Ball stand up? Better, surely, to have some recognition rather than none, which will be the result, given the government’s opposition to any more bank holidays.

Faith Hines
Shakespeare Day
Email address supplied


Fringe director deserves better

With regards the recent debate over the production of Pentecost (Stage Talk, June 20, page 8), I would like to offer my support to Gavin McAlinden, and emphasise the fact that this was an ensemble piece of fringe theatre – I wasn’t expecting to get any money in return.

The main and most important thing I wanted to get from that play was the exposure, and to practise my craft. Any chance I get to be on stage is extremely important to me.

When I first went to audition for the play, they told me it was a profit share, and that if the play made money, I would have been paid for it.

It was a chance for me to work with other people and gain more experience. If we had made money, that would have been a bonus.

To my knowledge, a profit-share piece first has to make enough money to break even. Payment is then split between (20) people, as was the case.

From what I’ve seen from ticket sales, Pentecost didn’t make enough money, and therefore I wasn’t expecting to get anything back.

Once again, I offer my support to Gavin McAlinden, who I believe has been treated unfairly and with disrespect.

Name and email supplied


Courageous Nik’s amazing feat

Congratulations to Nik Wallenda on his magnificent achievement – the only tightrope walker ever to cross the Grand Canyon without a safety harness. Millions watched the breathtaking crossing as it was filmed live, and shown on TV’s Discovery Channel on June 23.

Nik is the seventh generation of a circus family that always insisted on working without a safety net, and it was in 1962 that disaster struck. Above the heads of a horrified audience in Detroit, a human pyramid, which consisted of seven performers, fell apart and crashed to the ground below.

Two died that day – Dieter, aged 23, and Richard, aged 29. Mario Wallenda, 22, never walked again. Jana – Dieter’s sister, aged 17 – was also badly injured. She and her brother were the niece and nephew of the great Karl Wallenda.

The entire family were said to have nerves of steel, and I think that Nik has proved this to be true yet again.

Valerie Braithwaite
Brookshill Avenue
Harrow Weald


It’s open season in Theatreland

Looking through the current Official London Theatre Guide, it would appear that just about all the theatres are open, with a wide variety of productions.

The surprising thing is that it is nearly high summer, a time that used to find a number of theatres empty and likely to remain so until September. The Shaftesbury and the Playhouse were particularly prone to this, as was the Whitehall after the Brian Rix days.

Several of our theatres are not only open, but also have a list of further productions that will take them past Christmas. Yet these are times of cutbacks, with less money in people’s pockets.

Does it mean that we need theatre, as we did in wartime, to just get us through the bad times? And isn’t it time the government realised the full value of this – both financial and for our well-being?

Tudor Williams
Brymore Close


Our next great acting dames?

Theatrical dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have been, and still are, a great credit to their profession and have enjoyed tremendous public affection.

They, in turn, followed in the illustrious footsteps of past grand dames of the profession such as Sybil Thorndike and Edith Evans.

Now I wonder who, among the current crop of talented actresses, might be deserving of the honour of damehood and follow in the footsteps of Smith and Dench?

My money would be on two exceptionally talented actresses who have really caught my eye in recent years – Janet McTeer and Olivia Colman.

Janet was absolutely tremendous in Albert Nobbs, and also gives a stunning performance in the current BBC adaptation of The White Queen. She stole the show in both productions.

Olivia caught everyone’s eye in Broadchurch. But prior to that, she had already given one of the most moving performances I have ever seen in Paddy Considine’s film Tyrannosaur.

I know that both women will continue to win acting awards, but I hope they will soon get recognised for what they are – national treasures, rather than just professional ones.

Tom Laughton
Harrington Crescent


Cookie bites

Dress Circle seems to have a most brilliant and colourful website covering all manner of shows – especially musical theatre. But I am a bit afraid of its cookies since the new government regulations over consent.

I hate missing out on anything stage-wise. Can anyone reassure me, please?

Peter Seekings-Foster
Boeing Way