Letters of the week

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ITV coverage lacked direction

I’ve just been watching the Oliviers on ITV, and I would like to know when the most prestigious theatre awards in the UK became a musical show? Best play was the first award, and best actor and actress in a straight play were given in the first quarter, as were most of the other high-profile awards, such as best director. The acceptance speeches were cut with hatchets, Michael Frayn’s speech for the special award – normally a high point – was almost non-existent, and the “other awards given” were tagged just before the second ad break.

Then we had to sit through endless and full versions of songs and dances from the shows, including a touring version of Cats, Petula Clark doing something with a song from a show that has been off for several years, followed by an American – who has never performed in the West End but “has a new CD out in July” – singing from West Side Story. This is meant to be a celebration of all that is best in West End theatre over the past year, not an excuse to show a song and dance routine from a musical that was not even on that year.

I imagine the blame lies with ITV, which doesn’t seem to want to promote straight drama. And who was responsible for using a TV director who appears more used to shooting the London marathon than a prestigious awards show? Why was it that when Heather Headley was singing, the camera revolved around her three times in succession? If a member of the audience got up and started to walk around the performer during a show, all hell would break out, so why should viewers at home be ‘treated’ to that view?

West End shows are directed to be seen from the front and in full length. Missing the dancers’ feet defeats the object entirely. Why not just lock the camera off and show us the piece as it was intended to be seen? Why is it that ITV does not trust the audience’s patience and intelligence?

I know that the purpose of getting the Oliviers on TV is to promote the West End (obviously), but when I think of the West End I think of the best of the best straight shows first, and musicals after that.

Marc Sinden
Email address supplied


Maria’s point is repositioned

A nice irony was achieved in last week’s issue of The Stage by placing the front page story about the culture minister’s call for the arts to prove the economic impact of its funding next to the headline about the Oliviers being Theatreland’s “biggest marketing event”.

If Maria Miller needed further evidence of the economic value of theatre, she need only read Hugh Bonneville declaring in the inside pages that “the West End brings in such a vast revenue to the city and boosts the London economy, and the subsidised theatre particularly feeds the commercial sector”.

Case well made. On this occasion, advantage The Stage.

Richard Hall
Email address supplied


London’s great debt to culture

Maria Miller is of course correct when she states it is important for those of us in the arts industry to ensure our response to cuts in funding are centred around economic, rather than emotional, arguments (News, April 25, front page).

I would, however, argue that this is being done already. While arts professionals are understandably passionate about what we do, we are also commercially savvy – by necessity if not by nature.

West End theatre alone is known to be worth in excess of £3 billion in directly associated revenue. The Society of London Theatre’s figures for 2012 revealed London ticket sales of £529.7 million, with attendance numbers rising to nearly 14 million.

These numbers form only a small part of a much wider picture – from arts shows and subsidised theatre through to museum exhibitions, the sector overall is the cornerstone of Britain’s cultural economy, which is envied the world over. Indeed, London would not be the great world city it is, nor could it attract the international business community and tourists it does, without the breadth and depth of its cultural offering, much of which owes a lot to the nurturing effect of government support.

It is crucial that we all continue to take a proactive stance when it comes to making these points. Those of us in the arts must take responsibility for illustrating to government the enormous benefits our sector brings to the UK economy. In turn, the government must take responsibility for ensuring this vital sector, which continues to play a fundamentally important and increasingly successful role in the finances of our country, is appropriately supported.

Richard Huntrods
Account director
Email address supplied


Shouting at an empty stage

I agree with your correspondent as to the whereabouts of levy cash (Stage Talk, April 25, page 8). I remember bringing up the subject several years ago, but to no avail.

We have many organisations who represent the theatre – namely Equity and the Theatrical Management Association to name but two. But no one represents the theatregoer, so to whom do we make a complaint? Letters to The Stage seem to have no effect…

Alexander Jules
Email address supplied


Pros of French’s US connection

I was delighted to read that the Thomas Hailes Lacy/Samuel French acting editions 1840 to 1920 are now housed in the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection (Stage Talk, April 25, page 8). This is a fitting home for a fine collection of work, now made accessible to a much wider audience.

Samuel French has been around since 1830, and our office in London will continue to acquire and publish exceptional English literature for another 183 years. In addition, advances in technology are now allowing Samuel French’s offices in London, New York and Los Angeles to work much closer together in delivering a superb customer experience. Coming soon is our new combined UK and US website, giving greater access to more high-quality plays and exciting marketing initiatives while also providing the opportunity to apply for performance licences online. This will, of course, complement our usual services in London, including personal telephone contact and the world-famous bookshop.

The combining of UK and US resources will strengthen further the strong Samuel French brand. We look forward to continuing to deliver a high level of quality service to our established customers, agents and authors from our offices both sides of the pond.

Nate Collins
Samuel French
West 25th Street
New York