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Fears for the future of historic scenery studios (your views, November 2)

In response to last week’s front-page story about the planned closure of Harkers in south-east London (Final curtain for historic scene-painting studio, October 26 [1]), the future of paint frames has long been of interest to the Association of British Theatre Technicians’ Historical Research Committee and we keep a register of them, which is published on our website.

Alistair Flint is to be commended for restoring and keeping the Harkers building alive, as the frames had been deliberately sabotaged by a previous owner.

We have a concern over the future safety of the autograph panel where Harker and many other painters have left their signatures. It is likely to end up in the living room of an occupant with no knowledge of its significance.

It should be noted that there are two other historic paint studios remaining in London. Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, which is preserved but not in use for its original purpose, and one at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

The latter facility, with four frames, remains active and has been recently renovated by Really Useful Theatres. Many of the cloths used in the current production of 42nd Street were painted on site, just as they have been for over a hundred years.

Roger Fox
ABTT Historical Research Committee
abtt.org.uk [2]

I really don’t know what to say. How dare Southwark Council.

I’m not from London, but to close an essential building that provides scenery for the theatre is despicable.

Siobhan Hearty
Via thestage.co.uk

Auteurs, get your hands off

In response to David Hare’s comments (‘Directors want too much control [3]’, October 19), such directors should immediately be administered with the little known but salutary Henry Irving One Hand Test – a plea for only those who work with their hands on stage to be allowed to work on stage, and not those who don’t.

Carpenters, for example, a must; electricians, obvious; painters, fine; costumes, clearly; stage hands are always welcome.

But who are those outraged, hypocritical parasites shaking their fists in the wings? Why, the new breed of talentless ‘auteurs’ – those who would write but can’t, who would act but can’t, who would make up, sew, etc, but can’t. Until they have learned to dirty their hands, these ‘auteurs’ should not be allowed within a hundred miles of a stage.

Bless you, Mr Hare, for even thinking of it!

Dedwydd Jones
Email address supplied

Unruly audience is such a turn-off

I refer to the letter from Maureen Reeves (Comment, October 19 [4]), in which she says that “audience behaviour is at an all-time low”. So nothing has changed.

I have been an avid theatregoer for well over 50 years, and since retirement had been going to see up to three performances a week.

Gradually the enjoyment of going to the theatre was subsiding due to the behaviour of certain members of the audience and the consumption of food and drink.

I have had letters published before regarding this ever-growing trait.

So instead of looking forward to a production, I came to dread the possibility of confrontations.

I therefore decided that enough was enough and have not been to the theatre in London or Brighton for almost a year.

While I do miss the theatre, I certainly do not miss the possibility of yet another evening spoilt by other members of the audience who cannot stop talking, eating or drinking for what is a relatively short period of time.

However, I am relenting by going to see Follies at the National Theatre, which in my opinion is one of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpieces.

I just wonder how many like-minded theatre-goers feel the same as I do. It is all quite sad.

David Brede
Email address supplied

Quotes of the week

Elinor Cook. Photo: Richard Davenport [5]
Elinor Cook. Photo: Richard Davenport

“I find it shocking that [the notion of a female playwright] can be seen as so out there. I’m white and privileged and straight, and if I’ve found it difficult to break through, how much harder is it if you’re not those three things?”
Playwright Elinor Cook (The Guardian)

“It’s as if everything was out of focus and then suddenly it all made sense. Patti LuPone – gayest reference ever! – said she couldn’t get in trouble when she was on stage. As a kid, people applaud the things that you usually get scowled at for.”
Actor John McCrea on realising he wanted to be a performer (Sunday Time


“People talk to me about diversity and casting, writing and directing. Male/female. Balance. Stuff like that. All of that is important. I bracket all of that into a class concern, really. Our agenda is to look upstream. Instead of trying to solve the problems with a sticking plaster here, let’s see what’s causing this division in class. Why are more privileged people turning up on stage and backstage and writing and directing?”
Matthew Warchus (The Times)

“You’ve got the sheer fright level, which is people coming for a fun night of being frightened – I can’t think of anything I’d rather not do – but underneath it is a real interesting discussion about good and evil, love, parenthood, religion, and an evening of such darkness ends in hope, and I think that’s really important in the times we’re living in.”
Jenny Seagrove, speaking at a launch event for The Exorcist at the Phoenix Theatre in London

“If I’ve learned anything about writing over the last 20 years, it’s this: when you need a break, take one.”
Playwright Christopher Shinn (Twitter)

“I’d been working for a long, long time and I got really nabbed off with it all. I just thought, ‘I don’t want to audition any more.’ Not in a highfalutin way, I just couldn’t be arsed to traipse through the whole thing. I had hit that point.”
Actor Anna Maxwell Martin on auditioning (Guardian)

“On Broadway, Donald, they call it a Limited Engagement – just like we’re planning on making your presidency.”
Michael Moore on Donald Trump (Twitter)

What you said on Facebook

In response to actor Jenny Seagrove lamenting the decline of West End plays, claiming the dominance of musicals in Theatreland is “terribly sad”… [6]

We do need more plays, and it’s a shame some theatres are unavailable due to long runs. Yet it’s a business and the shows are popular.
Jack Hurst

Perhaps it’s not that straight plays’ popularity is suffering but rather that the contemporary directorial styles of said plays have not adapted to a modern audience.
Tom Moriarty

I used to think that I lived in an age after the death of the great playwrights, then I discovered Jez Butterworth. He has consistently produced great plays that are accessible, fun, and moving.
Martin Hobbs

So that’s with (off the top of my head) two James Graham plays, plus The Ferryman, Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle and A Woman of No Importance all on at the moment and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof just closed?
Bob Wolstenholme

In response to our interview with the new Bridge Theatre bosses Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr… [7]

Seems quite insular: two rich, white males getting to build their own theatre, put on the shows they want and employ the people they want. Be interesting to see how it plays out.
Patrick O’Sullivan

Opening play: creative team all white and seven out of eight are men. Not sure how this ‘new’ theatre is different to any other!
Roselle Olivia Hirs