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Tories don’t give a damn about the arts (your views, June 1)

Matt Hancock Matt Hancock MP
by -

What a transparent and two-faced excuse for a government that is all too aware that, when local authorities have faced cuts of up to 40% in central government funding – while at the same time being made to take responsibility for increasing items central government now refuses to fund – the arts are always the first to suffer savage cuts (‘Minister says government will not plug funding cuts’, News, May 25, p2).

Who is our glorious minister of culture, Matt Hancock, anyway? With a background in computer software and economics, what makes him qualified to take make-or-break decisions about the future of our arts? It’s like appointing supermarket administrators to run the NHS.

The Tories aren’t fooling anyone with half a brain. They don’t give a damn about the arts and cheerlead a lowest common denominator culture: if it doesn’t make a profit – cut it.

Charlotte Cornwell
Via thestage.co.uk

Is £1bn spare?

Labour pledges £1bn arts windfall (May 18, p2).

Sounds great. No mention of how, where or when the money would be found.

Tim Sanderson
Via thestage.co.uk

Actor vs actress

I am writing a book reviewing the changes and developments in feminism over the past few decades and I would like some guidance from people in the performing arts on whether women are to be described as ‘female actors’, ‘actors’, or ‘actresses’.

Some women in the performing arts tell me they like the word ‘actress’ – bearing in mind that women had to struggle to be permitted to be actresses, historically. And where there are awards for best actress, the altered wording of best female actor is a bit awkward.

But if people have the entitlement to be called whatever they choose, what is the correct protocol? Grateful for opinions on this.

Mary Kenny
The Reform Club
Pall Mall, London, SW1Y
mary@mary-kenny.com

Diversity must be embraced

No one interviewed me for their research (‘Directors lament ‘grim’ decline in Asian audiences’, News, May 18, p1), but I can tell you from years of experience as a British Asian Londoner and regular theatregoer, I am consistently one of the few, and occasionally the only, black or brown faces in the audience.

I attend West End theatres and fringe producing houses in and out of London. There is always commentary highlighting this glaring omission, but rarely do government or “cultural leaders” come up with robust solutions.

Often organisational culture is blamed, but organisations – bricks and mortar – don’t run the theatre, it’s the people inside it who run these cultural venues. It’s they who need to take responsibility to change their attitudes and way of thinking and shift to embracing the talents of Asian, black and other minorities’ offers.

Clara Arokiasamy
Via thestage.co.uk

Lucas is right

What a refreshing and insightful quote concerning the possibilities of art from the politician Caroline Lucas (“In our busy lives, it is easy to forget to imagine what a different world could look like. For me, that’s the most powerful contribution of the arts: to allow us to expand our understanding of the possible. If there is ever a time we need to make that hope possible and tangible and real, it’s now.”, Quote Unquote, May 4, p9).

It is also in such sharp contrast to the current arts minister, who sadly has nothing to say concerning art, other than political party rhetoric.

A well deserved Quote of the Week, encore.

Martin Trimble
Email address supplied

Access is turn-off

Maggie Brown complains only 5% of the public watched the Oliviers, even though producers “tried hard to make the ceremony accessible”. (‘Pigott-Smith’s powerful swansong gives theatre a screen saviour’, Opinion, May 11, p10).

Might I suggest that this is the reason people didn’t watch the programme? Whenever I hear the word “accessible”, I reach for the off-switch.

Paul Barnsley
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Quote of the week

Sonia Friedman. Photo: Jason Alden
Sonia Friedman. Photo: Jason Alden

“It needs to feel relevant. I don’t mean that cliche about putting a mirror up to society—it needs to go deeper, scratch below the surface to answer questions politicians are not asking for us and provoke debate. I need that in my life. But a fusty old revival with a TV star? I mean, why?”
Producer Sonia Friedman on choosing which shows to produce (Vogue)

“This is an old-fashioned story of graft. I’m the Cinderella story and that’s fine. I don’t need to work any more just to pay the rent and that is major. I never have to worry about winning an Olivier again, I’ve got one of those. So nothing is about anything other than what I want to do. You can’t survive on theatre wages, really. Not if you want to buy a house, have a family.”
Actor Denise Gough (Times)

“It’s really tough on some levels and it’s very sad, because I love it at the Globe, and I love my team, but everything comes to an end. It’s just happened a bit earlier than I would have wanted it to have done.”
Director Emma Rice on leaving Shakespeare’s Globe (Herald)

“What draws me back to the theatre at the moment is Tennessee Williams. Last time I was in a rehearsal room was for Streetcar. Working with actors on his volatile, muscular language and on the raw, naked human emotion that you’re chasing down with him in the rehearsal room is everything I live for, it’s what I love so deeply.”
Director Benedict Andrews (Young Vic YouTube channel)

“What new play can we write or produce about the rise of populist nationalism, or what can we produce about Trump in the White House and, far more, what classic play is there that speaks to this time and lets us know that we’ve been here before and these are the tools that we use in order to send ourselves to a better place? The role of theatre at this point is metaphor, is to take our form and help us reflect and find our way through wherever it is we find ourselves.”
Actor and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah (Guardian)

“I didn’t define myself as a feminist until quite recently but I had always lived like a feminist and believed in the obvious: that women were as capable and as energetic and as inspiring as men. However, I have come to understand that feminism is not an abstract idea but a necessity if we – and really by ‘we’, I mean you guys – are to move us forward and not backward into ignorance and fearful jealousy. So now, I am a declared feminist and I would encourage you to be the same.”
Actor Helen Mirren (Commencement speech at Tulane University, New Orleans)

What you said on Facebook

About Michael Coveney questioning if our obsession with updating the classics is diluting their essence…

I feel like there’s a place for classics “as they were written” as well as updated ones. Both are valuable and interesting in their own way.
Azalea van Luernder

About Phil Willmott’s column for parents of teenagers that want to go into the entertainment industry…

This is a good article. I think that the risks and uncertainties can be borne in one’s 20s. As the 30s move on and then the 40s come along, the burdens of little money, repeated rejection and sparse work become very hard to bear.
Jane de Florez

If mummy or daddy isn’t rich or doesn’t already work in the industry, forget it.
Shane Hyde

It took three attempts for my son to get into drama school. He’s about to graduate from a top UK one. We are not rich or in the business – it was his passion and talent that got him there. He got an agent last week. It’s an uncertain career, but all you can do is support them in following their dreams. What will be will be.
Jo Allan Cassen

About Equity members thwarting a motion to highlight the health risk of smoking on stage…

A vote against glaring evidence and common sense. Great work guys. You know a vote is not considered evidence-based practice and doesn’t make it factual… but it does highlight a lack of consideration for others and a distinct lack of basic intelligence.
John Webb

Poll: Do you think that smoking real cigarettes should be banned on stage?

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