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Actors are trained to play all roles (your views, February 22)

Stephen Mangan in The Birthday Party. Photo: Johan Persson
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Jack Lieberman took exception to a Gentile actor playing Goldberg in The Birthday Party (Letter, February 15).

I would like to point out that I have played three of the four male characters in that play. McCann the Irishman at the Crucible Sheffield directed by Job Steward, Stanley in the Orbit Company, directed by Kenneth Parrott, and Petey for Shared Experience, directed by Nancy Meckler.

Harold Pinter came to see the latter production and we went out to dinner afterwards. During the course of the evening, I mentioned that I had played three parts, but had not yet played Goldberg.

He said: “You must. You will be very good.” I replied that he was only saying that because he wanted the royalties. There was a slight Pinter-esque pause before we roared with laughter.

As a working-class actor from Bethnal Green, east London, I have performed in more than 300 plays over a long career. Accents have included anything from Cockney to various Irish and Scottish ones. I also played a working-class woman, Mrs Swob in Habeas Corpus, as well as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Along with an attacking neutron, a prince and the Jewish Tubal, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, I was also a German emcee in Cabaret.

I believe many of us become actors to play all roles, no matter what – as long as we put the work in to do our best.

John Halstead
Email address supplied

Jean Rogers’ resignation

I was saddened to hear that Jean Rogers has resigned from the Equity Council (News, February 8, p2). The union has failed to protect her from a sustained campaign of bullying and personal attack, which she has endured since her decision in 2012 to stand for Equity president.

Long-term Equity councillor Jean Rogers resigns claiming she has been ‘bullied and harassed’

What will it take to make the union realise how far it has strayed from its core purpose of protecting the interests of its members? Only now do we see a belated attempt to tackle the issue of bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace – only when recent events have made this an easy bandwagon to hitch itself to.

Given Jean’s experiences so close to home, the hypocrisy of this is risible. Equity must set its house in order with all speed and repair a process that is not fit for purpose.

In any union, the members make their wishes known to council, which instructs senior management to take action on behalf of the membership. It is called democracy.

Lately, I have wondered if this is happening in reverse. An example is the decision without consultation with the members to take in-house the distribution of monies normally paid by the British Equity Collecting Society and then make payment direct to agents, who then deduct 10-15% commission plus VAT where none was due before. That Equity tells us we will be better off under this system is incomprehensible.

Similarly, the idea of ‘preferred candidates’ promoted by Equity branches could be seen as a manipulation of the voting process before all candidates’ statements have been published. Appearance at hustings will not be possible for everyone and this system gives undue influence to the favoured few. This is a travesty considering the vilification of the now-defunct Rep Group for alleged block voting. Only 8-10% of members bother to vote, so the outcome is decided by an unrepresentative minority.

Jean’s resignation has exposed the shortcomings of an inadequate system. Equity has lost one of its most valuable and experienced activists with a 24-year track record of service. I sincerely hope she remains an active force within the union and, should she decide to run for president again, I will certainly support her. I prefer a candidate with proven experience and not one ‘talked up’ for expediency’s sake by any ‘inner circle’ or management.

Pauline Moran
Equity councillor, 2010-14

Everyman still going strong

I was pleased to read your interview with Mark Goucher about taking over at our Everyman Theatre (February 15).

Producer Mark Goucher on taking over Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre: ‘I’d heard a lot of this job was about unblocking toilets’

I was in the audience on the opening night in May 1960 and was pleased to see a full house again at Quartet recently. The future programme has a lot of excellent productions to look forward to. Good luck.

Tudor Williams
Cheltenham

Quotes of the week

Pamela Tan Nicholson
Pamela Tan Nicholson. Photo: Peter Richweisz

Opera is like playing tennis or skiing; just because you’re not going to make the Winter Olympics it doesn’t mean you can’t have some lessons and have a great time going off-piste. It’s so exhilarating to participate.”
Musician, composer and producer Pamela Tan Nicholson (speaking at TriOperas and the V&A’s Passion, Power and Politics Open Forum event)

“One of the most transforming developments in British theatre this century is the vast increase in published plays. Great news that Samuel French is to reopen its bookshop, in London’s Royal Court. There couldn’t be a more suitable home.”
Playwright David Edgar (Twitter)

“I am a product of arts funding in the UK. I want to thank people who support that at mainstream arts and grass roots-levels. Thank you for letting me think different.”
Actor Daniel Kaluuya (2018 BAFTA film awards)

“Mr Duvall my old headmaster said I’d end up in prison. I did. But am on stage with Ann Marie-Duff and Rory Kinnear the week after next. #anythingispossible”
Actor Michael J Balogun (Twitter)

“Are we actually arguing that racist jokes and reducing other races to exotic fancy-dress costume is wholesome entertainment?”
Actor Daniel York on panto (Arts Professional)

“I never really thought that I’d write a musical until someone said ‘Do you want to write a musical?’ Part of the reason I did it was because when I started out I wrote a strange, magical realist play set on a council estate. At that time, the sort of received wisdom in theatre was you find your voice and you write that. And I thought that was rubbish and wasn’t interested in that at all. I looked at that play and I thought ‘I’m going to do something different’. I was inspired by Caryl Churchill actually, who constantly changes form.”
Playwright Dennis Kelly (National Theatre platform on Pinocchio)

“[Film is] an industry that’s built on making you feel not quite good enough – that you haven’t quite got to where you should – and it’s so mixed up with selling stuff. The turnover of stars is brutal. You have to be zen, so it’s vital to stay working in theatre, which is more generous to older women and more collaborative. It’s the true form, for me.”
Ruth Wilson (Guardian)

What you said on Facebook

About readers’ fears that young talent is being priced out of training…

I’m in my third year on the BA (hons) acting course at RADA. My degree fee is practically the same as any other university course in the country. I’m working-class and have been supported through a bursary – an advantage many people at university don’t have.
Josh Fish

Children from hard-working families are unable to fulfil their dreams because of extortionate prices. There should be more realistic pricing at these stage schools, so every child can have a chance of pursuing their dream.
Tania Tapsell

About the future of theatre programmes in the digital world…

I have a programme and ticket from every show I have ever seen. I feel that keeping these mementos is so vital to the life of the show.

Chris Joseph

I like the big glossy souvenir brochures even though they are usually grossly overpriced. I never buy a programme for a show I’ve already seen even if it has a new cast. I can get all the information I need through Google.

Graham H Shelmerdine

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