Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Arts needs to recognise excellence in teaching (your views, November 8)

Photo: Shutterstock
by -

I note that “excellence in arts education” is to be an offstage category in the 2019 UK Theatre Awards (‘UK Theatre revamps awards for 2019 including new categories’, November 1).

Might I suggest the spotlight is turned on performing arts teachers who week after week inspire, enthuse and engage our young people? With arts education vulnerable to cuts in recent years, these often unsung heroes could do with a shout out.

Kevin Dowsett
Artistic director

Putting students on stage

In response to Jon Dryden Taylor’s interesting article (‘Is drama school the only route to a soaring career?’, November 1) assessing the merits of drama school versus not training, he says: “Actors love appearing in front of audiences, and it is here I will claim a genuine advantage available to the untrained. One thing I hear over and over from drama school grads is that there isn’t enough time in front of audiences, especially in the first couple of years.”

Is drama school really the only route to a career in the performing arts?

Cygnet Theatre in Exeter has, since its foundation by Monica Shallis in the early 1980s, combined the best of a drama school training with the constant commitment to public performance. For nearly 40 years, Cygnet has continued with this way of training, which best replicates the repertory system, allowing actors to hone the skills they are learning in class in front of live audiences. From day one our actors have a script in hand and work towards a public performance within a few weeks of the start of term. This is alongside learning all the normal classes and internally assessed work that any drama student would expect to receive.

Rosalind Williams
Principal, Cygnet Theatre

Audio dramas aren’t just BBC

Regarding the statement in your article (‘How to see three plays a week for £12.50 or less’, October 25) that theatre enthusiasts can “Listen to the rich output of the BBC Radio Drama department”, we would like to remind readers there are many critically acclaimed audio dramas produced by independent production companies.

Independent producers were responsible for more than 18% of BBC Radio 4’s output in 2017/18, and more than 50% of Radio 4 Extra’s, bringing with them a diverse range of voices from across the UK.

How to see three plays a week for £12.50 or less

Pier Productions’ The Red won best single drama at this year’s BBC Audio Drama Awards, and companies including Afonica, Pozzitive, Big Finish and Manchester’s Sparklab also featured among the winners. Companies B7 and Bafflegab won gold awards in drama categories at the New York International Festival Radio Awards.

The UK’s independent audio production sector, represented by AudioUK, is growing fast and our members look forward to continuing to work with drama professionals on a variety of productions.

Will Jackson
Managing director, AudioUK

Praise for Hayley Atwell

Coming from a US point of view, it is so wonderful to see an actor – Hayley Atwell (Big Interview, November 1) – be smart and take the parts they want to and not simply because they, or their agents, think they should.

Norman Maslov
Via thestage.co.uk

Exclusive interview with Hayley Atwell: ‘I’m proud of my self-doubt, it keeps me vulnerable and questioning’

Broadway tickets too expensive

A scheme in which audiences can pay for their theatre tickets in instalments has recently been rolled out in the US (‘Poll: Would you use a ‘mortgage-style’ payment plan to spread the cost of your theatre tickets?’, October 25, p6), where Broadway seats can cost up to $850 each.

It is morally repugnant that a ticket for something lasting a few hours costs more than two weeks’ wages. A week in Rome costs less. One show on Broadway or a week in Rome… Let me think that one over for a nano second.

Helen Joy Kirk
Via Facebook

Having prices that high is elitist and archaic. No one should have to worry about instalments for a theatre ticket. Prices have to be much more reasonable. Few would pay that in the UK.

Louise Cannon
Via Facebook

Less New York coverage

I’m not convinced Broadway reviews and interviews are a good idea (‘The stars have aligned: for once, the play’s the thing on Broadway’, October 25). Who but the well-heeled will be flying to Broadway? Who, even if they are in New York, wants to pay $150 for a seat?

I’d rather The Stage put its resources into reviewing more UK regional theatre – all power to Lyn Gardner’s work in this respect. Let’s have more interviews with UK regional production teams. If we must review US theatre why not explore Off-Broadway or occasional features and reviews of US regional theatre outside New York? The big-name shows on Broadway get enough publicity and income without The Stage adding to it.

Mark Doel
Via thestage.co.uk

Editor’s note: In addition to Mark Shenton’s Broadway coverage, we will also be reviewing Off-Broadway and running features about theatre in North America beyond Broadway.

Quotes of the week

“When you start out, you kind of think, ‘I have to be like that’ or ‘They want me to be this kind of person’ or ‘I need to dress this way or work out to look this way’, and eventually you realise that your ‘you-ness’ is the thing that people are really excited about.” – Actor Paapa Essiedu (Vogue)

“Ian McKellen said that 52 people who identify as straight have been nominated for Oscars for LGBT roles, but it feels to me the thing that isn’t being talked about is, can you name 52 out gay or LGBT people who have been nominated for straight roles? No you can’t [because they don’t feel they can be out]. That to me feels like the conversation that should be happening.” – Actor Jonathan Bailey (Times)

“Suddenly – I felt like I was going slightly mad – I just forgot a line. It had gone, I couldn’t find it. This had never happened to me before. And all the girls on stage are giggling. The orchestra’s vamping to cover it: ‘Dah! Dah! Dah!’ I remember I stayed in an American accent and said: ‘Oh my God, I forgot my line.’ And the place erupted. There was a round of applause. It should have been funny. Some actors would have brushed it off, but it really freaked me out. My head started playing these tricks.”  – Actor Sheridan Smith on the final few performances of Legally Blonde in 2011 (Guardian)

“Just seen a casting looking for ‘non-actors, no acting experience required’ for two featured roles in a film. I mean it’s hard enough fighting to get in the room against trained professional actors, let alone Dave my plumber. This is actually a thing now.”– Actor Jonny Purchase (Twitter)

“You can spend a lot of time trying to stay a young actor. It doesn’t allow for emotional maturity. It’s infantilising.” – Actor Julian Sands (Guardian)

“What happens, though, in these situations where we herald it and say it’s been a landmark year, is that we forget it’s the subsequent years that actually matter. Whenever we’ve had a landmark year, the subsequent ones have been dire.” – Actor Joan Iyiola on theatre diversity (Sunday Times)

“Doctor Who is an alien with two hearts who lives in a dimensionally transcendental phone box and can periodically change his or her appearance. James Bond is a man. There’s no way out of that. It becomes a very reductive argument. If you want to create a really kickass new heroine or hero, then do something else.” – Actor and writer Mark Gatiss on gender-swapped casting (Guardian)

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

Twitter: @TheStage
Facebook: facebook.com/thestage

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.