We write to congratulate Indhu Rubasingham and everyone at Kiln Theatre  – producers, creative learning team, administrators, box office, everyone – on the great achievement of transforming and reopening the building this week.
We fully acknowledge the rich and special history of the Tricycle, and we have all had unforgettable evenings there. But we stand with Kiln and its proposition that theatre is not here to fossilise culture but to invigorate it.
While honouring the past, it must also reach out to new audiences and artists, who will come to Kiln with fresh perspectives, ideas, energy. Theatre’s mutability is its strength.
April De Angelis
Tipping dressers is a fine tradition
Catherine Kodicek tells actors to stop tipping their dresser. She says we wouldn’t need the tip if we were paid a higher wage and then goes on to explain just some of the extra duties we do that are not in our job description.
In my 25 years as a dresser, no two jobs have ever been the same. Your skill set needs to match the artist you’re working with and most of what you do goes unseen and is misunderstood by everyone except that artist. That is why they tip: it is both tradition and theatre etiquette. It has nothing to do with the wage. Broadway dressers receive three times the amount we do, yet they are also tipped. To suggest that actors stop tipping is taking us backwards not forwards and shows a lack of understanding of what the role really entails and its place in theatre tradition.
West End principal dresser
Food and drink in auditoriums
Food should be banned in theatre auditoriums.
I’m not normally the hysterical type, but I had a hideous experience at The King and I recently. This wonderful show was disrupted by the noise of crisp packets, sweet bags, crackling water bottles and a coach party in the row behind who came in with brown bags containing their packed tea and traded sandwiches and crisp packets throughout the first act. And don’t get me started on why they thought it was a good idea to sing along to Getting to Know You.
I disagree. Have you ever stopped to think that for some people snacking on sweets during a performance is a part of the whole experience? Instead of banning food, theatres should just stick to non-noisy packaging.
While we’re on the subject – why is there a ‘no cap’ rule at some theatres? Why can’t I close my bottle of water when I’m not drinking? A while ago, I attended a show at which an older lady next to me had a problem with it too – and ended up spilling all her water on my leg. With all those ridiculous rules and bans in place, I’d really rather go to the cinema and watch the live performance there.
I don’t think people should be allowed to take food in. But unfortunately we have to acknowledge that sales on food and beverages inside the theatre are an important source of revenue. They just need to start selling less noisy sweets.
I know they’re trying not to sell food in noisy packaging but just because you put crisps in a tube doesn’t make the actual food not crunchy. I think crisps need to go. But at the same time I don’t understand why people need food during the theatre. I can’t eat when I’m watching theatre, otherwise I feel that I’m not fully engrossed.
I thoroughly dislike the middle-class theatre etiquette that makes those who do not adhere to unspoken rules feel like outsiders and that they don’t belong. It encourages a culture that makes theatre by and for the rich – but sometimes about the poor, who can’t afford to go in, or buy the expensive food and drink. They have to sit in silence or cancel going if they have a cold for fear of annoying people and get tutted at for engaging with the play inappropriately.
Let’s open up the doors, allow people to be, to engage, respond and enjoy. Theatre is a form of entertainment, and food and drink can enhance the experience. Actors are trained to project over noise and be present on stage and engage with the audience, however it responds.
Audio horrors spoil shows
When I saw Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre recently, this excellent and tight production was spoilt only by being over-amplified – and where I was sitting, actually distorted. One of my guests (a singer) had to leave early, becoming traumatised by the high sound levels of the finale.
The company credited with the sound is Autograph, which I know from experience is an excellent company, so I imagine the problem was created by the mixer operator. The problem could have been identified and dealt with if the musical director had been in a position to hear the same sound that the audience was hearing, instead of being locked away in a band room, while also doubling as keyboard player.
I noticed a similar problem during Follies at the National Theatre, where a large orchestra was hidden behind the set, and we were forced to listen to it electronically. And for Matilda, all the top frequencies of vocalists were cut off by scenery placed in front of speakers.
One of the many reasons Gypsy  at the Savoy was so successful was that the orchestra was in the pit, with the musical director in the best place to exercise his expertise.
So if musical directors are no longer looking after the music/vocal balance heard by the audience, should they no longer be called musical directors, and admit they have lost control?
Now that the Oscar Wilde season is about to end at the Vaudeville and we are about to have Pinter at the Pinter , perhaps it would be nice to follow on with Coward at the Coward and, dare I say, Novello at the Novello?
Seaford, East Sussex
Quotes of the week
“It’s still not equal or fair but it’s definitely changing. Some of the roles I’ve played would not be played by women or by black women a generation before me, so I feel very much like I’m reaping the benefits of their hard work – black women who have not have the same opportunities.” – Actor Jade Anouka (Observer)
“The body is a museum, it absorbs everything. It’s adapting with me and changing every second.” – Choreographer Akram Khan (speaking at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit)
“Some people say, ‘Oh, you’re doing wonderful things because you’re encouraging the audience of the future’. Well I’m not doing it for the future, I’m doing it for now, because I believe they need it now, it’s a trigger for the imagination.” – Writer and actor David Wood on children’s theatre (at an event at at London’s Piccadilly Theatre celebrating 50 years of Wood’s productions)
“Hey Disney, as The Lion King is coming up to its 20th year of earning you squillions of pounds, don’t you think it would be right and proper to pay for a masseuse to ease your hard-working performers’ aches and pains?” – Actor and playwright Kathy Burke (Twitter)
“The refrain of ‘PC limiting creativity’ is one of the most spurious myths in theatre. I’d love someone to quote me an example where that’s actually happened. Certainly for actresses and people of colour the possibilities of what roles we’re possibly considered for now are more open than they’ve ever been.” – Actor and writer Daniel York Loh (Twitter)
“It’s the people high up in these offices, or it’s the producers and the writers – that’s where the genuine working-class voices have to come through, because that will then give a platform for working-class actors to show what talent they really have. I think there’s an imbalance on that front.” – Actor Daniel Mays (Telegraph)
“After this, I’m not putting any limitations on myself. Anything is possible, honestly, it really is. If they could do like a drag version of Dreamgirls. If they wanted me to be the woman hotel keeper in Les Mis, I would do it. Mama Morton in Chicago… go ahead, I’ll do that too.” – Drag queen Vicky Vox, starring in Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (London Evening Standard)