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How to find London fringe theatre venues, and more (your views, September 20)

A selection of London fringe venues, clockwise from top left: the King's Head, Finborough, Southwark Playhouse, Park Theatre, Soho Theatre and the Union Theatre. Photos: Simon J Webb/Matthew Turner/Safavi PR A selection of London fringe venues, clockwise from top left: the King's Head, Finborough, Southwark Playhouse, Park Theatre, Soho Theatre and the Union Theatre. Photos: Simon J Webb/Matthew Turner/Safavi PR
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I enjoyed Phil Willmott’s article, ‘Top tips on choosing the best fringe venue for you’ (The Half, August 30, p25).

However, there was one rather important omission. How do theatre companies find the contact details of all these wonderful venues, especially if it’s a new company from outside London?

It’s handy to have an online list of fringe theatres and the majority of London venues can be found at sitgb.org, the very useful website of the Society of Independent Theatres. This website gives a direct link to more than 40 fringe/small-scale theatres.

The London Theatre Consortium website, londontheatreconsortium.com, is another useful resource. The LTC looks after the larger subsidised venues around the capital.

SIT looks forward to welcoming new theatre companies to all our venues.

John Plews
Artistic director, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Board member, SIT

Covers deserve to be credited

With reference to the letter ‘Covers must be announced’ (August 23), I would not want to know that an understudy was being substituted.

But I do love to see the cover escorted out of the line-up to the centre stage, and the announcement then credited.

This is so powerful, to think the part was played to perfection at such short notice. Applause reaches a crescendo.

Martin Lightfoot
Peterborough

Kiln Theatre: if names could kill

Regarding the controversy surrounding the renaming of The Tricycle Theatre, I think people are missing the point.

For me, it’s not a matter of “heritage”, it’s a matter of marketing. It’s just a very bad name.

For one thing, it’s monosyllabic, which makes it difficult to understand. People will be forever asking: “The what theatre?”

Read more about Kiln Theatre

For many, “kiln” is an obscure word, and for those who actually use kilns, one of the accepted pronunciations is with a silent ‘n’.

Whether pronounced that way or not, it will sound like people are advocating “Kill Theatre”.

It’s not anti-heritage. It’s just stupid.

Colin Stinton
Email address supplied

A Brunskill and Loveday request

I look after the archive of Brunskill and Loveday Limited, a firm that, last century, built the scenery for more than 5,000 London and regional shows.

When aged only 24, my father, Ted Loveday (co-founder of B&L), built most of the scenery for the first show that went into the London Coliseum in 1904 (when it was opened as a variety theatre).

Sadly, although we hold more than 7,000 programmes for B&L shows as well as, thanks to the Victoria and Albert Museum, some details of John Brunskill’s Gilbert and Sullivan work (he had been master carpenter for the D’Oyly Carte Company), we do not hold any programme for that first Coliseum show nor for any of Brunskill’s Gilbert and Sullivan shows.

While much attention was given to the talent of actors, it saddens me that many of the hard-working artisans behind the scenes received less recognition. Our archive attempts to redress this, but we have many gaps and invite readers of The Stage to submit any of the missing programmes (see theatrical-scenery.info) or indeed the programme for that first show at the Coliseum in December 1904.

Ted Loveday
Email address supplied

Liz Fraser and The Stage

When I interviewed her at her riverside flat in Fulham in 2012, Liz Fraser (Obituary, September 13, p43) was keen to point out that The Stage played a vital role in kick-starting her career when, on leaving the London School of Dramatic Art, she placed an advertisement in our columns offering her acting services.

“I had four replies,” she recalled. “Two of them asked for payment in exchange for work, one was from a man asking to meet me at the Grosvenor Hotel, and one was from Accrington rep, offering me a job as an acting assistant stage manager, which I took. I didn’t have an agent so I had to use my initiative.”

Obituary: Carry On star Liz Fraser

Far from being the dumb blonde she so often played in films, Fraser sustained a stage and screen career that spanned six decades, played the stock market and acquired a property portfolio that provided a tidy income in the lean times.

Nick Smurthwaite
Email address supplied

Blow your luck

I’ve always understood that the superstition about offstage whistling (Nigel Herbert’s letter, April 19) also had practical roots, from the early days when flats and stage machinery were moved by pulleys and capstans – still to be seen in situ at the beautifully preserved Swedish court theatre in Drottningholm.

As this machinery was often operated by ex-sailors, who communicated with the whistles formerly used in mid-ocean gales, human whistling backstage could risk all kinds of danger and mayhem.

Or is this just an old (fish-)wives’ tale?

Don Keller
Address supplied

Quote of the week

Marianne Elliott. Photo: Helen Maybanks
Marianne Elliott. Photo: Helen Maybanks

“I think it will be interesting when they [female directors] start having babies. We’re not well paid. There’s no childcare, and there are times when it’s an almost round-the-clock job.” – Marianne Elliott on the rise in the number of female theatre directors (Observer)

“In the theatre you have one ear constantly on how the audience is receiving it and shift things accordingly. With film, in the past, you’d be thinking about acting ‘for’ the camera, but cameras are lighter and digital now.” – Actor Jonathan Pryce (Observer)

“Growing up, I didn’t see any Asians on TV, and there probably was a part of me that said, ‘I want to be part of a change.’ But I didn’t know that it would be possible or how it might happen.” – Actor Gemma Chan (Times)

“Last night I saw Bat Out Of Hell the Musical with my playwright buddy Nicky Silver, which is the most surreal theater Mad Libs pairing I could devise, we had the best time. The show is loud and bonkers and romantic and weird and the talented cast sings the BEJEEZUS out of those Steinman tunes, holy hell. Which is *exactly* what I want in a Jim Steinman musical, give me all the exploding motorcycles and wolf metaphors and forever teenagers belting please.” – Composer, writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (Twitter)

“My company @New_Adventures has been doing this for years for our lengthy London seasons and UK tours! Having a family doesn’t mean you have to stop your career as a performer. Good on @42ndStreetLDN.” – Choreographer Matthew Bourne on the West End’s first job share (Twitter)

“I really like the work ethic [in the UK]. Actors are extremely well trained. So many people come from theatre so the concept of a company of actors is not a foreign thing. There’s a different type of reality, a groundedness.” – US actor Sandra Oh (Times)

“As someone who has never been employed even as a spear carrier in Shakespeare, I’m slightly fed up with having to defend my career choices to folk who haven’t a clue what it’s like to hang on to a freelance career for 38 years. Yes, actually, I would do a soap; yes, I’d love a nice sit-down quiz show; yes, I’d kill to do Strictly, and yes, I did enjoy my stint on Loose Women (before I was sacked).” – Comedian, writer and actor Jenny Eclair (Independent)

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