In praise of Deborah Aydon, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres’ outgoing director (your views, September 27)
Deborah Aydon’s boat arrived into the Royal Albert Dock just as mine set sale (‘Liverpool theatres’ Deborah Aydon steps down’). A born-and-bread Scouser, I left for Reading University in 2002 expecting to return three years later, only I never did. Deborah came to the Everyman and Playhouse the following year, and in the intervening 15 years, it has been at the fore of a remarkable transformation of my home city.
No place I know has a greater sense of self and civic pride than Liverpool. So when Deborah arrived in Liverpool, born in Oxfordshire and schooled in Kent, I dare say she was greeted by some as an outsider. This was likely compounded by the fact her partner throughout, Gemma Bodinetz, is London-born and South-East bred. Geography matters in Liverpool.
Their collective achievements over 15 years are remarkable. What matters to my family and I is the civic pride they have encouraged.
People who know the Everyman, and specifically the legendary Everyman Bistro, talk of it in mythic terms. It was the first place I ever had a gay date, and it’s also the place where I first kissed a man in public.
But the challenges faced by this duo were tremendous. How could they take a loved but crumbling pair of buildings, capitalise on the European Capital of Culture, and think big decades down the line? It was a challenge mirrored across all of Liverpool.
The Liverpool I left as a teenager no longer exists. But what’s remarkable is that although it’s a more modern, diverse and economically prosperous city, it’s still Scouse. The same can be said for the Everyman redevelopment. When I visited the new Bistro last year on tour with a HighTide show, it was how I remembered, just as busy, friendly and diverse – only better.
What’s so impressive about the Everyman is the efforts Deborah and Gemma have made to engage the community. The facade of the building is composed of the portraits of more than 100 residents. The creation of the Everyman is a magnificent effort, and the board of Liverpool Theatres needs a remarkable leader such as Deborah to energise it for decades to come.
From my position as a Liverpudlian, I would like to thank and congratulate Deborah and Gemma, and I know the cultural sector in any community would be lucky if Deborah chooses to lead another project there.
Artistic director, HighTide
Auditions are scary enough
Think this is bad (‘Panto company under fire for holding X-Factor style audition’), try auditioning in the US. It’s not called a ‘cattle-call’ for nothing. After consulting on a group audition, the auditioners gather together and select the actors being called back. Then the stage manager goes down the line and says, “yes” or “no”, the actors with a “yes” stay, the others slowly move out of the room, mumbling and grumbling. A Chorus Line had it right.
What a humiliating way to conduct an audition. The powers-that-be know people are eager to be successful and apparently have no consideration for the feelings of auditionees.
I have read accounts where the auditionee has come on stage, but not got as far as centre stage – much less starting their piece – before hearing “next” from the stalls…
Backstage staff deserve pay rise
Let’s hope BECTU follows suit (‘West End calls for pay rises and flexible working’) to campaign for those who work 12 or more hours a day putting shows together and maintaining them. Lighting, sound, wardrobe, automation, carpenters, stage crew, projection and more. It is extremely difficult to work these jobs once you have children or caring responsibilities. Those kind of hours are not conducive to family life. Touring even more so. This business has a culture of working long hours.
Why should actors have to work six days a week and eight shows on average? They have no spare time, especially touring casts. The increases in ticket prices must have gone into someone’s pockets and it’s time it filtered to the cast.
Victoria Louise Langley
It shouldn’t just be the West End. I love how these “ambitious” conditions are being mooted for the West End contract, while those working in the regions and on tour lag behind yet again.
Guy Benedict Jones
The crew should also be thought about – first in the building and last out, we have families too.
Charlotte Elizabeth Aston
In case anyone hadn’t realised, only stage managers and actors work on theatre shows. The lights, sound, video, costumes, staging and automation all just do themselves. Or at least that’s what Equity has heard… And does theatre not exist outside of London?
Furthermore, Equity is choosing to fight the easy fight – the one with West End theatres, where the prices are so high they might have money spare to provide mild improvements. No such support for regional or fringe theatre.
The relocation fee the Society of London Theatre and Equity suggest is bizarre – that will surely just make producers more likely to select candidates closer to London, to avoid a massive bolt-on payment.
Quotes of the week
“A theatre recently asked for a meeting with me, then cancelled it with a few days’ notice. Cost me a £200 train tix. Rescheduled (I find it hard to say no) and then [they] cancelled it again because they no longer want to meet me. Just in case anyone starting out thinks the bullshit ever stops.” – Slung Low artistic director Alan Lane (Twitter)
“I don’t know who these women are, that are meant to be in their 40s and 50s, wearing elasticated waists and comfortable shoes. I think we’ve got to start catching up with what women are really like. Maybe some men could do with getting out and seeing what real women are doing?” – Actor Lesley Sharp on the depiction of older women (Evening Standard)
“I don’t hold it against people who went to Eton – it’s produced some marvellous actors. But they have had everything handed to them. Someone asked me to speak there and I thought, ‘Why should I put myself out for those boys?’ So I went and gave a talk at a comprehensive instead.” – Actor Eileen Atkins (Telegraph)
“Who *doesn’t* take a pork pie with them on their way to @TheStage Debut Awards? Thanks @josierourke’s fab mum for keeping poor-time-keeping playwrights fed. And happy #debutawards to all the exciting emerging talent being recognised.” – Playwright James Graham (Twitter)
“In many musicals and plays, you’re either very upper class or you’re just poor. There’s a whole forgotten middle group. It reflects the lack of featured working-class actors in the industry. It’s nice to play what I am: working class, ambitious, and not just poor. Leah feels really close to home.” – Actor Nancy Sullivan on her role in Fabric (Broadway World)
“Diversity, yeah… this diversion to the norm. Tell me, who gets to say what’s a diversion and what’s ordinary? I don’t wanna be a diversion. I’ve been on buses that have been diverted. That shit ain’t fun. Pisses everyone off. It’s long.” – Writer and actor Arinze Kene (i)
“I didn’t feel like a minority until I became an actor. Suddenly I was being treated as if I was some sort of rare unicorn because I’ve got a name that’s ‘hard to say’.” – Actor Danusia Samal (Guardian)
“Just got email from @E_N_O promoting the “all-female creative team” behind their forthcoming Salome. Excitedly went to book, only to find it is being translated by a man, and will be conducted by another man. Figured someone should point this out.” – Composer, writer and director Sam Kenyon (Twitter)