We must take steps to improve show contracts (your views, July 5)
The report ‘Collapse of Millie tour prompts warning over ‘ropey’ contracts’ (News, June 28, p1) outlines a problem with contracts for artists and also theatre backstage staff working on terms other than national agreements with the Stage Management Association.
SMA members are able to send any contract to us for advice and help before they sign anything. Recently we have seen and advised members about a number of cases in which contracts made promises about notice pay that would mislead workers into believing that the pay would happen if the company went into liquidation: in the vast majority of cases this would not be true.
It has been suggested that provisions could be made for managers using non-union contracts to be required to lodge a payment ‘in escrow’ providing funds to be paid to workers in such cases, or notice pay if a contract failed to run its full term.
While not particularly simple or quick to implement, such an arrangement would most likely have the support of SMA, other backstage associations and the unions as well as management bodies, who all have an interest when workers lose out if companies simply run out of funds or declare themselves insolvent.
It would constitute a major improvement in the conditions of the large number of freelance theatre workers not currently working under union agreements, and so be well worth the effort to work together to implement a solution to this issue.
Stage Management Association
In the film industry ‘completion guarantees’ insure against a producer failing to deliver. Is it not time the theatre industry and the key unions started to demand something similar?
The business desperately needs better models to fund, produce and tour shows and protect cast and creatives. Who will take the lead? Arts Council England, the unions or a philanthropic entrepreneur? Probably none of the above.
Why did regional box office fall?
I wonder whether the fall in regional ticket sales (‘Has UK theatre reached a tipping point?’, Editor’s View, June 7, p6) has less to do with ticket prices than with people tiring of endless musicals, most of which have been around the block several times, as well as 1960s pop packages and dance shows?
Abandoning the West End for TV
In response to ‘Dreamgirls performer who quit for Love Island ‘facing legal action from production company’ ’ (thestage.co.uk, June 15) – on the one hand, Samira Mighty has clearly behaved in a very unprofessional manner. Her behaviour is inconsiderate and clearly deserving of condemnation.
But on the other hand, might this not be a case of producers reaping what they themselves have sown? The clear message sent to jobbing actors over the past decade or so has been that experience, professionalism and even ability are trumped by profile every time.
It seems that Mighty has simply taken them at their word. It might backfire for her, and she may be successfully sued and unofficially blacklisted – but I don’t think West End producers should kid themselves about who created the environment that made her think that this was a good idea.
Name and email address supplied
Covent Garden shambles
What is the Royal Opera House for? My recent visit confirmed my suspicion that the place is a building site in which expensive productions are staged.
Audiences are struggling to find the cloakroom, toilets and an amphitheatre bar that no longer exists. Patrons are continually exhorted to make donations towards every aspect of the companies’ works, yet there is no indication of when the Linbury Studio might reopen.
Why did the trustees commission the project while the house was still open? The previous renovation was done with the building closed and productions staged in other venues.
Perhaps the opera house should have been demolished and a new one built on the site, as was done for Sadler’s Wells.
Theatre Girls’ Club project
Did you stay at the Theatre Girls’ Club in London’s Soho before its closure in 1973? Would you be willing to share your memories?
The club was set up in 1915 to keep young female performers safe from the perils of the West End (and to make sure they had regular meals). By 1973, this all seemed a bit old-fashioned. This and funding problems brought an end to the hostel after nearly 60 years.
We both stayed at the club in the late 1960s and are now writing a book about it, as well as what went before and came after at 59 Greek Street. We would love to hear from Equity members who lived or stayed at the Theatre Girls’ Club, or knew anyone who did, and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.
More information about the project can be found at deborahlavin.co.uk/category/projects.Please contact us via the email addresses below.
Quotes of the week
“Strangers sharing sun cream in the stalls: that’s a theatrical experience I’ve never had before. Thank you, @OpenAirTheatre. #TheTurnoftheScrew.” – Critic Fiona Mountford (Twitter)
“@Gillian_Lynne was one of the most important, constant and supportive figures in my theatrical career and the most beautiful lady inside and out. @peterland_uk I’m heartbroken for you and all of us who loved her. RIP gorgeous Gillie. Class personified xxx.” – Performer Michael Ball (Twitter)
“I know I’m not alone; women in my industry are put under constant scrutiny for their looks. It affects male actors as well – I had messages from them – but the vast majority of feedback was from women. Something in our society tells us that women’s bodies are fair game for scrutiny in a way that men’s simply are not.” – Actor Nicola Coughlan (Guardian)
“If the majority of reviewers are white old men, then what bodies signify is very limited and – as a black woman – dangerous and damaging. I don’t trust any old white dude to comment on my body. Noooooo waaaaaay.” – Actor Susan Wokoma (Twitter)
“I had built up a bit of a fear of the theatre as I hadn’t done it for so long. It was eight or nine years and I was waiting for the right play and the right theatre.” – Actor Tuppence Middleton on returning to the stage in The One (WhatsOnStage)
“Carey Mulligan [is] one of the most compelling stage actresses of her generation… For the more than 100 uninterrupted minutes that make up Dennis Kelly’s Girls and Boys, in which Ms Mulligan is the entire cast, you are unconditionally hers.” – Critic Ben Brantley (New York Times)
“You can’t afford to have an ego in theatre, especially if you are a writer. Because, can you think of a more collaborative art?” – Playwright Mike Poulton (The Times)
“I’m still a show-off and understand the relationship of actor to the audience. When I commit to an actor, it is my responsibility to make them brilliant, to take away fear.” – Director Emma Rice (Observer)
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