On top of The Stage 100: Vicky Featherstone leads the way (your views, January 11)
Like many of your readers, I was delighted to see Vicky Featherstone top The Stage 100 (this publication’s list of the most influential individuals in UK theatre). I’d like to add to the voices publicly thanking her for her leadership and inspiration.
On October 28, along with many in the industry, I visited the Royal Court’s Day of Action. I’d emailed Vicky earlier in the week, and we talked more that day.
When I walked into the building, I did not plan to make public my own experience with Theresa May’s closest cabinet colleague, Damian Green. By the time I left, I had come to realise I could and I should. Three days later, I wrote in the Times that Green had seemed to proposition me while offering career mentorship.
Two months later, Green has resigned and Westminster is finally beginning to address its issues of sexual harassment. Leaders like Vicky are changing the world well beyond the theatre industry.
A week later, defending my decision in the Sunday Times, I wrote: “While the arts world, like Westminster, assesses its complicity in sexual harassment, I have been thinking of the many women and young men who have confided in me over the years about harassment by well-known industry leaders.
“I have often wished I could persuade them to break cover. When I examined my conscience, I realised I could not even privately encourage other women to tell their stories if I was not prepared to tell mine first.”
I have heard too many tales from female assistant directors pursued persistently by their artistic directors; young men propositioned by a drama school teacher with connections to agents. At the Evening Standard Awards last year, Phoebe Waller-Bridge called out predators, “You creepy bastards who think you got away with it.”
There will be abuses we can never prove. But each case we bring is a warning shot to those who’ve pressured their mentees for sex, or selfishly built relationships across power lines without a moment of self-reflection.
New codes for sexual conduct in the industry may not force another round of resignations, but they blow the last whistle on those who still claim ignorance of the basic rules of consent.
I’m profoundly grateful to Vicky and to all those in the arts who have supported me in the last few months. I’ve felt heard and believed by artists to whom I’ve given the toughest of reviews, writers who have political disagreements with the outlets I write for and producers who have every reason to bear me a grudge.
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The Stage 100 and BAME talent
The Stage 100 says more about the people compiling the list than anything else. For example, the inclusion of just six black Britons beggars belief. It was more than surprising that director Paulette Randall wasn’t on the list – especially since she was on the 2012 Olympic Committee. Playwright Ayub Khan-Din was another glaring omission – he is the author of East Is East, one of Theatre Royal Stratford East’s most successful productions.
And there was no room for Clarke Peters, the actor and writer whose Five Guys Named Moe is on at the Marble Arch.
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There is much that is wonderful in David Hare’s recent article on his ideal theatre in the Guardian. But in response to his provocations about fundraising and staff, I have a few words.
There are many highly committed engaged and supportive sponsors, major philanthropists, and donors, who choose to give to theatre, who feel that charitable support is an important part of a healthy society and who are as far as is possible from being “indifferent”.
In general theatres are indeed, as Hare writes, “staffed by people who love it, and who are benefiting immeasurably from its special power”. Often when they leave at the end of an afternoon they have been at work for many hours in a wide range of essential roles, often not recognised and unsung, all enabling audiences to enjoy theatre, and ensuring theatres are sustainable for years to come.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Hamilton opens on West End
All this talk about how wonderful and original Hamilton is. In 1976 I saw, in the West End, an excellent musical about the writing of the US constitution called 1776. Does anyone remember it? I still sing the songs and remember the finale – with the striking of the 13 bells – with great affection.
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Quotes of the week
“I’ve always loved how intimate that space is; you can look everyone in the eye. And because the space changes for every show, it’s always a surprise when you come up those stairs. Nothing is a given.”
Artistic director Ellen McDougall on London’s Gate Theatre (Observer)
“Audiences have lost one of the pleasures of theatregoing – the link between particular houses and particular actors. You can rarely expect at any current venue to see the progress and versatility of a single actor.”
Playwright David Hare (Guardian)
“If anybody has a problem with the colour of my skin or the sound of my voice, truly and honestly it’s their problem.”
Actor Lucian Msamati (Telegraph)
“The role that I would love to play is Iago in Othello. Why? Because I’ve never fully got to grips with him. I think that he’s fascinating. You never fully understand why it is that he acts as he does.”
Actor Kenny Doughty (Yorkshire Post)
“Male actors now have to decide if they are willing to play supporting roles to female leads, and often it seems men don’t want to. They’re more than happy to play a supporting role to Christian Bale – another man.”
Actor Rosamund Pike (BBC Radio 4)
“The new Equity logo is rolling out. Sorry guys, we tried to tell them it was dreadful, but they went ahead anyway.”
Actor Cliff Chapman (Twitter)
“If you decide to have a kid you just have to deal with it. But I do think that there could be help in big theatres. The National? Where the fuck is the creche? Maybe it’s not as simple as that, but it would enable so many people to go back to work.”
Actor Rosalie Craig (Times)
“I want to ensure that those voices that have not been heard at the Gate before – the women writers and directors – are given a platform. I want to empower them.”
Selina Cartmell, artistic director, Gate Theatre, Dublin (Guardian)
“I’ve mentioned the play to my mum and told her the title and she didn’t really ask anything, except if ‘twat’ was a real word. I said I guessed that at some point it wasn’t…”
Anoushka Warden on her play My Mum’s a Twat (Observer)
What you said on Facebook…
It’s not confined to drama, cuts are threatened across the whole of the performing arts, music, dance as well as drama.
About audiences taking offence at John Barrowman apparently inviting them to chant “Alice loves Dick” at Dick Whittington at Manchester Opera House…
The only thing wrong with chanting “Alice loves Dick” is the parents’ imaginations. The children will just think she loves him.
The fact he is in Dick Whittington means he has to use the word Dick. If you don’t like that sort of humour, don’t go.
Our local panto had the usual innuendos, but the physicality of the actors’ mannerisms was too ‘in your face’. This is where pantos are going wrong, they don’t need to be so obvious.
All it takes is for one to fall, and not only will their friends and families be devastated, but the people of the National may lose their jobs.
If someone got that far through your building without setting an alarm off, you’d be asking questions of your maintenance department.