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Could you save Farnham’s historic Redgrave theatre? (your views, August 9)

The Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, Surrey. Photo: Theatres Trust

A last call for the Redgrave Theatre – its demolition is planned to take place [1] between December 10, 2018 and March 4, 2019, according to developers.

The contentious and overbearing Brightwells development in Farnham’s historic town centre is apparently to go ahead after 15 years of stagnation.

In 2002, Patrick Sandford wrote, from the Southampton Nuffield, about the Redgrave: “This is an auditorium, as far as I know, unique in the country. There is no other theatre with an auditorium of such real intimacy that has a large stage area. The acoustics of the space are impeccable – there is not a dead spot in the house. The curved shape of the seating arrangement gives a good view from every seat… The future of live theatre can only live in relatively small buildings where ‘liveness’ is palpable. The Redgrave is such a space par excellence.”

Earlier this year, Malcolm Sinclair, the outgoing president of Equity, wrote: “For an important town such as Farnham to leave itself with no purpose-built theatre building whatsoever? This seems to be an extraordinary act of self-harm.”

The Farnham Theatre Association is producing a booklet with a foreword by Stephen Mangan to commemorate Farnham’s two famous theatres, the Redgrave [2] and its predecessor, the tiny Castle Theatre. We welcome recollections from anyone previously involved in those venues to add to those we already have.

We also issued an open letter inviting new ideas for the Brightwells site, should the present retail scheme be ditched. To benefit future generations of the increasingly heavily populated catchment areas of Surrey and Hampshire, we ask: “Is there anyone who could take this treasured small venue out of the hands of the local authority and bring it to life once more, before it is too late?”

Anne Cooper
Farnham Theatre Association chair
Email address supplied

May welcome at Ambassadors

I was mentioned by Tabard last week, concerning the prime minister’s visit to Pressure [3] at the Ambassadors. She met the cast afterwards and Tabard wrote that I didn’t appear to be gushing over her, and Tabard hoped I told her what for.

Diary: Malcolm Sinclair’s cold front for Theresa May [4]

At the risk of appearing to have no sense of humour, may I say, I hope I never gush over anyone, and telling people what for is not my style.

We were very pleased May and her husband came to the theatre; I wish more of our lords and masters did the same. She was extremely nice to the cast afterwards as we discussed the evening. It is of course true that Equity opposes Brexit and a whole raft of government policies, as do I. I’ve never voted Conservative in my life. I did gently suggest some of her cabinet colleagues might come and see a play where those in charge listen to ‘experts’. Without committing herself, she seemed to take that in good part.

As I say, we were very happy she came. Telling those you disagree with ‘what for’ is, I know, the fashion, particularly over social media. But it destroys debate. As actors we are supposed to listen to each other.

Malcolm Sinclair
Equity president, 2010-2018
Email address supplied

Memories of Braham Murray

Braham Murray’s death comes as a shock (Obituaries, August 2). I thought of him as a younger version of myself – our families lived opposite each other in north London.

Obituary: Manchester Royal Exchange co-founder Braham Murray [5]

When it was obvious that all the West End theatre owners were determined Joe Orton’s Loot was not to come to the West End (though I remained convinced, despite the clamour, that the production I had toured with, including a fabulous cast of Kenneth Williams, Geraldine McEwan, Ian McShane and Duncan Macrae, would have survived and found an audience), I told Orton I would introduce him to Murray, who was running the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. We had become friends when I transferred Braham’s production of Hang Down Your Head and Die from the Playhouse in Oxford to the Comedy, now the Harold Pinter, in London. The three of us met outside Madame Tussauds.

The Manchester production was a success but, for some reason, Oscar Lewenstein, a producer I revered, said he wanted to bring the play to London but with Charles Marowitz directing, not Braham. He asked me to join him but I thought Loot was now a spectre that was haunting me. The play opened at the Criterion, received an Evening Standard Award although, I believe, never recouped.

Braham was stoical about this and went on to gain huge respect for his work in Manchester.

Michael Codron
Email address supplied

Does levy not pay Mackintosh bill?

Congratulations to Cameron Mackintosh for putting his money where his mouth is in planning major refurbishment for his theatres (News, August 2, p2), but don’t his comments about the cost beg the question: what’s happened to the “restoration levies” added to the cost of tickets for years?

Les Miserables to leave West End home as venue undergoes renovation [6]

At a West End average of £1.25 a ticket over 15 million paid admissions a year, that’s a sizeable amount of cash. With nine theatres, Delfont Mackintosh restoration income should be a 20% chunk of the annual total, presumably sitting on account for this purpose. Of course technical and safety improvements across the estate will cost millions, but wouldn’t Cameron like to acknowledge his audiences have already contributed a fair amount to the bill as well?

Don Keller
Email address supplied

Quotes of the week

Holly Race Roughan
Holly Race Roughan

“I feel that part of being a young woman director is having to deal with ego the whole time. The more I do the job, the more I realise it is 90% ego management and 10% creativity.” – Director Holly Race Roughan (Times)

“Last night, our friend @RuthieAnnMiles was a triumph in @KingandIWestEnd. Every moment was a gift and continues to be. She is singing like an angel and commanding the stage with a heavenly force. An inspiration to all. I knew you would want to know.” – Actor Kelli O’Hara (Twitter)

As a kid I would write on the shower wall, ‘Please God let me be an actor.’ I think when I was around eight or 10 something happened in middle school where I went to this camp and fell deeply in love with performing. I was baying at the moon about it.” – Actor Jeff Goldblum (Times)

“I am completely behind receiving a #YesOrNo from castings. Not only is it respectful, it would also be a vital improvement towards combating mental heath issues in the industry.” – Actor Nadia Emam (Twitter)

“It’s important to us that opera is accessible to all. If people grow up never having been to opera, they build this misconception that it is not for them.” – Glyndebourne managing director Sarah Hopwood (Telegraph)

“Theatre turns in circles, so there are moments where there are urban stories and moments where that changes. I actually thought there would be a bit more work concerned with the countryside after Jerusalem. I thought it would allow buildings to look at the countryside, but it didn’t feel like that happened.” – Playwright Simon Longman, (Whatsonstage)

“I can pay the bills doing what I love and I’m able to fish. I’ve got a really wonderful life. And if people still see me as a heart-throb, great.” – Actor Robson Green (Telegraph)


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