Touring allowances don’t cover the cost of actors’ digs (your views, March 1)
Having provided theatrical digs in Norwich for more than 20 years, I hope I provide a clean and comfortable stay for actors (‘Outdated digs system puts touring at risk’). Although I have only slightly increased my prices, my gas, electricity and water rates have all gone up and I have to pay more for a parking permit.
I use the Theatre Digs Booker website and the Facebook Theatre List and am also on the Theatre Royal Norwich digs list, so I do get plenty of bookings. But I have suffered when someone who has booked well in advance cancels at the last minute, as I am sure actors have faced problems when their booking falls through. I always try to find alternative accommodation if I am full.
As an Equity member, now retired from the stage, I hope that my efforts to give actors a good welcome and a comfortable clean room, bathroom and use of my kitchen plus Wi-Fi are not antiquated.
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It’s not the cost of the digs that’s the problem – it’s the woeful touring allowance and subsistence payments.
If theatre people worked in any other industry, they would be provided with accommodation and given a food allowance. Seven nights in a budget hotel costs between £300 and £500 – that’s before you eat.
Why are we expected to survive on half of that and live in someone’s spare room? It’s time we were treated as professional adults, not exchange students.
Michael Crick has done us a favour by bringing attention to the very poor content of some theatre programmes. The actor’s biographies have to be there to satisfy their agents, but very few people are really interested in these dreary lists of previous appearances.
However, as Lyn Gardner says (Comment, February 22), some companies take the trouble to give extensive and interesting background material that will enhance the experience of seeing the play. I would add the new Bridge Theatre to her list, together with Dominic Dromgoole’s Classic Spring Season of Oscar Wilde plays at the Vaudeville. These programmes are so beautifully designed that even those boring biogs look elegant on the page. Oscar would have been so pleased.
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Bryony Lavery and Sphinx
I read with great interest the fascinating interview with my friend and past artistic collaborator, Bryony Lavery. She is a major force in British theatre.
However, could I offer a small amendment? In the list of landmark productions in her CV, Sphinx Theatre is not credited as producer of Goliath or A Wedding Story. Both were commissioned by Sphinx and transferred to the Bush and Soho, respectively, following critical acclaim on tour – and both were directed by the late, sorely missed, Annie Castledine.
Artistic director, Sphinx Theatre
Cast actors for ability, not race
Jack Lieberman’s suggestion that certain parts should be played only by Jewish actors (Letters, February 15) takes me back to 1986, when Martin Sheen was cast as Ned in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
Certain members of the gay community made similar comments about gay parts being the exclusive preserve of gay actors.
Some roles are, of necessity, race or gender-specific, but the name of the game is acting. Can you imagine the furore if Jewish actors were precluded from playing Christian roles, or gay actors heterosexual ones? Taken to its logical extreme, certain plays would become uncastable: only regicides for Macbeth or incestuous siblings for ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
Nobody wants to watch a cheap caricature, but that usually says something about the actor’s ability rather than his or her faith.
Quotes of the week
“With respect to the creatives who will be employed by these projects, I will say I’m concerned about a Broadway season that includes Pretty Woman, Carousel and My Fair Lady all at the same time. In 2017 is the correct message really ‘women are there to be rescued’?”
Composer Georgia Stitt (Twitter)
“It was a hugely difficult, political play, the kind of play that I suspect will be done in 20 years, in a smaller space, and people will go, ‘Well, this is a masterpiece.’”
Anne-Marie Duff on the National Theatre’s flop, Common (Times)
“I was talking with my Broadway producer and he said, ‘Why don’t you write a play about Harvey Weinstein?’ And so I did.”
Playwright David Mamet (Guardian)
“It’s a very positive thing that the West End is becoming more receptive to new drama, but until a West End theatre is run by an artistic director, it’s going to be hard for most commercial producers to get hold of very good new plays unless they can start providing commissions that are attractive to writers.”
Director Lindsay Posner (Exeunt)
“We want to thank Theatre Royal Drury Lane for not bumping us and bringing Follies in. It was pretty close.”
Mark Bramble, director of 42nd Street at the WhatsOnStage awards
“We feel we are going to become diva-esque if we make a complaint. Even now I am nervous when I stand up for myself – it’s hard because of the power structures that exist.”
Opera singer Kate Lindsey (Telegraph)
“Not every one-woman show needs to be compared to Fleabag. Women are not all the same. Historically, storytelling has reduced women to type so we’re not used to other offerings. Fleabag has become a catch-all for stories about women we’re not used to seeing on stage.”
Director Sara Joyce (Twitter)
“Life experiences inherently change you as a writer. My sense of fury calmed down when I had children and found a loving partner. But I’ve started to feel that anger again recently – and the stage is the best place to express it. To be specific, the play that I’m focused on at the moment is about the abuse of power within Hollywood and within my own industry.”
Playwright Abi Morgan (Guardian)
What you said on Facebook…
In the non-acting world, you don’t even get feedback most of the time, let alone anything else.
What makes me angry is the few actors who think they are more important than crew. I’ve had people barge past me, shout at me, call me names. There’s absolutely no need for it.
Charlotte Elizabeth Aston
Ridiculous contracts not explaining a job role annoy me, as does expecting assistant stage managers to do a company stage manager’s role for the same money – it’s exploitation and we need the support of the acting company. Actors really don’t understand the pressure stage managers are under. Don’t pay lip service to it: if your CSM is sacked, ask why; if your designer is crying, then ask a question.
I support a pay rise within ATG across the board but those in Richmond and Wimbledon don’t have to travel to zone 1 or have lunch there, which would merit an extra payment.
I’ve collected programmes for years, but all too often these days they are extortionately expensive and offer poor value for money. Some are little more than a cast list and advertising sheet.