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Towards fair pay on the fringe (your views, March 15)

Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock.com
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I am writing on behalf of Print Room at the Coronet in London, which was referenced in Alistair Smith’s Editor’s View column last week.

This is an important debate. However, concerning our own theatre, we are members of the Independent Theatre Council, rather than operating under the Equity Fringe Agreement. As a privately funded theatre without the benefit of public subsidy, we are committed to paying a fair wage for our artists.

The theatre has regularly paid a fair wage far above the Equity fringe minimum. We had already committed to pay our actors the Equity/ITC minimum rate of £471 a week from April onwards.

We are a small theatre and receive no regular Arts Council funding. As a result, we do face a different set of funding pressures. Nevertheless, our patrons and trustees have always held the interests of our artists paramount.

A core part of our charitable mission is to promote a diverse set of arts to our local audience and we can only do that while paying a fair wage. That is why our artists come back again and again to our theatre.

Nisha Modhwadia
Executive director, Print Room at the Coronet, London

In response to Phil Willmott’s column last week (‘Don’t pretend that fringe shows make enough to pay everyone’, Opinion, March 8), we who are involved in theatre in the UK know all too well the impossibility of making enough to pay a large group of actors and creatives (let’s not forget the crew) in a small venue.

However, most audience members at those shows will not necessarily be aware of the realities. How about a note in the programme to say “nobody in this production has been paid for their time”? Informing the general public can’t be a bad move.

Maggie Turner
Via thestage.co.uk

Great article by Willmott – the fringe theatre has indeed improved with the help of Equity. I worked in the 1980s in the London fringe and countless creatives and technicians gained the experience they needed – some became known, others contributed to the depth and breadth of the theatre tradition in the UK.

Of course, there was a time when actors could supplement their work in theatre by doing commercials and corporate training videos. I would find the argument about being low paid or not paid more relevant in regard to major corporations using actors in advertising and internal training films for little to no money, which appears to be increasingly common.

Celia Carron
via thestage.co.uk

I’m writing in a personal capacity to thank Mark Shenton for his decision not to review shows failing to pay workers and treat them fairly (Comment, March 1).

Mark Shenton: Why I will no longer review shows that don’t pay actors and crew

I’m also pleased that, after tweets from stage managers, Mark extended his brief from actors to include all participants. Stage managers, technicians and creative team workers are often the most abused and mistreated members of any low pay/no pay production.

The era of producers and venues making a living based on the exploitative model of unpaid labour is drawing to an end. The work of Equity in partnership with industry trade associations has highlighted and tackled the abuses that have been accepted for too long.

Adam Burns
Email address supplied

Actor-audience boundaries

Hooray for Lyn Gardner (‘It’s time to discuss protecting performers in immersive shows’, Comment, March 8). I was so pleased to read her column on the risk of abuse from audience members, having thought this for a very long time.

Lyn Gardner: It’s time to discuss protecting performers in immersive shows

Audiences are encouraged, like so much else today, to be more ‘interactive’ than they were. So, yes, a thought for performers’ protection is so welcome.

Carole Woddis
Via thestage.co.uk

This is a very important matter. It is a sad fact that people are far less self-constrained than they used to be and frequently will push any kind of boundary as if it were their right to be obnoxious, aggressive and offensive. As professionals going about their jobs, artists should indeed be properly and consistently protected.

Noelle Virginia Greenaway
Via thestage.co.uk

The actor sets the relationship – if they touch you then they should fully expect the same in return. Reciprocation doesn’t mean escalation, it just means responding in kind/in role. If an actor slaps you in the face they get a slap back! If they seduce you with some touchy-feely stuff, then inevitably that invites a response.

James Lang
Via Facebook

Some behaviour by performers at immersive theatre doesn’t help. I have been to a Punchdrunk show on several occasions and, although there was no sexual assault, some performers would get very close with people, flirting and touching them in a seductive manner – sometimes alone without witnesses. Combined with alcohol consumption, being alone in a dark place, and the notion that usual theatrical boundaries are gone, it doesn’t surprise me that there are incidences of sexual assault.

In no way am I condoning sexual assault. My point is that I’m not surprised it has happened. I once had a performer at an immersive show lead me by the hand to a private room to perform a ‘one to one’ scene. The performer held me tight close to him, pressed himself up against me and heavy-breathed down my neck. All of this without any prior consent. No other staff were present. I felt it was too far.

Yes, there ought to be protection – both for performers and for those who visit such shows.

Pippa Craig
Via Facebook

Quotes of the week

David Oyelowo. Photo: Tristram Kenton
David Oyelowo. Photo: Tristram Kenton

“The Leonardo DiCaprios and the Ryan Goslings, they get to break earlier than black actors do. You sort of need to plough away for longer, as a black actor, to get a degree of fame and, more often than not, you have to play a historical figure somewhere; basically a role that a white actor couldn’t play.”
David Oyelowo (Guardian)

“When I came into the arts it was very scary, I’d come in as the CEO of this sort-of last-ditched thing and I’d never run anything, and the female role models I found were hugely important.”
Outgoing ENO chief executive Cressida Pollock, speaking at Women of the World festival

“Actors and directors are more likely to come from a wider variety of backgrounds so there are more voices, more stories being told. And theatre has very nimbly absorbed influences from other creative forms – from art, from sculpture, from film – so the level of visual skills is terrific.”
Director Michael Boyd on the changes he has seen during his 40-year career (Spectator)

“I am busy, but I’m often not busy, and like everyone I know in this business, I always think: that’s it. There’s more work for 35-year-olds [he is 54]. That’s why, when I talk at drama schools, I tell the students to consider taking the reins from day one. Make stuff, I say. There are deeper satisfactions when you’re not placing your id on the line by waiting for someone else to endorse you.”
Jason Isaacs (Observer)

“With the death of Ken Dodd, many theatre staff will not merely be mourning the loss of a comedy legend, but also the loss of all that overtime. He may have short-changed the inland revenue, but never the audience.”
Robin Ince (Twitter)

“Imagine trying to describe being an actor to an alien race. ‘I pretend to be other people, someone films it and then a year later, I spend a bunch of time talking about how I managed to play another person – but really I’m bragging about myself.’ ”
Joel Edgerton (Independent)

“ENO should never be in a position where someone is performing while having the hum of internal politics in their ears.”
Stuart Murphy, new CEO of English National Opera (Observer)

“Remembering Ken Dodd performing at @crucibletheatre. We had to order taxis home for all the staff; his set finished after midnight (and nobody wanted a second less). May we all fill 90 years so well.”
Actor Samuel West (Twitter

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk
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