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Remembering RSC voice coach Cicely Berry – ‘an inspiration’ (your views, October 25)

Cicely Berry. Photo: RSC
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It was a wonderful experience to have Cicely Berry work on plays of mine at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s and 1990s.

She was far more than a ‘voice coach’ – she was a great, practical theorist about drama; she thought that playwriting and acting were actually the same activity, that language and action in the theatre should be one.

I am sad to hear that she is gone, but celebrate her. ‘Speak the speech, I pray you…’ Yes, Cis.

I am very upset that so many great people who have helped me in the theatre have now gone. I hope the cliché ‘we live on in each other’ is true. But how I wish I could have one more big bash about plays, theatre, the world over a bottle of wine with…

Howard Brenton
Via thestage.co.uk

Obituary: Cicely Berry – ‘RSC’s pioneering vocal coach who transformed theatre practice’

Let’s reflect on NSS’ fatal flaw

To add to the comments that Susan Elkin’s article about the National Student Survey (October 18, p23) elicited from colleagues online, let’s also pause to reflect on NSS’ fatal flaw.

Can the National Student Survey help you pick your drama training?

Students are invited to comment on their three training years across a variety of services: facilities, staff, feedback and so on. The key question now is: what are they comparing institutions with to reach any meaningful judgement?

They’ve never been anywhere else. What, one presumes, they are assessing are their own expectations against a lived reality.

How do we know we aren’t being assessed against a youngster’s fantasy?

Mark Featherstone-Witty
Founding principal/chief executive officer
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

Wrong take on tickets issue

Dave Bond’s issue with selecting single seats online (Letters, October 18, p6) is, I think, a misunderstanding.

Common sense prevails as Billy Elliot returns to Hungary (your views, October 18)

The system is not preventing the purchase of a single seat. Instead, it is preventing the selection of seats that would leave a single seat available.

I’ve been to the Love Theatre site and tried what Bond describes and I was able to select a single seat anywhere as long as my selection didn’t leave an adjacent single seat vacant.

This practice is common on most online platforms, and is designed to prevent customers leaving a gap between themselves and other customers, thus avoiding a proliferation of single seats that are then unlikely to sell.

The protocol certainly doesn’t discriminate against people going to the theatre alone, as the same applies to any quantity of seats selected – try selecting five out of a row of six available and it won’t let you.

Richard Purkiss
Mumford Theatre and Ruskin Gallery manager

Fond memories of Trevor Baxter

I have only recently heard that actor and writer Trevor Baxter died last year. He was a considerable influence on two young men in Liverpool during his time at Liverpool Playhouse.

Bill Kenwright was working backstage at that theatre and we both knew Trevor well. He was, in fact, in his younger days, a lay preacher. His sermons at St Bride’s Church were always worth hearing. Bill had told him of a visit to see Marty Wilde, during which the girls were all screaming: “I love you, Marty.” And Trevor took this as his text for the Sunday sermon – indeed not a biblical one.

But my abiding memory of Trevor was when Bill organised a trip to a club on the outskirts of Manchester, the Gaiety Westhoughton, where Jayne Mansfield was appearing. By now Bill was a successful actor and brought the cast of a TV play he was in.

I transported Trevor from Liverpool by car. Although the Gaiety was a chicken-in-the-basket kind of place, Trevor still insisted that we had champagne. And when Jayne came among the audience singing, he whispered in her ear, then removed her shoe and poured champagne into it and drank it. Jayne never turned a hair and at the end she made a little speech of thanks to the audience and concluded it by saying: “Oh dear, my foot feels all soggy in my shoe.” A true professional. And Trevor a true original.

Howard Kay

View on regional theatre is spot on

Regarding Cameron Mackintosh’s argument that ‘Regional theatre needs much more investment if the industry is to remain extraordinary’, I say: Here, here.

Cameron Mackintosh: ‘Regional theatre needs much more investment if the industry is to remain extraordinary’

Small-scale touring companies are the poor relations in more ways than one – not for lack of dedication or talent but lack of consistent funding to enable companies to build on past success.

Annie Shakeshaft
Via Facebook

How about theatres invest and give more support to the small companies that tour in the regions, putting on original, thought- provoking productions?

Creatives are employed on stage and behind the scenes on shoestring budgets, yet never get mentioned in conversations when the big houses take up the noise.

Eltjo De Vries
Via Facebook

Quotes of the week

Julia Roberts. Photo: Shutterstock

“I’m a closet therapist. We actors, it’s what we do. We observe people and ponder why they do the things they do and why they express themselves the way they do, the syntax of a sentence. I consider that’s what my job sort of is. Or to invent the answers to all those questions about somebody.” – Actor Julia Roberts (Sunday Times)

“I know I love getting laughs, I love approval – I’m sure that’s what we’re all after one way or another, but that was certainly my way to it. I like being liked, and I like it when there’s a risk attached and it’s a bit dangerous – it gets the adrenalin going a bit. I like the company of actors and other creatives – that’s entertaining.” – Actor Jim Broadbent (Telegraph)

“Watching The Ferryman on Broadway is as depressing as it is inspiring. Every division Jez Butterworth makes is exquisite. For four hours. I would give anything to write the end of his second act. And I’m not even sure it’s the best bit in the play.” – Playwright Simon Stephens (Twitter)

“What producer would refuse Kenneth Branagh the chance to play Leontes in The Winter’s Tale or stop inviting Ralph Fiennes to work his way through the classical canon? The star system remains overwhelmingly skewed towards the (white) male and, as such, any (white) male classical actor who fancies it will most likely be first in line for a West End Shakespearean lead.”  – Theatre researcher Jami Rogers (The Play’s the Thing UK)

“Actors, when making work, there’s an important difference between collaborating with someone because it’s less scary than doing a project by yourself and collaborating with someone because they add value to a project. It’s a good thing to ask yourself and be honest about.” – Actor David William Bryan (Twitter)

“Reading the script was like reading texts on my phone from when I was at school. What’s exciting about it is how much it resonated with me as a young human in the world today.” – Actor Maisie Williams on the play I and You (Guardian)

“I’m sick of people tweeting ‘I miss Rik [Mayall]’. That’s what bores me the most. Yes, I know that he’s dead. I don’t need reminding every 10 minutes, thank you very much.” – Actor Adrian Edmondson (Entertainment Focus)

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