Young talent is being priced out of training (your views, February 15)
Reading your article on summer courses (February 1) made me think of women in management such as Lena Ashwell, Lilian Baylis and Joan Littlewood, who fought to keep prices low to encourage everyone into the theatre. Who will be encouraged to join these courses, at these prices?
I’m sure the quality is first-rate, but the Young Actors Summer School at RADA costs £895 for one week and £1,790 for two weeks; what about a single parent on average wages, with two children enthusiastic about theatre?
When Baylis died in 1937, you could still see plays, operas or ballets at the Old Vic or Sadler’s Wells for 6d – the same price as the recently introduced Penguin books.
Peter J Sutton
What happened to the ASMs?
It is intriguing that when actors who have recently left drama school are interviewed, none of them seem to know what an assistant stage manager is and their knowledge of backstage seems to be limited.
Most of us in the industry started as an ASM, which was invaluable in learning how a theatre works.
Why are actors not being taught about this in school? It is a vital question.
Playing Jewish roles on stage
If you asked Ian Rickson whether he would cast a white Othello, how do you suppose he’d answer? So how can he justify casting a non-Jew as Goldberg in The Birthday Party?
As a Jew, watching a decidedly Gentile actor murdering the part, I felt insulted and patronised. The performance caricatured Jewish mannerisms without capturing the rhythm of speech and personality in Pinter’s writing.
As a firm believer in blind casting, I’m not advocating every role has to be played by a person of the race and religion, sexual persuasion or even the gender originally envisaged. Indeed, Zoe Wanamaker comes from a Jewish background and she was a fabulous Meg. But Meg’s religion is not intrinsic to the playing of the role. Goldberg’s Jewishness is the very essence of his character and to disregard this is to ruin the playwright’s intention and, consequently, the production.
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Gone but not forgotten
Sometimes great contributors to the profession pass away unnoticed. One such designer, Annie Curtis Jones, whom I worked with at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, in the 1970s, certainly deserves to be remembered.
Although close friends and family have celebrated her life, there was no great fanfare in the national or trade papers, and no way of informing those who had worked with her over her long successful career in film, theatre and dance, and on her award-winning designs for the Notting Hill Carnival.
There will be a tribute to Annie at this year’s carnival, where a float dedicated to her work will exhibit some of her brilliant past designs. This is a reminder to all unnoticed creatives out there, that following the search for the reality in your art will eventually guide you to a receptive and appreciative community who, in turn, will trumpet your worth.
Please visit Annie Curtis Jones’ public Facebook page, which keeps her memory alive.
Kevin Short (aka Kevin Williams)
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I was greatly saddened to read of the death of Rosemary Leach, who I saw at Liverpool Playhouse in the 1960s. She could play any role, being particularly moving and funny in Graham Greene’s The Living Room and Peter Ustinov’s Romanoff and Juliet.
Wonderful actors I also saw at the Playhouse who went on to great fame included John Thaw, Benjamin Whitrow and Richard Briers. But Anne Carr played every kind of part imaginable on season, then I never heard of her again. And the redoubtable Jennifer Stirling was in Liverpool 1960-64, but what happened to her afterwards? If anyone knows about these two great actresses, I would like to hear from them.
Quotes of the week
“The Russian people give a high status to the arts, don’t they? In the UK, politicians will be photographed going to a football match or possibly a film, but they wouldn’t be photographed going to an opera or a ballet or even a play. The idea of the intellectual in Britain is a strange one; it’s seen as a pejorative.”
Writer Armando Iannucci (The Atlantic)
“After I did Brideshead, suddenly a film career was there for me. Had I said: ‘No, I’m going to stay in the theatre and play all the great parts in Shakespeare’, I would be a different actor. Maybe not a better actor, but a different actor.”
Actor Jeremy Irons (Telegraph)
“My mind reaches for two women from theatre, producer Lilian Baylis and director Joan Littlewood. Baylis doggedly worked to establish a performance space that welcomed everyone and not just the culturally confident. Littlewood sang the stories of the previously unsung and fearlessly exposed the intricate web of safety nets that only the powerful can access. They also both had a great sense of humour.”
Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly on the women that have inspired her (Time Out)
“I wrote the kind of play I wanted to see: not one but three women conversing on stage about something other than a man.”
Playwright Kendall Feaver (Guardian)
“There is a sense of freedom around contemporary dance because it has less of a history than some other art forms, such as classical ballet or opera. It is therefore unencumbered, and more open, perhaps because there is less expectation about exactly what it should be.”
Sadler’s Wells artistic director Alistair Spalding (Run Riot)
“She went to the premiere and I said, ‘Mum, how was my American accent?’ And she said, ‘Nearly there.’” He bursts out laughing. “That’s honest. That is love and care.”
Actor Daniel Kaluuya, on taking his mum to see Get Out (Guardian)
“I do think critics mostly judge work differently because it’s much easier to go one tube stop to the Donmar. Therefore that work gets esteemed more than the wonderful work going on in regional theatres. Because critics are snobs and lazy, bar a few honourable exceptions.”
Playwright Bryony Lavery (Mrcarlwoodward)
What you said on Facebook
There should have been other questions, such as: if a friend is not available would it prevent you going to the theatre? If you have told a group of friends you are going to the theatre and they suggested going with you, would that prevent you from going with them? Would you deliberately change the day you are going to the theatre in order to go alone?
Going to the theatre alone is not a problem, but you do feel like a lemon in the interval.
Together is best – there’s nothing like an experience shared. But how likely is it that a friend also happens to want to see a particular play on a given evening?
I mostly go alone. If I go with another person, it’s got to be someone who I know will sit and watch the play quietly and won’t annoy me. I go to see the play, not to socialise.
I know several women who have a hard time juggling the hours and looking after their babies. It’s not fair for them to have to choose. It’s a choice women have to make all the time, but if there was flexibility at work, they could do both.
Victoria Louise Langley
The same is true for backstage jobs – it’s very tough. I’ve been doing it for more than eight years and I hope for change for all parents.