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Colchester’s Mercury Theatre needs your help – your views, August 15

An artist's impression of the revamped Mercury theatre, Colchester An artist's impression of the revamped Mercury theatre, Colchester
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As many people are already aware, the Mercury Theatre, Colchester is currently in the midst of a two-year £9.7 million capital project. This project is the first major investment in the building since its opening in 1972. When reopened in September next year, it will be a modern, functioning and fully accessible venue serving the needs of a growing community and continuing to be the East’s busiest producing theatre.

As we enter this exciting next phase of the theatre’s history, we want to look back and enjoy the memories made in the Mercury, but we need your help.

We would love to hear from anyone who started their careers, toured to, or spent time on, a production in Colchester and have any fond memories or anecdotes. It is these memories that make a place truly special and we are excited to hear the old and share the new as we look forward to generations of theatre in our new space.

To share your memories please email info@mercurytheatre.co.uk or call 01206 577006. If you want to support the Mercury on our journey, perhaps by sponsoring a brick as a way of staying connected, please visit mercurytheatre.co.uk/support.

We look forward to hearing what mischief was had over the years.

Steve Mannix
Executive director, Mercury Theatre

More respect for understudies

I write this letter anonymously as I am currently working in the West End as an understudy and I am fortunate enough to be on my second job of this type this year and do not want to upset too many people.

My reason for writing is that I am slightly baffled and saddened by our theatrical community’s response to understudying. This is nothing new, it has been going on for years, but I have been advised by friends and colleagues to leave some West End credits off my CV because it might “look bad” to have too many understudy mentions on there.

I am a seasoned actor of more than 15 years and have performed in London, across the UK and on Broadway and do not feel that by taking a few understudy jobs here and there one should be punished by one’s peers
for working.

We are in a business that is cruel at the best of times and to be sat in an office job or waiting tables is something we have all done, but to be working on a production as an understudy, learning the part, rehearsing every week, paying into the pension pot and being in that circle is something we dream of as young performers, so why are we made to feel like lepers on the fringes of the business because we choose to work as actors instead of waiting for the illusive “big break”?

A change is needed so that understudying is no longer the ignored or shunned part of the profession and certainly not one where we are made to feel like failures. Learning a lead role is a challenge at the best of times and we should all club together and celebrate this as something to be proud of.

Name and email address supplied

Nicky Morgan is bad for culture

I cannot believe that Nicky Morgan, who screwed the arts along with Michael Gove, has been appointed by Boris Johnson as the new culture secretary. But then, nothing Boris
Johnson does should surprise anyone.

Increasing numbers of schools are not, or not able, to include arts subjects in their
curriculum, because of budget cuts, and increasing privatisation of the education system by turning state schools into academies. The wealthier private schools have no such worries, however. I know this through my involvement with the Musicians’ Union.

As for her hollow claim that she had not wanted to discourage students from picking up arts subjects, it has had precisely that effect.

When will she realise that she got it wrong, and correct the problem of her making, and encourage, or better still make, arts subjects mandatory, across schools?

Rick Christian

She’s right. (She’s also correct.) If a child can be discouraged from a life in the arts then they were never intended to follow that vocation to begin with. It’s a terribly hard life and should be discouraged if possible. A true artist cannot be discouraged. They take up their cross and do their work.

I refer you to a classic American song, the title of which has become good and folksy advice: “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

Gerald Brennan
Via thestage.co.uk

Nicky Morgan is a philistine and I am amazed that the supposedly cultured Johnson should appoint her thus.

Jo Murphy
Via thestage.co.uk

Nicky Morgan appointed culture secretary in Boris Johnson’s cabinet

The annoyances of other actors

When considering the question: what annoys you most about fellow actors? The one I really remember was the actor who phoned me at three in the morning during the rehearsal period and left a rude screaming message on my answer phone asking why I wasn’t answering my phone.

Cate Thomas
Via thestage.co.uk

What annoys me most about fellow actors? Their success.

Richard Voyce
Via thestage.co.uk

The Green Room: What annoys you most about your fellow actors?

Quote Unquote

Kathy Burke. Photo: Natasha Krstic Howe
Kathy Burke. Photo: Natasha Krstic Howe

“I sound like such an ungrateful wanker now. But the more successful I became as an actor, the less control I had. I became more of a puppet, really.” Actor and director Kathy Burke (Guardian)

“In theatre there is always a lot of very tasteful, refined work. I wouldn’t be dismissive of that. But it doesn’t feel very representative of life at the moment, which feels to me quite ugly and lacking taste and unrefined. Rambunctious.” Playwright Lucy Prebble (Guardian)

“It was so generous, and it was changing people’s lives, and we met them every night in the Young Vic foyer. One man I’d known for a number of years embraced me after one performance and said: ‘You don’t know how many men of my generation’s story this is telling.’ ” Actor Zubin Varla on Fun Home (Londontheatre.co.uk)

“A question for any actors out there: If you are in a stage production and everyone knows it’s terrible, does the cast acknowledge this to each other privately, or is that considered bad form/unprofessional?” Matthew Anderson, The New York Times’ European culture editor (Twitter)

“This week we start the formal search for our new artistic director and will be after someone who clocks how outward-facing opera, and ENO, needs to be. Someone who knows theatre, opera and dance? Sure. But it’s healthy that they also watch or are aware of the pull of I’m A Celebrity… and the Marvel films.” English National Opera chief executive Stuart Murphy (Evening Standard)

“The talent is extraordinary in this country and I’m sure we’ve got a Hamilton in us.” Actor Gemma Sutton (Broadway World)

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk. Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

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