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Digital tickets don’t suit all, and exclude many – your views, November 21

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I couldn’t agree more with Michele Taylor’s views (Letters, November 14, p6) on how digital tickets could exclude disabled people from visiting theatres.

Broadband access among disabled people and families that contain a disabled child is far lower than the general population.

A 2016 poll carried out by Leicestershire Parent Carer Forum of all registered Leicestershire families who had one or more children with special educational needs or disabilities, focusing on why some families in this situation can be hard to reach, established that in one area of our county, only 26% of these families had broadband in their homes.

In addition to this, many of the theatres that hold access registers, allowing free tickets for essential carers, do not allow these tickets to be booked online. They are phone and in-person booking only. Making all tickets digital could further exclude this section of society.

Annie Bannister
Independent access consultant

More clarity over theatre levies

I write in response to David Benedict’s column on the Piccadilly Theatre incident.

We would all like to see greater transparency: keeping the sums reasonably simple, say 1,200 seats at this particular theatre, an average ticket price of £50, six performances a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s getting close to £20 million.

No doubt there are huge outgoings to offset against this, and we accept that these are commercial entities chartered to turn a profit for their owners, but it does make you wonder.

Even just a weekly dusting and polishing of the fixtures and fittings would be welcome in some West End theatres, with seats usually costing significantly more than £50, let alone ongoing and sometimes necessary disruptive maintenance.

Peter Kettle
Via the stage.co.uk

David Benedict: Piccadilly Theatre incident should put restoration levies in the spotlight

It’s tempting to say that with the high price of theatre seats in the West End you ought to be able to watch the show without the roof falling in. But I suspect it’s not that simple.

I did wonder whether the theatre might be in the same position football found itself in the 1970s. Antiquated grounds led to problems, both for supporters and owners of the grounds. Many grounds were sold, presumably for large capital receipts as they were based in city centres and replaced by modern stadia, not always easy to get to I grant you, but the game has flourished because of money from TV.

Is that shrieks of horror I hear? Well, we do already have ‘beam backs’ from West End theatres to provincial theatres. Something to think about maybe?

Martin Probee
Via the stage.co.uk

The enormous prices recently paid for the Ambassadors Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket show that West End theatres aren’t quite the financial albatrosses their owners like to make out. And why shouldn’t we talk about the restoration levy? It’s a skim tax put on every ticket for which we have no public accounting and ceilings are still falling down.

David Johnson
Via the stage.co.uk

Older women are unfairly reviewed

Could it be that the men who review for The Stage have a problem with older women?

First it was David Benedict finding it “extraordinary” that “an 81-year-old dramatist” (Caryl Churchill) could write so well. Now it’s Tim Bano, in his review of Mary Poppins, describing the “astonishingly plaintive performance” given by “the 86-year-old Petula Clark”. If the reviewers are surprised when artists with decades of experience produce work of high quality, that’s their problem.

It’s a problem for The Stage if the practice of stating an artist’s age is limited to older women and is therefore not only patronising but discriminatory. There would quite properly have been an outcry if the review of the current production of Cyrano at Daryl Roth Theatre, New York, had referred to “a superb central performance from Peter Dinklage (4ft 5in)”. Ageism, sizeism, sexism, racism – it’s all one.

Neil Rathmell

Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. review at the Royal Court, London – ‘extraordinary’

Box office staff are heroes

I was very pleased to read Richard Howle’s opinion piece on why box office staff are theatre’s unsung heroes.

A few years ago at a local theatre, I was chatting to box office staff and I was told that a manager had said to his staff: “If I had my way I wouldn’t pay you in buttons.” While one only hears one side, it was clearly totally unacceptable and quite outrageous.

This employee was then looking for alternative employment, and I lost track of their situation. They were clearly under attack from both sides of the box office.

Gordon Steff
Shipley, West Yorkshire

Is the National no longer Royal?

In the early 1980s I worked as a scene painter at the National Theatre. In 1988 the NT was granted the prefix ‘Royal’, so the acronym RNT became common. I have noticed that recently the ‘R’ is missing. Has the UK become a republic? If it has, no one told me about it.

Simon Pell
Via email

Quotes of the week

Douglas Hodge
Douglas Hodge

Harold Pinter was having a go at the stage manager, so I said: ‘There’s no need to blame her.’ He stood up and took off his jacket and said: ‘Don’t tell me what I fucking need.’ I thought: ‘Oh no, I’m going to have to headbutt Harold Pinter.’ After that, we became really good friends.
Actor and director Douglas Hodge (Guardian)

“My education in plays consisted of sitting in the classroom, reading it out loud. Then about once a year we got on a bus, went to Stratford, had four pints before we went in – and left about half an hour into the play.”
Director Dominic Dromgoole (Telegraph)

“[English National Ballet] has always been groundbreaking. That’s what I love about it. It was always a company with a huge social conscience: the first to have an outreach programme; the first to feature a black dancer, Brenda Edwards; one that took chances with choreographers, that expanded the idea of what ballet is and was courageous in taking it to places that no one else would take it.”
English National Ballet’s Tamara Rojo (Sunday Times)

“At drama school, it was always the middle-class actresses with ambitious dads complaining about my surname. But you can’t lose the Fox. It’s not my fault. You can’t go for people because of their identity; that has nothing to do with anything.”
Actor Laurence Fox (Times)

“Originally in the script, the idea of Juliet was that she was this timid, subservient girl who finds her confidence and grows. But when I walked in [the writer] David West Read was like, there’s no way that’s gonna work!”
Actor Miriam-Teak Lee (Evening Standard)

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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