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Selladoor’s plans for Greenwich are not a done deal – your views, July 4

Greenwich Dance is to vacate the council-owned Borough Hall on May 1. Photo: Stephen Craven Would Selladoor's proposal to reopen the Borough Hall as a venue have a negative impact on the nearby Greenwich Theatre? Photo: Stephen Craven
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Selladoor’s plans to launch its new south London venue are being presented as a done deal, but there has been no public consultation and no decision has been reached by the local authority.

Equally, no mention has been made of the potential impact on the 400-seat Greenwich Theatre, two minutes’ walk away – a local theatre playing to more than 60,000 people a year that currently supports countless emerging theatre companies throughout the year. Major musicals and pantomime subsidises the work of the artists of tomorrow.

That work will be under major threat if this plan goes ahead. The Borough Hall should be returned to cultural use, without a doubt, but as a theatre almost next door to a theatre? Greenwich Theatre has presented live entertainment since 1855, and the current resident company is celebrating 50 years. It would be a sad anniversary celebration to ring the death knell for the venue.

James Haddrell
Artistic and executive director, Greenwich Theatre

Drama school audition fees

Editor’s View: It’s time for drama schools to ditch audition fees

Alistair Smith asked: why don’t drama schools drop audition fees to improve access for everyone?

It’s a simple question, but not one with a simple answer. Not all drama schools are funded by taxpayers – or, if they are, funded equally or fairly.

Secondly, an audition may not just be a case of showing us what’s you’ve got and we’ll decide if you deserve a place. Many institutions run classes alongside the audition process so prospective students experience what learning in the school is like.

Thirdly, many schools offer audition and travel waivers for those living in poor or under-represented neighbourhoods.

It would seem a bit odd to ditch audition fees for those who can afford to pay without discomfort.

Mark Featherstone-Witty
Chief executive, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

Private schools and actors

UK’s richest actors six times more likely to have attended private school than general public – report

The Stage has reported that the UK’s richest actors are six times more likely to have attended private school.

My daughter attends a private school, which has a dedicated performing arts centre. At five, she is competing at dance festivals and being pushed with confidence-building performance skills, such as speaking at assemblies.

I don’t want to pay for her schooling but state schools in our area have made so many cuts that children attending them are barely getting decent levels of physical education, let alone exposure to the arts.

The situation is definitely not fair as most people can’t afford the private system and unless they have very driven parents who will push them beyond school, many won’t have a chance.

On the flip side, I didn’t go to drama school as I couldn’t afford the fees and went to university instead. With the introduction of tuition fees, perhaps the cost of drama school is now less of an issue and fewer will be put off.

Tara Wilkinson
Via thestage.co.uk

Working-class artists need support

Robert Lindsay: Lack of government support for working-class actors is heartbreaking

Robert Lindsay says the lack of support for working-class actors is heartbreaking. But it’s even more heartbreaking to see drama graduates working long hours in low-paid jobs while trying to get into audition rooms.

The reality is that there are too many performers chasing too few jobs. Drama students need to be trained to work in all areas of theatre, not just on stage.

Louise Murray
Via Facebook

We’ll have no working-class artists if cuts to the arts continue. Nearly all schools in Sheffield are struggling to maintain arts provision except those in the richer areas.

Colleges are making cuts and university arts departments are also feeling the pinch, with falling numbers of youngsters wanting to study performing arts.

Mandy Aitken
Via Facebook

I’m in a difficult situation at the moment. I’ve been offered a place [at drama school] but am finding it hard financially. I don’t come from money – my parents can only help so much.

I’m eligible for a scholarship but need to be nominated and get several references. Begging for money in this way feels undignified. Drama was not an available subject at my secondary school. Though I pleaded with teachers to let me go to the local Catholic school to take drama, they said it would coincide with and interrupt my other “more important” studies.

We need more funding for the arts, support for working families and a better attitude towards the arts in general.

Tracy Ballantyne
Via Facebook

Guy Standeven

Did you know Guy Standeven? He was one of the most prolific actors/extras working in the UK. I’m writing his biography as he had a most fascinating life.

Everyone from assistant director Michael Stevenson, comedian Stephen Frost and playwrights Carey Harrison and Robin Hawdon to theatre director Joan Mills have shared their memories but I would like to hear from more people who knew this much-loved man.

Any information, however seemingly trivial, is greatly appreciated.

Marcus Heslop
28 Towneley Terrace, High Spen, Tyne and Wear, NE39 2HJ

Quotes of the week

Meera Syal. Photo: Pamela Raith

“I feel really lucky to be working. It’s funny how your boundaries change. In your 20s you think: ‘I’m gonna win an Oscar one day.’ In your 30s you think: ‘I shall probably win a BAFTA.’ In your 40s: ‘A British Comedy award? Yeah, I could do that.’ In your 50s you think: ‘A job would be nice…’” – Actor Meera Syal (Evening Standard)

“It makes me extra happy that there’s 13 nationalities represented in the show, which shows that music is universal and unites us. And when I said the rhythm is going to get you, I meant it. Rhythm is something that people from all parts of the world can understand and get.” – Gloria Estefan, speaking at the gala night of On Your Feet!

“I dislike this new Stalinism where every theatre has to have the same policy. In the 1960s at the Royal Court, we loathed the RSC and they loathed us. We were sworn enemies and it was healthier because each theatre had its character. Now the Arts Council has reached a point where it believes it is there not to finance theatres but to dictate theatre policy.” – Playwright David Hare (Telegraph)

“Tom Courtenay, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton: I was obsessed with that lot. They’re the kind of men I like to watch. I feel they are being truthful. Now, when I watch actors from the 1980s onwards, there’s this machismo, this weird obsession with acting male — this obsession with actors who promote either uber-masculinity or a fey sort of metrosexual. They are the extremes – and I think both are affectations.” – Actor James McArdle (Times)

“I use Instagram a lot. It’s a valuable asset for young actors. If you go to Spotlight for an audition, they ask how many followers you have. A video of me saying how excited I am for a film is more effective than a billboard.” – Actor Tom Holland (Sunday Times)

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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