Work-life balance is a myth for all theatre workers (your views, March 21)
Your news story (‘Backstage staff are pushed to breaking point’) focuses on lighting programmers. However, throughout the industry there is a workforce (no matter what specialism) that consistently works long and hard in physically and mentally demanding roles. This pays a toll on decent rest breaks and a work-life balance. We may be professional and we may work hard not to let the show fail on our watch, but this often results in tighter schedules and turnarounds, which are planned with little regard for the human at the other end of the 16-hour day. It only takes one fatality or major incident as a result of exhausted staff for questions to be asked.
This should not be the case – the system shouldn’t have to break before action is taken. The industry should not lose its skilled workforce to other industries because they have no time to live. Yes, other industries have long shifts and hours (most of these are life-saving roles eg firefighting, medicine) but in most part they still get a period of rest (four on, three off for example). We are not saving lives, we are merely entertainers, but if the time comes when an accident happens, I would want my techs to be well-rested and fresh.
Technical director at Cast, Doncaster
This story highlights why I quit a stable full-time position as a production electrician and programmer. I now have a nine-to-five job teaching technical theatre and my work-life balance has improved dramatically.
While programmers work long hours it is long contracts with buyouts, such as tours, where work-life balance is nonexistent. Burnout of the touring crew is treated by many as an
Productions need to include budgets for reasonable support outside of show call, production weeks and rehearsal periods. Stage management teams are often stretched to include duties such as book cover, wardrobe, laundry and set maintenance. This all adds to the working hours on productions that don’t have additional support. This needs to be recognised and reflected in production budgets ahead of stage management starting rehearsals, as they are often the people who request this.
Wardrobe in particular gets a tough ride as they start first and finish last on most occasions.
This should be recognised by the full industry, acting professionals included.
Should Jason Donovan play Pharaoh?
It seems quite strange for producers to be casting Jason Donovan as the Pharaoh in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, following the Centre Stage report on diversity by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which stated that theatre needs to reflect the population. Should white actors play Egyptian characters?
Sylvia Kay was also a director
I read with interest your obituary of my cousin (Sylvia Kay). She had a long and illustrious career, mainly in television, but also on stage and film. But what is not covered in tributes is her work as a director. She directed my play Kissing Rough in 1989 at the Latchmere Theatre and in 1990 at Liverpool Playhouse.
The Kays were a Liverpool family, but Sylvia’s father moved for work and she was brought up in Cheshire. She and I did not meet until our forties. We made up for lost time and when my play had some success on the Liverpool fringe and I wanted to take it to London, I consulted Sylvia. She liked the play and offered to direct it. She told me it needed a heavy rewrite and took the production in hand. We had rave reviews. This would not have happened without Sylvia, and her years of working with the best people certainly bore fruit. As we left the crematorium after her funeral she had requested Gracie Fields singing Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Goodbye). So very Sylvia.
She leaves behind daughter Kate and sons Aaron and Joshua, and is remembered with affection by cousins Mary and Julia, and one grateful cousin (and associate), me.
Regional casting should be local
Following Adrian Scarborough’s call for London actors to work in regional theatres, I believe regional theatres should employ more “regional actors”, to support their local ecology.
Anthony Gerard Cooke
As someone from the North West, now living in London, I would love to work at regional theatres. It’s getting in the door.
Actors from the regions end up in London because casting happens there. Casting needs to move.
Not all actors are able, or want, to move to London – theatre is produced all over the UK? Casting directors should visit local fringe venues.
Quotes of the week
“I’m getting confidence now to do things as myself. I’ve always preferred to be heavily disguised, but a disguise I’ve never used is the disguise of myself.” – Barry Humphries, creator of Dame Edna Everage (Sunday Times)
“The few times I applied for funding, it was made very clear to me that I needed to be more political, darker, less crowd-pleasing, but I believe in popular theatre. And I don’t want the audience to be bored. I actually prefer the private [commercial] system, because the relationships are very simple. If your production does well at the box office, it keeps going. That’s it. On the other side, the politics…” – Edmond de Bergerac writer Alexis Michalik (Guardian)
“[Working in the arts is] a viable career if people show a passion and a talent, but if the kids don’t know it’s there they can’t choose it. It’s a shame that not every child in the country will get that opportunity, because I did.” – Actor Joanne Froggatt (Times)
“At drama school, you look at your own belly button for three years – me, me, me. You need to be able to have someone who says: ‘No, this is who you are. This is where you’re from.’” – Actor Susan Wokoma (i)
“Nobody, even white, middle-class males, should be prevented from playing any part. As a gay man, I’ve been impressed by seeing non-gay actors, such as Timothée Chalamet, playing men loving other men, helping to cancel out Hollywood’s grim record of vicious caricature.” – Actor Simon Callow (Sunday Times)
“As a TV director, I’m not concerned with actors knowing their lines at meetings. As an actor, I feel there’s a pressure to be polished over an understanding of the role. Directors need to look beyond.”– Actor and director Reece Dinsdale (Twitter)
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