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Diary: Producer’s top tip – Holt the purse strings

Thelma Holt. Photo: Barker Evans Thelma Holt. Photo: Barker Evans
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Theatrical doyenne Thelma Holt kept an audience at Shakespeare’s Globe rapt this week, regaling stories of her many years as an actor and latterly a producer, a job she continues to do to this day, aged 85.

Among Holt’s heaving back catalogue of anecdotes is one in which she tells of her total dismissal of an “awful” new play by a RADA classmate that she steadfastly warned wouldn’t go anywhere. The play was Joe Orton’s Loot.

After training as an actor, Holt went “straight into work” after graduating and never stopped. She has seen, and contributed to, many revolutionary shifts within the industry, but how optimistic is she of theatre’s future?

“Would I have wasted my entire life doing something that I didn’t think was worth doing? Of course not,” she quipped to broadcaster Libby Purves, who was quizzing her at the ‘in conversation’ event.

Besides, she said, there is so much more to do. “I want to work with Johnny Depp,” Holt proclaimed. “But he’ll have to learn how to speak properly first.”

Earlier in the evening, Purves grilled her on her commercial nous, having been behind scores of West End transfers and tours.

“When do you take a punt and when do you not take a punt?” Purves asked. “What is the Thelma Holt philosophy of money in theatre?”

“Preferably use somebody else’s,” Holt fired back.

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