In ‘140 years of The Stage’, Alistair Smith writes of “the relationship between the professional and amateur sectors: a connection that has ebbed and flowed over the decades, but always been central to British theatre”. But where in the ebb and flow of the tides does that relationship stand now?
When we use the word “amateur” would it better to say “unpaid”? The connotations around the former term are, despite the best intentions of the writer, almost always negative. Yet this area covers such a wide range of activity – youth theatre, community theatre, student theatre and theatre for people with special needs, as well as local amateur drama groups – that no one word can do it justice.
Earlier in his editorial, Smith uses a similar metaphor to describe the paper itself: “There have been peaks and troughs, but it has broadly succeeded by looking forward and focusing on the industry it serves.”
If the connection between the professional and amateur sectors really is central to that industry, should The Stage not reflect that by giving more space to the amateur sector in all its forms? Perhaps it deserves to be the subject of a weekly column.
Congratulations on The Stage’s 140 anniversary and to the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, for winning London theatre of the year at The Stage Awards.
I have been reading The Stage since the 1970s when, as a co-founder of Basildon Hospital Radio, I found it so useful in helping to plan my weekly magazine programme, which regularly featured visiting performers to my part of Essex including actors Susie Blake, Ian Lavender and Una Stubbs, as well as jazz musicians Chris Barber, Stephane Grappelli and George Melly.
Regarding the Queen’s Theatre, I was delighted to have seen Essex On Stage productions including In Basildon and Stiletto Beach and to have taken part productions such as As You Like It, featuring community involvement.
I was also pleased to read on page 3 that Bristol University’s theatre archive has received official designated status from Arts Council England, as somewhere in my own – somewhat ramshackle – archive, I have a letter from the university expressing interest in my collection of theatre programmes – many of them signed – dating back to when my maternal grandparents took me to panto at the Penge Empire (now a branch of Tesco) more than 70 years ago.
Long may The Stage, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Bristol University continue to flourish.
David J Savage
South Ockendon, Essex
I agree with Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran, when he says young actors are at risk of losing the craft of performing Shakespeare.
It distresses me that so many actors feel the need to be ‘wired’ – the telltale little pink microphone nestled against a cheek. If an actor hasn’t learned voice projection naturally, using their body, they should get off the stage.
It would be good if we could get to the point where young actors could specialise in Shakespearean performance and keep a roof over their heads. But when actors are accumulating massive debt while training and the likelihood of them ever performing Shakespeare is getting slimmer, then the training on offer needs to recognise the rich seams of work on offer in theatre and film.
Some theatre buildings can’t quite see that they appear fortified if you are standing on the outside trying to peer in. As a publicly funded organisation that specialises in Shakespeare, if you want young actors to have this very specific skill, how about offering free training to the widest possible demographic of young people? That would be a gatekeeper leading by example.
When these actors perform Shakespeare on screen, they will open his work to a wider group of young people because they will see people who look and sound like them performing.
Based on the RSC’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor we wasted our money on last year, in my opinion the battle is already lost.
It’s rare to read a completely new viewpoint on a theatre-related topic, so Rob Halliday’s words about turning the levels of stage lighting down to assuage “eco-guilt” made me take note.
He hits the nail on the (modestly lit) head when he questions whether an audience, having never seen a brighter version of a show, would notice a difference.
But as our collective eco-guilt increases, I wonder how long it might be before we see a version of the ‘lumen scale’ appearing as a measure of a show’s eco-friendliness?
As it is apparently government policy to relocate many of its agencies to the north of England, why not relocate the Royal Opera to a northern town such as Barnsley or Huddersfield?
The citizens of Yorkshire towns would then be able to benefit from Arts Council England’s £24 million annual funding of the company. The opera house in Covent Garden could be sold as a commercial theatre for which I suspect there would be considerable interest.
“I am locked in the bathroom at Lincoln Center. I have been banging and yelling. If you see this tweet send help.” – Playwright Lynn Nottage (Twitter)
“The thing is, actors are always freelances. There are times when I need to not work for a while, and that’s just worrying for a mum to hear. I think she sees the Oscar nom as like getting a masters. No one says: ‘Well done, you’ve got your degree, you’re done now.’ It’s: ‘So what are you gonna do with it now?!’” – Actor Daniel Kaluuya (NME)
“I want the level of the dancers to be raised dramatically. I want a company that is strong, that is not predictable, that is energetic, that takes risks, but stays true to tradition at the highest level. I’m up for big crazy ideas. I’m never going to say no to anything that’s new and bold.” – Birmingham Royal Ballet artistic director Carlos Acosta (Guardian)
“Jonathan Harvey sends me rewrites at the half tonight. I put them in, no rehearsal, shaking a bit. They brought the house down. Live theatre in action!” – Actor Frances Barber (Twitter)
“I’ve put in the hours, weeks, years, decades. I want to play these women now, towering above. I don’t want to be the wife, the mother. I want to be the storyteller.” – Actor Lesley Manville (Sunday Times)
“Connor McPherson thought my accent was perfect because Sonya’s basically a peasant. She wouldn’t have a posh accent. And she’s got that northern soul that says, ‘Come on, we need to crack on with this.’” – Actor Aimee Lou Wood on starring in Uncle Vanya (Guardian)