With reference to your front page story on February 14 (‘Actors lament trend of casting by Instagram’), as a promoter and producer of several decades’ standing, I can assure casting directors that there is very little relationship between an artist having a large social media following, and having the ability to sell tickets.
Some performers have vast numbers of Twitter followers, yet struggle to fill a scout hut. On the other hand, many others who do not dabble with social media are very strong box office attractions.
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Thanks to Phil Willmott for starting a conversation about ageism. The theatre world constantly says it wants new voices, but as Willmott says, that often means young voices. I’ve started writing in the past five years partly because only recently have I thought I had something worth saying. I have been taken seriously by some, but most new-writing call-outs specify young writers.
What’s wrong with wanting the voice of someone who is, let’s face it, at over 50, the same age as the audience?
I went to drama school when I was in my 50s. When I finished my training, I was shocked to find that almost all the opportunities for new graduates were for those under 30.
My first agent was a co-op, so I could see jobs coming through on Spotlight. The lack of opportunities for older women was appalling. I made a spreadsheet to analyse the number of jobs for male and female performers and for different age groups. There were two jobs for women over 50. Some days there were none.
On TV, the same older women appear time and again. Good for them – they are working. But there seems to be a lack of imagination in the industry when it comes to seeing older women for roles. I think when casting directors see an older face they don’t know, they assume the person can’t be any good, or they would have ‘got somewhere’ by now. Add this to the scarcity of roles, and it’s really depressing.
We’re not all doddery grannies, or sweet, or dowdy. We can be powerful, fascinating – even sexy. We don’t only want to play people with dementia. We want to get in the audition room and have a chance to show what we can do.
I think Hayley Tamaddon was wrong to criticise poor audience behaviour on Twitter. She should have laughed it off backstage and been proud that her character affected someone that much.
As someone who works in theatre, I’d rather an audience member became so involved that they shouted out once, than passed out because they forgot to breathe (as has happened during War Horse) or they were so drunk that they assaulted a member of front-of-house staff.
I really don’t think this was about respect towards Tamaddon as an actor.
Amy Louise Eager
It’s ironic that an actor from The Inheritance should urge theatres to put on more gay plays. Kyle Soller should see more at the King’s Head Theatre, which has regularly produced credible new LGBT+ plays, with scant support, for many years.
Theatremakers are continuing to push new work into the spotlight: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is entering its second successful year, the Park Theatre recently staged a triumphant revival of The Boys in the Band, and there’s plenty on at Above the Stag, Hackney Showroom, Soho Theatre, the Glory and the Yard. And that’s not to mention the sellout revival of Angels in America at the National.
If what Soller means is “we need more hyped-up work with a rainbow sticker on the tin”, I don’t agree. Things don’t need to be pushed – they need to be carefully nurtured, scrutinised and supported.
Unfortunately, for many young gay theatremakers, very little support is available. New, authentic work will continue to emerge, and there will be a way to circumvent the funding cliques, marketing ploys and gimmicks – it’s called word of mouth.
Silence equals death, and anyone who actually survived the original Aids crisis (it’s not over) is well aware of this.
I’m astonished at the hypocrisy of culture secretary Jeremy Wright’s diversity pledge. He claims to be “committed to exploring all potential barriers to the arts faced by young people”. Yet his government has systematically set about destroying the arts as a career in this country, by removing subjects from the EBacc and telling students that following the arts is a waste of time.
The £20 million Cultural Development Fund is peanuts compared with the hundreds of millions taken out of state education.
Unless the arts are re-introduced into the education system, it doesn’t matter how much the government bangs on about diversity, because there will be no arts career paths to follow, unless you are already a member of the privileged classes.
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“When I played King Arthur in Spamalot, a lot of journalists at the time who had known me from TV said: ‘Isn’t this funny, an Asian King Arthur’, and I said to them: ‘If people are thinking about my ethnicity, then I haven’t done my job.’ That’s one of the things theatre can do, when it’s played well – you just believe in the performance.” – Actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar (speaking at the Casting Director Guild Awards)
“It was obvious that I was different and this was a world I wasn’t supposed to be in. No one with my ethnicity was doing ballet – so it was obvious this wasn’t for people like me. I also found that when I became a professional dancer in companies.” – Dancer Carlos Acosta (The Scotsman)
“They are resistant to change and only ever do anything with a gun to their head. It’s crazy. If health inspectors find rats in a restaurant, they close it down until it can prove it’s operating properly. With Viagogo, we have been able to see the rats in the kitchen for years, but it’s still operating and thumbing its nose at everybody.” – Adam Webb from FanFair Alliance on secondary ticket seller Viagogo (Daily Telegraph)
“I love the idea that a 14-year-old will come and go, ‘God! That’s brilliant!’ Because we’re competing with box sets, you’ve got to be as good as box sets. Director Rob Icke said, ‘It’s not like eating your greens’ – Shakespeare shouldn’t be something you have to do, it should be properly stirring.” – Actor Andrew Scott on making Shakespeare accessible (Guardian)
“I think anything and everything has a place on stage, but I like to see theatre that reflects the world we live in and teaches me something I don’t know about the people who inhabit it. I’m interested in the stories untold.” – Actor Rebecca Trehearn (Broadway World)
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