Further to the news that Chester Storyhouse has postponed two shows because of coronavirus, have a thought for the actors caught up in what is no doubt the first of many cancellations, and even puts those in current contracts at risk because most theatre contracts have a two-week cancellation clause.
I am writing to the culture minister to ask what will be in place for actors and stage management in these circumstances – virtually all are self-employed and there is no clear guidance on whether short-term support will be in place.
Furthermore most actors’ day jobs are in restaurants and bars, which are also likely to close temporarily at some point.
I have been looking everywhere for advice and comment in our industry but it appears we have our heads in the sand. Equity, Spotlight, Casting Directors’ Guild, UK Theatre and especially arts councils and artistic directors of regional theatres – it’s time for a meeting. Now.
After learning that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella will be postponed, I’m glad to see they are not selling tickets with a bedazzled face mask. When this virus passes, which it will, I’m sure the show will be a great hit. I can’t wait to see it.
One thing worth noting about the closure of Drama Centre London is that possessing a degree in acting is no guarantee of a career.
Actors become more skilled through working with other actors and being directed by those who understand what acting is. Above all, they grow from having a talent that is capable of being developed. And of course there is luck. Qualifications are meaningless. Talent is everything.
But with regional and London theatre and the UK’s few opera companies possessing no ensembles, actors don’t have the chance to learn their trade as they used to, working weekly or fortnightly rep. Indeed, most of their money comes from film and TV work, and only part of it from live theatre. As a result, we have very few star actors who are primarily involved in live performance. And only in live performance do actors learn the ability to control and deploy their talents before an audience.
That is why theatre and opera in the UK are in a disastrous condition. And why something has to be done about the utterly pathetic level of public subsidy for the live performing arts.
We need our regional theatre ensembles back in towns, big and small, with long-term contracts that enable performers to build careers in film and TV as well as learning their live performance craft.
But degrees and courses in acting are by and large irrelevant, which does not mean actors do not need to go through university. They just do not need to study acting there for a degree. They need an environment where their talent can blossom and where they can polish their skills through experience and from working with older and more experienced performers.
Jeff St Clair
In answer to Mike Theobald’s letter on the distraction of mobile phones in the theatre, the time has passed to follow the example set by Madonna concerts and confiscate all mobiles, only to be returned at the end of performances. Not just for captioned performances but for shows across the UK. This selfish mania has to be stopped otherwise it risks deterring the public from attending shows and will prove counterproductive in the continual challenge of increasing audience numbers.
Shipley, West Yorkshire
In response to Aislinn Rose’s opinion that theatre isn’t always a safe space, but it should strive to be an accountable one, I believe theatre isn’t being brave enough. There are some very serious issues, such as freedom of speech and journalistic integrity, neither of which appear to be given significant or pertinent theatrical scrutiny.
In The Stage letters, Britt Ekland complained that the backstage area of the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple, had “draughts strong enough to fly kites on”. Your report then revealed that the venue is run by a company called Selladoor. Perhaps they had sold the door?
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I get very worried about the number of professional actors, movie stars, newsreaders and presenters who still keep saying ‘haitch’ instead of the correct pronunciation of ‘aitch’.
Haitch does not exist in the English Dictionary, so please, a request to all performers: get it right. Otherwise it makes you look and sound very unprofessional.
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“When I get into a Tube train and I want to sit down and there’s no seats, I say: ‘Please, may I sit down?’ And if nobody will get up, I sit on them.” – Actor Miriam Margolyes (Guardian)
“As a kid I dreamt of being an actor, but I got bullied out of that dream. Despite my mum telling me to follow my heart, my dream was dead. Wasn’t until I gave it to God that everything changed. Today my debut TV role airs on BBC One. ALL GLORY TO GOD #NoughtsAndCrosses” – Actor Jonathan Ajayi (Twitter)
“Just know the fight for diversity and inclusion is a marathon not a sprint. It takes lots of tiny wins to add to one big one. Our ancestors did some work for us but we still have to be knocking down the barriers too. And it’s not always going to be easy.” – Actor Marisha Wallace (Twitter)
“Last year was very much a year for me to grow up and learn about the business aspects of the industry. Company was an amazing time, one that I will never, ever forget. It’s incredible that people get to see it in America, that’s wonderful, but I think in my naivety I thought that I would be going with it.” – Actor Rosalie Craig (Times)
“I’d done a couple of disastrous shows during the Trevor Nunn years, and I’d learnt at my cost that the Olivier is possibly the hardest space you’ll ever work in. It’s like an enormous studio theatre. In a proscenium arch you can create images and control what the audience is looking at. The Olivier is always that huge space, even if you fill it with scenery. The space has a huge kind of character. In my job, you ignore that at your peril.” – Lighting designer Paule Constable (Seven Stages podcast: thestage.podbean.com)
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