I appreciate that The Stage is primarily for the theatre industry workforce, but although I am not in that group I am, or at least was, a regular theatregoer.
My wife and I had a number shows booked prior to lockdown, which have been temporarily put on hold or cancelled. We have enjoyed the opportunity to watch some theatre streamed on the internet and have made contributions to the theatres concerned. In the case of one production at my local theatre, Nuffield Southampton, I was happy for the theatre to keep my ticket money in exchange for being able to watch the show online.
Having booked some shows at London’s Old Vic, we were offered the chance to book online to watch Lungs. Booking began at 12pm on June 10. We went online at 12 and got a message that we were 5,000-plus in the queue. Somewhere around tea-time we got to the box office to be confronted with an error message.
I accept that I am a dumb Yorkshireman, but I cannot understand why it is so hard for me to give money to an industry which, according to the articles I read in The Stage, is having a really hard time. Is it not time for a creative industry to find some software designers to come up with a method that allows people to happily pay for a product, and thus limit some of the damage being done?
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s original plan to stage the Henry VI trilogy in Stratford in October was the right idea (it has since been pushed back to 2021, with the company hoping to reopen its main stage this autumn). An epic yarn of vicious civil strife, national conflict and mob rule. This wretched flu has been the source of an awful lot of clapping and sobbing, alas none of it in our theatres.
Perhaps a comparison with the Second World War has some value. In the 1940s, keeping the arts going was considered vital despite the risk of audiences being blown to smithereens. As the symbol of national consciousness and culture, Shakespeare was sent into battle. He was everywhere; in the cadences of Churchill’s speeches, in the “plucky island” propaganda, and in the theatres.
Wolfit’s tours were a sell-out. Sybil Thorndike traipsed the miners’ institutes of South Wales in a Macbeth production that evoked a Highland Hitler. In London in 1942, you could see the Old Vic’s production of Othello, Gielgud’s touring Macbeth and matinee-only Shakespeare in Regent’s Park. These shows played while British cities burned by night. When the flying bombs came in 1944, box office takings actually went up.
How does that compare with today’s infinitely more modest threat? It doesn’t. But this pathetic delay in a return to operations is, we can all agree, catastrophic for the industry. Let’s get the doors in Stratford open asap and empower the public to assess its own risk.
Theatre critic, Mail on Sunday
Lyn Gardner’s article about theatres remaining relevant to audiences was fantastic.
I hope and pray that those in authority take your assertions seriously, and those that are shared by black individuals who work in the sector. It really is time for change and not lip service.
As a black theatregoer living in the West Midlands, I would love to see diverse theatre on my doorstep, as well as opportunities for those from working-class backgrounds and those from black communities to have real power in the sector, so that change can occur swiftly. I live in hope.
Gardner says: “In an industry where most who work within it are white, where the majority of those in senior management and at board level are white, and where the drama schools and training establishments that feed the industry are dominated by white teachers and white audition panels, it is no surprise that privilege and ignorance have come together for so long to prevent access and to keep the dominant structures in place.”
And the majority audience?
Questions, questions, questions, but is the industry not structured, largely, to target the customer base that is supporting the industry and buying the goods on offer?
Where are the energies and initiatives to broaden, deepen and widen the customer base and make it more inclusive and reflective of the society that we have?
Perhaps, more importantly, the questions that need to be asked are: can the existing, core customer base be developed and extended by drawing in new customers from outside the historic base?
And, second, exactly what new, fresh offerings can make theatre as an art form in a changing society more relevant?
As Gardner states: “Theatre can’t talk on its stages about equality and social justice if it’s not practising that in its own corridors, audition rooms, interview panels, rehearsal rooms and boardrooms.”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. We live in hope.
Michael Poynor’s unhappy experience of infection spread by a ventilation system prompted me to recall that ultraviolet light is widely used to kill pathogens in many industries including pharmaceutical manufacture, food processing and sewage treatment.
Since I am neither a scientist nor an engineer, I don’t know whether ventilation systems can be retro-fitted with UV lamps so that recirculated air is sanitised, but it may be worth pursuing. It may also be possible to flood an auditorium and stage (and other spaces) with UV light between performances to kill a lingering virus, although tip-up seats might present a challenge. Don’t try this at home, since I understand that the use of UV light carries serious health and safety risks.
Sir, I am researching Ideal Film Company’s 1922 adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley, and would be most grateful for your readers’ help in locating stills, photographs, memorabilia, and information about the cast, crew and locations. Particularly, Carlotta Breese (possibly sometimes Charlotta or Charlotte De Felice, Kean, Henderson or Barnard).
In addition, Joe Nightingale, Dimitri Vetter, Elizabeth Irving, Mabel Terry-Lewis, Clive Brook, Harvey Braban, AV Bramble (director), AQ Walton (script), Horace M Wheddon (cameraman), FG Knott (art director), Jonas Bradley (locations and Brontë advisor).