I write in response to a letter on the name of the National Theatre.
The conferring of the prefix ‘Royal’ on the National Theatre was seen by some people as contentious and, though acknowledged, wasn’t always a major feature of the company’s house style in the era that the letter writer refers to. In fact, subsequent research by the theatre in the 1990s showed that infrequent arts attendees could be put off by the term ‘Royal’, even in titles such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Court or Royal Lyceum, because they thought it meant a venue was ‘posh’ or ‘not for them’.
When the NT opened on the South Bank in 1976, a Tom Phillips poster proclaimed “The New National Theatre is Yours”, so perhaps the current branding is envisioned in that spirit rather than one of republicanism?
Former head of marketing, National Theatre
I know Madani Younis and worked with him as an actor during his time running the Asian Theatre School in Bradford, which was a part of the Red Ladder Theatre Company in Leeds, between 2003 and 2005. I was incredibly sad to hear he had left the Southbank Centre (‘Madani Younis in early departure from Southbank’, October 31, p1).
People in the north of England look at theatre as an elitist activity, and it was a surprise to me that someone like Madani, who comes from a similar British-Asian background to me, had such a passion for it. I had always wanted to be an actor, and I loved our weekly workshop sessions in Bradford.
Madani is one of a kind. When he announced he was moving back to London, to take over the Bush Theatre, I knew he would do well, because within him is a burning desire for change.
When he says he wants to change the way theatre is made in this country, and include people of all backgrounds, he means it.
I should know, I’m a wheelchair user who performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse) in front of 300 people for three nights in a row in 2005. None of which would have been possible if Madani hadn’t taken a chance on me. I was 18 at the time.
It is sad that in such divisive times certain people in the theatre community stick to what they know, and are comfortable with, instead of thinking outside the box and taking risks.
Mads, if you get a chance to read this brother, thank you for giving me a chance. Keep your head up and keep breaking barriers.
With success stories like those described in David Bates’ column on cabaret and variety acts, one wonders why we in the variety arts should care what the “theatre establishment” thinks.
The question is not: ‘Is it art?’, because theatre and variety are both, first and foremost, entertainment. The relevant question is: ‘How posh?’. Variety is not posh and represents a reaction to poshness, striving to return to visceral honesty and accessibility.
The ‘establishment’, which bases its evaluations of quality by its poshness, is welcome to look down its nose at us. We have more fun.
I want to express my thanks to a couple of people who have helped me more than they probably know. I’ve been through a hard time with my mental health, specifically with severe depression, over the last couple of years. I’m a dancer and singer and I have been more unemployed then employed.
I reached a point last year where I didn’t know what to do. My depression was worse, I had no work and my personal life was a mess – mainly because of my illness. I didn’t know what to do. I had spoken to a couple of GPs and I had a session with a therapist, but they didn’t understand what it’s like to be a performer and all the stress that comes with it. So I went to a few sessions of something called Talk, which I saw advertised in The Stage.
The sessions are run by two guys, and it’s all laid back, but I don’t think they realise what they did for me. They helped me so much: the way they talked, listened and offered advice was just what I needed and the books they recommended allowed me to feel I wasn’t alone. I also made a good friend from the sessions.
I don’t think they get paid for what they do, so I wanted to thank them. They saved me. Thank you Christian and Harry.
Name and address supplied
There’s a form of discrimination in our industry that is not being talked about. It’s widespread and yet, probably because it is so widespread and so ‘normal’, it gets no attention: the
attitude towards those who are not actors.
It’s rampant in Equity and in The Stage. Last week it was so egregious in Green Room I had to vent my feelings. The question was: ‘Do you think Equity does enough to support its members?’ (Green Room, November 21, p24). Now, bearing in mind there are more non-actors in Equity than actors, you might expect a range of members to be represented. But what did we get? Actors. All five commentators.
The performing world is not the world of actors. Equity is not ‘the actor’s union’, it is a union for all professional performers.
It’s very irritating to those of us who are not actors to be treated as second-class by being repeatedly sidelined.
“What I’m really hoping is that we erase the line between people who see plays and people who see musicals. This is a show with all of the emotion and celebration musicals have, but it also has a sophisticated, credible plot. You don’t have to check your intelligence at the door.”
Dear Evan Hansen director Michael Greif (Guardian)
“Audiences have a right to be properly entertained, as they are spending a lot of money. I want to give them everything they are anticipating, but I don’t want it to be empty. I want it to have meaning, body, meat and heart.”
Director and adapter Sally Cookson on The Chronicles of Narnia (Times)
“I was told once by an actress that it was an interesting choice, my casting, because nobody would usually believe that I would be with somebody like her. That was a kick in the nuts! I was like, ‘All right, now I’ve got to pretend that I really like you for eight more weeks. This is going to be really tough, because you’re so far up yourself.’ It got really interesting, that relationship.”
Actor James McAvoy (Telegraph)
“I’d like to thank Noel Coward himself. I think sometimes he’s accused of being a dusty old playwright, but through comedy he smuggles in really modern ideas about sexuality and gender and he says that it’s okay to live a life that’s less ordinary.”
Actor Andrew Scott (speaking about the play Present Laughter at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards)
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