Increasingly today’s theatre resembles the Restoration period, when playwrights thought Shakespeare so crude that they helped him out by rewriting his plays, the most notable example being The Enchanted Island, John Dryden’s version of The Tempest. This fad became so widespread that in the 19th century Charles Lamb, in all seriousness, argued that the original text of King Lear was unactable, and Shakespeare’s plays weren’t properly restored to the stage until William Poel’s revivals in the early 20th century.
These days Shakespeare’s plays survive on stage more or less intact, but it seems theatres cannot resist commissioning rewrites of Ibsen and Chekhov, with the implication that these playwrights weren’t quite up to it. Still, their work has been so frequently revived that it’s easy to spot the changes. But when Dürrenmatt’s masterpiece The Visit, which hasn’t been seen in the West End since the 1950s, is to be acted in a revised version at the National; and CP Taylor’s Good has been ‘adapted’ for performance at the Playhouse, isn’t it time producers, directors and writers showed a bit of humility in the face of these major plays?
They don’t need adapting because they were written for the stage in the first place. And, without wishing to be rude, I don’t want to see your adaptations, thank you. I want to see the plays as they were originally written. It’s not much to ask.
Email addressed supplied
I couldn’t agree more with Sheila Caryer (letter, February 6) about the need for carers’ theatre tickets to remain free.
Like her, I often take my son – an adult with complex needs – to see a show, or organise for his personal assistant to do so. The productions that he chooses to see are not always my idea of a good evening out and I would not be prepared to buy a ticket for myself for something that I have little interest in. Paying for his ticket plus £10 for my own, just because he is unable to go to the theatre (or anywhere) unaccompanied, seems unfair.
Free carers’ tickets enable my son to go to the theatre on an equal basis with everyone else. It is a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equality Act 2010. Without them, he would go far less frequently and he would have to get his entertainment through using his CEA card (allowing a free carer) at the cinema. This would be tragic for him and sad for the theatres he visits where he is known and appreciated.
Email address supplied
I agree with Richard Jordan (“It’s time theatres started showing singletons love again”)
As someone who regularly goes to the theatre alone, this drives me up the wall. In at least one case, I phoned up as there were no seats I was able to book online, and was told that single tickets were available by going to, or phoning the box office, but there’s never anything to suggest that on websites.
It’s not only singletons that fall foul of this policy. We tried to book for our family of four to see Frozen and we were not able to select the four seats we wanted because it would have left a single seat. We ended up with worse tickets even though the ones we wanted were there.
Esther Richardson says theatre can reach out to neglected teens and give them a place to go. This is very true. Teenagers need a sense of belonging and a way of escaping peer problems, academia and parents.
Aged 17 and still attending my last few years of school, I began working at a small semi-professional theatre in the early 1970s for bus fares. They let me hang around for a few years until I went to drama school and were very patient with me. I made tea, swept the stage, did children’s shows, was occasionally permitted to operate the lighting board and carried scenery. As well as the nine-line Russian officer in Arms and the Man (my near waist-length hair tucked under my shako), I even played three dead bodies in two adult productions. I’m still not wildly successful but almost half a century later I’m still acting.
I have just purchased two tickets from Ticket-master for a show at ATG’s Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. The ticket price of £36.50 includes a £1.50 restoration levy for a modern theatre that opened less than 10 years ago. Added to this were the usual service charge of £4.40 per ticket, and a delivery charge (a first-class stamp) of £2.95. Printing at home was not given as an option. That’s a total of £84.75 for £70 of tickets, a mark-up of £14.75, or 21%.
What can we, as punters, do about this?
Email address supplied
Last September, the Guardian published its list of the ‘top 50 plays of the century’ and somebody wrote from Derbyshire to ask how many were seen outside London. Perhaps The Stage could enlighten Londoners, in particular, about what gets staged in Buxton, Chesterfield and Derby and what doesn’t, and why.
“When are drama schools going to make proper intimacy training with an intimacy director part of their curriculum? One workshop in a three-year course isn’t enough.” – Director Chelsea Walker (Twitter)
“I wasted so much time being ill [so] I live everything so fully and deeply now and with great enthusiasm because I don’t want to miss another moment.” – Gemma Whelan, actor (Telegraph)
“My acting got a lot better when I became less afraid of expressing certain sides of myself. Becoming a better actor is also about living your life as well, focusing on your self-development, friends and relationships, and not always having acting as the most important thing.” – Amber Anderson, actor (The Scotsman)
“It was only when I picked up my MBE in December that I really had a moment of, ‘oh, you’re probably meant to be here’. For a long time, I had this rumbling imposter syndrome underneath.” – Sheila Atim, actor (Guardian)
“I saw Fairview at the Young Vic before it finished: it’s about race and the depiction of black people in popular culture. I don’t want to ruin it, but it features one of the most heartstopping endings I’ve ever experienced in a theatre.” – Rafe Spall, actor (Guardian)
“I was dreading it but now I think 60 really is the new 40.” – Frances Barber, actor (Times)
Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.