The Theatre Industry Is Being Failed By The Government: How Did We Let The Future of Our Beloved Arts Get Like This?

Today I am interviewing two Acting Graduates, Hannah Latoria and Grace Pepper, on their experience of work in the pandemic.

Theatre. A place for new beginnings, new heartbreak, escapism, intimacy, a place without our mobile phones (until the interval that is) and a new world. Why would we want to let this die?

On the 17th of March 2020, Boris Johnson advised audiences not to attend live performances at theatres due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing theatres all over the UK to ‘temporarily’ shut down. How could a theatre possibly survive with audiences being advised not to buy tickets?

At first, we thought this would be a couple of weeks (at least that is what Hannah and Grace thought as they were studying in a theatre), yet these weeks turned into months. Still seven months later, we have no idea when these theatres will reopen- some will never open again.

It seems the arts have become a joke to the government, as the lack of financial support available to these self-employed performers has proven. But I ask this, who went through lockdown without watching actors on Netflix, National Theatre Live or Disney+?

WE ALL ENGAGE AND TAKE PLEASURE FROM THIS ART FORM.

The arts, culture and heritage organisations have been promised a £1.57 billion investment as a rescue package to restore the industry to its rightful place. Yet it doesn’t seem to be helping, time is ticking, and more theatres are closing- the government need to act now and save our theatres.

I turn to the lovely Grace Pepper and Hannah Latoria to ask their opinions on this situation:

Has there been any work advertised?

Grace: ‘There has been work but very little- not really anything that has come up has fit into my casting bracket, which is disappointing. Also, most days I am working at my part-time job as a waitress, so I am already rushed off my feet just trying to get enough money to get by.’

Hannah: ‘I agree! A lot of jobs that are available are more South, and as a Northerner it is hard to push your way into the big London scene of Actors, especially now when it is harder than ever to get a job. Also, if one job is advertised, thousands of applications will be sent to the casting director as people just want any job they can, to feel creative again. However, self-taping is actually a positive of this situation. Auditions don’t take place in person; thus, I am saving so much money on travel fares for auditions as I can do it from the comfort of my own home.’

It was also noted that it is extremely difficult with social distancing guidelines, as actors should not be within two metres of each other, unless they are part of the same bubble which would only be possible if they lived together. Neither Grace nor Hannah live with other actors, which has actually proven quite difficult for them both.

So how are you keeping creative in this limbo?

Grace: ‘I have really got into a Yoga routine that I do daily, which allows me to stay calm and focus on my body and mind. It allows me to practise movement too. I’ve also been staying creative in other ways, such as scrapbooking. It allows me to focus on thinking creatively, but in a different way.’

Hannah: ‘I am currently starting up a theatre company with my friend and fellow graduate Josh. We were both super upset that the industry was non-existent when we left our training and felt like we were waiting for work to come to us. Instead we decided to create our own work, which has been such an amazing and busy process, but has kept me productive and active.’

You may have seen Rishi Sunak’s statement stating that creatives ‘should retrain and find other jobs.’ What is your response to this?

Grace: ‘This is a ridiculous statement. I have spent four years training to be the best Actress that I can be, and spent a lot of money in doing so, and they want me to give up now? Where am I supposed to get the money from to do another training course? People will only start to realise the importance of us when it’s too late and they have nothing to do on a Saturday night.’

Hannah: ‘I read a tweet saying that ‘no one responded to the banking crisis by telling people working in finance to retrain and get another job’ and why are we any different?’

And finally, girls, in an ideal situation, what do you want to happen?

Grace: ‘Is it bad that I just have to say I want it to go back to normal, and how it was before the pandemic?’

Hannah: ‘Ideally, COVID would just go away and loads of money would appear, but realistically I just want someone in the government to stick up for this industry.’

We hope they do too, Hannah. It is a beautiful industry that brings so much joy, passion and creativity. It allows people to believe in magic, which is what we need in these dark times.

The show MUST go on. Please.

 

Words By: Anna Duffell

Edited By: Tamikka Reid