Firstly, I wish you a joyous and fulfilling New Year. I hope it has already got off to a rousing start and you are looking forward to Cardiff and beyond.
Before the memories of Birmingham fade, the dismal events of the cancelled show and in stark contrast the latter triumphs of the cast, particularly the swings, understudies and standbys, I wanted to make the effort to present a different perspective of that Saturday show cancellation. I’ve been busy as we all have at this special time of year and I almost gave up on doing this but that would be to shirk a responsibility I feel I have and to forgo peace of mind.
In a career spanning 30 years the cancelled show in Birmingham was a low point for me. I don’t blame anyone for it but I do think it was a mistake.
As I grew up in this industry I was taught that the audience should be treated with a huge degree of regard, after all, without them we are nothing. A show cancellation is something I’ve rarely, if ever encountered but of course I know they happen due to catastrophic technical failure, life and death safety issues, accidents and other grave situations. Theatre is a live medium anything can happen.
I don’t think the situation on the day of our cancellation was sufficiently grave to warrant the action taken. There was indeed a problem, a problem that needed to be addressed and although the response from the Producers, the Theatre, Stage Management etc may never live up to individual expectations, I think there was enough evidence that a fair and consistent effort was being made to resolve matters and to offer work-arounds for the performers. I don’t dance in this show but I have in past productions so I understand and I completely agree that preservation of fitness and minimisation of the chance of injury are paramount. It’s not something I take lightly for myself or others.
Throughout our careers there will always be opportunities (sometimes absolute necessity) to be at odds with Producers and other departments, always. I’ve experienced it a few times myself and though anger is an understandable state of mind in many of these situations, prolonged anger is destructive both for those harbouring it and those it is aimed at. Anger kills any kind of considered, reasoned discussion and it usually leads to further discontent. It seems to have become a prevalent emotion in much of the Western World over the last few months that has somehow spilled-over into everyday life from the unrealistic realm of social media where vitriol is freely flung about but very rarely is any kind of open-minded, responsible and caring debate entered into.
Have your say, stand up for you rights, get your point across but make every effort to do it with understanding and good grace. The cancellation was done with neither of these and the audience ended up being collateral damage. The show was pulled with no notice and a pretty full house paid the price with much of their expenditure unrecoverable; travel, hotels, babysitters, and perhaps more importantly the time invested in organising who knows how many special occasions… As privileged professionals we sometimes forget but for the public, seldom is going to the theatre not a special occasion.
OK, people are tremendously resilient, they bounce back and life goes on but still, I believe the cancellation was unecessary and unfair on them.
Finally, with the audience having been kept waiting in their seats for half an hour, the cast were offered a vote on whether to proceed with the show or not and while I do not think this was the ideal solution at all, the reason it was quashed, though certainly given in haste, should nevertheless be questioned.
Something about not wanting to have to hate those who don’t vote the same.
There will always be people who think very differently, who vote differently. Do we have to hate them? It won’t enrich life. It won’t bring anyone round to change their way of thinking. It achieves the opposite. On the other hand, understanding another person’s view, why they think the way they do, approaching issues we have with them in a calm and controlled manner, may have a very positive result whether they are won over in the end or not. There’s never any need to throw all the toys out of the pram. Life is wonderful and there are a lot of toys for us all to share and enjoy.
This turned out much longer than expected. You have indulged me to the end so I hope that this might perhaps inspire reflection, consideration and the chance of a different outcome should you ever find yourself in a similar situation to the one we found ourselves in that Saturday night.
I very much enjoy being part of this show which is a beautiful whole of its parts. There are some excellent performances and exemplary professionalism in all departments. Mistakes happen, it’s life. To learn from them is, I believe, the best reason to make them.