Big names speak out in support of theatres

Friday, 14th August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 14th August 2020, 10:30 am

Some of Britain’s biggest stars of stage and screen have spoken out about the urgent need to support arts venues across the UK.Here, they tell of their love for the places that made them – and why they are such an essential part of life ...

MIRANDA HART

Actor, writer and comedian, known for her award-winning hit sitcom Miranda, sell-out live shows and roles in the much-loved BBC series Call the Midwife and the 2019 Jane Austen adaptation Emma

“My first love as an audience member and a performer is always theatre and I believe in its importance both nationally and locally. For me it isn’t just about the big spectacles where we celebrate our nation’s great actors, writers and directors, but it’s about nurturing new talent and providing an inspiring space where community can flourish, whether that’s for hosting workshops with local groups or schools, or simply being the place people get access to the theatre locally, and perhaps even for the first time. By its nature theatre provides creativity, inspiration, escapism, magic and vision - things we all need and should nurture.”

LENNY HENRY

Comedian, writer and actor who rose from being a cult star on children’s television to becoming one of Britain’s best known comics

“I grew up in Dudley and remember seeing the legendary comic Tommy Cooper at the Dudley Hippodrome. Live performances at venues such as the Hippodrome inspired me at the start of my career as both a comedian and then later as an actor. I am passionate about saving these theatres for the communities they sit in.”

Lenny Henry (photo: Jack Lawson Photography)

BEVERLEY KNIGHT

Platinum-selling singer who has been one of the UK’s most consistent artists for two decades, being made an MBE in 2007, winning three MOBOs and being nominated for multiple Brit Awards as well as the Mercury Music Prize, before starring in West End shows The Bodyguard and Cats

“As an actress and singer nothing compares to standing on stage and looking out to a packed audience. There is a special connection in that moment which is made even more special by the beauty of these theatre buildings. I want to ensure these buildings remain open for generations to come.”

DAVID MORRISSEY

Actor and director for stage and screen whose career spans more than 30 years,with roles in shows including State of Play, Blackpool, The Walking Dead, The Missing and Britannia, as well as performances with RSC and the National Theatre

“I grew up in Liverpool and much of my formative years were spent at the Everyman Theatre, starting in their Youth Theatre. Without great regional theatres like these I may not have gone on to the career I have been fortunate to have.”

SAMIRA AHMED

Journalist, broadcaster and documentary maker who presents Front Row on Radio 4 and Newswatch on BBC One

“Theatres have played a huge part in my life since I was first taken to the Wimbledon Theatre as a schoolchild to see panto and I’m passionate about their importance to British life and identity.”

JUDE LAW

Actor whose extensive credits include The Talented Mr Ripley, Road to Perdition, The Aviator, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald and Captain Marvel

“As a child I was taken to the theatre regularly: to more intimate spaces like the Young Vic, Greenwich Playhouse, the Bush, and the Gate and also historic and magnificent spaces, such as the National Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre. Sharing the experience of live performance with others made me feel like a part of a community and was fundamental in building in me a sense of who I was as a person. It encouraged my imagination. Performance can explain situations that are hard to articulate. You see what we can do to each other and learn to understand each other.

As an actor, the experience of working on stage has always been the highlight of my job. There is a chemistry that occurs between audience and performer that bonds you for the duration of the piece which can often be magical. I am proud to be an ambassador for the Theatres Trust and encourage the preservation and promotion of our theatres. The UK has an important role in celebrating this art form internationally as it plays such a large part of our heritage. Let’s start with diversifying our audiences.”

DAVID HARE

Playwright and film-maker who has written more than 30 stage plays, and more than 25 screenplays for film and television; in a millennial poll of the greatest plays of the 20th century, five of the top 100 were his

“A city isn’t a city without a post office, a football ground and a theatre. Theatre buildings contain the history of great performers and great performances. When they go, so does the soul of the city.”

ALAN AYCKBOURN

Playwright and theatre director who has written 82 plays including Relatively Speaking, How The Other Half Loves, The Norman Conquests and Season’s Greetings; he is the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards

“There’s a school of thought that says that theatre can happen just about anywhere. To an extent, I’ve found that to be true. But for theatre to thrive and be more than merely a series of isolated events, it needs special buildings in which performers and audiences can meet and celebrate the human condition. It is important that big or small, old or new, our theatres survive.”

MEL GIEDROYC

Actor and comedian, known to millions as former co-host of The Great British Bake-off

“Presenting on television is exhilarating but nothing compares to performing in theatres in front of a live audience.”

GEMMA ARTERTON

Actress, activist and film producer whose breakthrough role was playing Bond girl Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace and has since appeared in blockbusters including Clash of the Titans and acclaimed films such as The Disappearance of Alice Creed and The Escape

“The first theatre I performed in was the Gravesend and District Theatre Guild in Kent. A little shack with a tin roof that is still going today. If it wasn’t for this little theatre, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Theatres are not only imperative to our culture in the UK, but play a big part in bringing local communities together. Small theatres, such the one I went to as a teenager, give young people a place to develop, play, meet people from different backgrounds and open their eyes to new things.”

JOHN SIMM

John Simm is an actor well known for his roles in British TV and film, with two Bafta nominations for his work and TV credits including Collateral, Trauma and Doctor Who, as well as Life on Mars and Mad Dogs

“As a young actor attending College in Blackpool, I appeared in three productions at The Blackpool Grand Theatre, It was the first theatre stage I ever appeared on, and because of that wonderful old place I have been in love with theatre ever since.”

SIOBHAN REDMOND

Siobhan Redmond began her career as an actress in TV, film and theatre in 1983, with TV credits include Unforgotten, The Replacement, The Catherine Tate Show, Sea of Souls, The High Life and Between The Lines; she was made an MBE in 2013 for services to drama

“As a child, growing up in Scotland, it seemed to me that the best place you could possibly be was at the theatre - a thrilling and mysterious in-between world. I have particular early memories of seeing performances at the Citizens Theatre and King’s Theatre in Glasgow.

“It still seems that way now - at its best it’s uniquely placed to show us all that we can be at our best and at our worst and to perform a particular alchemy on the people who are there on the day, in the auditorium and onstage. Its magic is elusive and transformative and there’s nothing else like it.”

CAMERON MACKINTOSH

For over 50 years, Sir Cameron Mackintosh has been producing more musicals than anyone else in history, including the three longest-running musicals of all time, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats

“When I started as a producer, I never thought I would end up owning some of London’s most beautiful theatres. Apart from producing musicals my other passion in life has always been architecture. I discovered putting together a musical and re-inventing an historic building for the 21st century are pretty similar tasks.To get the best out of a play you have to listen to the author and to get the best out of an old building you have to listen to the original architect. Only then can you bring something fresh and new to the project. The great theatre architects Matcham, Sprague and Phipps had a brilliant grasp of how to bond audiences and players together in an exciting yet cunningly intimate space often on difficult sites and, thanks to the tireless campaigning of the Theatres Trust, we can still enjoy many of these magnificent buildings in a level of comfort never envisaged when they were built 100 years ago.”

The above personalities were speaking in their capacity as Ambassadors for the Theatres Trust 

* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live arts venues