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Backstage

Issue 8 February 2011

The Royal Exchange Theatre’s Supporters’ Newsletter

Pete Postlethwaite: A Tribute from the Royal Exchange Theatre By Greg Hersov, Artistic Director

Pete Postlethwaite had many qualities that made him the great actor he was, most notably a passionate commitment to any play he chose to do. He wanted to tell a story as vividly as possible to an audience because he felt that story had something of value to our lives. He also possessed a voracious curiosity in discovering every detail of a character's life and he had the technique and knowledge to achieve that. Although Pete had a wonderful film career, he was a man of the theatre who acted in theatres all over this country for four decades. Above all, Pete was adventurous. He’d take risks, was fearless in trying stuff and using his imagination to the limit. I think that's what made him such a brilliant actor. When he finally put all these things together he could express the deepest emotions in such a way that everyone watching could understand and share what his character was going through. Photograph courtesy of Rik Sterken

When we did THE TEMPEST together, I would visit Pete at his beautiful farm in Shropshire. We explored the character of Prospero and the play over a period of months before rehearsals. One of the big puzzles of playing Prospero is his staff - the magic staff he wields and breaks at the play’s conclusion. We talked a lot about what Shakespeare meant by magic and how we could make that magic real in our age of special effects. One day Pete phoned me and said he’d found a piece of wood near his house that he thought was just right for Prospero. Over the next few weeks he honed, shaped and decorated this stick with totally individual things inspired by the play. When he arrived at rehearsals with it, the whole company was hypnotised by the way he handled and used it, no-one touched it ever! At the end of the production Prospero handed over the staff to his spirit Ariel and collapsed to the floor, his power gone, his life changed. It was an unforgettable piece of acting because you just knew that staff was part of Prospero and of course it was! Pete lit up the theatres he worked in. Everyone in the building got to know him. Every performance was a special event. People would come and see him before and after the show in all shapes and sizes. He always made time for them. He encouraged and inspired young actors, film-makers, teachers, anyone he saw potential in he would support. We will all miss him. A actor and a great human being. We will all miss him. Ingreat Rehearsal… Currently in rehearsal for Noël Coward’s PRIVATE LIVES at the Royal Exchange are Imogen Stubbs, Clive Hayward, Rose Johnson, Joanna Page and Simon Robson. Joining us in March for Brad Fraser’s 5@50 will be Jan Ravens, Ingrid Lacey, Teresa Banham, Barbara Barnes and Candida Gubbins.

New and Renewed Support ‘Backstage’ would like to thank and welcome all new and renewed supporters Patrons Maureen Casket Dr & Mrs Johnson Shirley Murtagh Stephen Poster Individual Members Annabel & James Carter Mr & Mrs J Whitfield Project Supporters Ernest Cook Trust Manchester Guardian Society Charitable Trust The Oglesby Charitable Trust Gold Membership Mr Gerry Ball Andrew & Chris Horner Mr J D Wignall Floor Plaques Arnold & Brenda Bradshaw Seat Plaques In memory of Harold Smith

To support us and donate £2 text ROYAL to 70099 Texts cost £2 plus your standard network rate of which £1.76 will go to the royal exchange theatre. *Virgin will be £1.48


Issue 8 February 2011

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Friends’ Update

Introducing Mint Hotel

By Janet Aslan, Friends’ Organiser

Steph O’Dea, Development Administrator introduces the newly re-branded Mint Hotel.

Friends Events Our Q&As are run as an informal chat show, enabling cast to talk freely about their roles, their work and careers. Last Autumn Friends were able to talk to cast members from DOCTOR FAUSTUS, THE LADY FROM THE SEA and THE BACCHAE. Friends can pitch their own questions or just listen as the actors recount their wider professional experiences as well as those at the Royal Exchange. Lyn Armstrong reminisces with Wyllie Longmore and John Kirk about the time she acted in the Chester Mystery Plays and shared the same stage as Wyllie.

The Friends also have a Meet the Cast party for every production which always goes with a swing. These events are an opportunity to meet and talk to actors

in an informal and immensely enjoyable way. Theatre Visits The Friends enjoy visiting other theatres in the region and their recent visit to The Lowry to to see the long-awaited Alan Bennett play THE HABIT OF ART lived up to their expectations. A crowd of Friends (pictured) enjoyed a pre-theatre meal before watching the critically aclaimed play which imagines a meeting between W H Auden, Benjamin Britten and biographer Humphrey Carpenter. The evening was brought to a perfect end when Desmond Barritt, who played the role of W H Auden joined the Friends for a chat after the show. The Friends’ latest expedition was to Liverpool Playhouse to see Janet Suzman’s production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. It was brilliant! All the acting was excellent and Kim Cattrall was superb as Cleopatra.

City Inn has sponsored our fantastic Friday night entertainment, Special FX since 2009, and we have seen this free event go from strength to strength. Now we are delighted to announce that City Inn have recently undergone an exciting re-branding to become Mint Hotel. Reflecting the quality and modernity of City Inn’s ethos, the unveiling of Mint Hotel was perfectly timed to coincide with the opening of a brand new hotel near the Tower of London in December, and Spring 2011 will see Mint Hotel opening a brand new hotel in Amsterdam! As well as welcoming the re-branded City Inn to the stage, we’d also like to thank them for their ongoing and invaluable support as we head for another year of free Friday night entertainment in association with Mint Hotel.

4 February COMIC FX More stand-up from Manchester’s finest with Dave Twentyman headlining 11 February JADID ENSEMBLE a beautiful fusion of contemporary Arabic and Turkish sounds underpinned with flamenco guitar and film score style production 18 February HARRY AND MEG These two musicians perform their own compositions and some favourites. 25 February SERENDIPITY A combination of original music and well know jazz standards, on sax, guitar, bass and drums – re-arranged so that you may not even recognise them.

Alison Ashcroft and Carol Fitzsimons

To support us and donate £2 text ROYAL to 70099

Texts cost £2 plus your standard network rate of which £1.76 will go to the Royal Exchange Theatre. *Virgin will be £1.48


Backstage

Issue 8 February 2011

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Supporting Patrons by Royal Command

Our own Royal Patron paid us a visit as we launched our new Supporting Patrons Scheme. In November His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex met staff, volunteers and workshop participants as part of a special reception and performance of THE BACCHAE to mark the official launch of our new Patrons Scheme. Through our Patrons Scheme we hope to offer greater opportunities for higher level donors to engage with the Theatre and, crucially, to help us continue to produce top level art for Manchester, the UK and internationally. If you would like to know more about our Patrons Scheme please contact Marla Cunningham by email marla.cunningham@royalexchange.co.uk or telephone 0161 615 6759 Become a Supporting Patron with a donation of £1000 +

Truth about Youth By Bridget Floyer

Recruitment for Truth about Youth has well and truly started following our launch on 22 November in the Education Lounge at the Royal Exchange. Young people and youth sector organisations from all around Greater Manchester gathered together to find out more and see the first Truth about Youth project, Extraordinary Demons, in action, filming vox-pops and organising a game of human bingo. We had some interesting responses to our questions: everyone agreed that young people should NOT be banned from wearing hoodies, everyone agreed that the media present young people in

a negative way, and all young people agreed that they feel discriminated against because they are young. We also asked what people think is the real ‘truth about youth’ and what 3 words they would use to describe young people. Energetic, enthusiastic, funny, loud, sociable, moody, vibrant, inspirational, ambitious, violent, potential, misunderstood have been some responses so far. What 3 words would you use? Video footage of the Truth about Youth launch is now available on our website. If you’d like to know more visit www.royalexchange.co.uk/truthaboutyouth, where you can sign up to receive more information and find out ways you could be involved, whatever your age!

The Royal Exchange and Amanda Wakeley invite you to A Fashionable Evening

At the Midland Hotel, Manchester Saturday 12 March 2011, 7.30pm

The Royal Exchange Theatre and Amanda Wakeley are delighted to present a Fashionable Evening, a charity fundraising event in aid of the Royal Exchange Theatre Development Fund. The evening will feature Amanda Wakeley’s Spring Summer 2011 catwalk show, live entertainment, muchloved actors from the stage and screen and an auction of money-can’t-buy prizes including a personal styling session with Amanda Wakeley and the opportunity to name a character in bestselling novelist, Lee Child’s, new book! The evening includes: Champagne Reception \ 3 Course Dinner \ Music and Dancing Dress Code: Black Tie Individual tickets: £90 (10% discount for tables of 10 or more). To book call Steph O’Dea on 0161 615 6790 or visit www.royalexchange.co.uk/amandawakeley


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Cuts Without Crisis

Government cuts are on everyone’s minds, not least at the Royal Exchange Theatre. ‘Backstage’ took the opportunity to chat with Executive Director, Fiona Gasper about what it all means for the Royal Exchange. What impact will funding cuts have from an audience’s point of view? We hope that audiences won’t be aware of the impact in terms of the range and quality of the work they can see. However it’s hard to be completely clear about the full impact of the cuts as we don’t yet know their full extent. What we do know is that for 2011/2012 our funding from Arts Council England will be cut by 6.9% which equates to £171,000 pa excluding inflation. There could also be a significant cut to our AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) funding which will impact from July 2011. We won’t know the full extent of funding cuts until at least the beginning of April. How will Arts Council England’s new national portfolio funding programme shape the future of the Royal Exchange Theatre? The application process has been in the main a positive experience. It’s important for all arts organisations to review what they do, why they do it and who for and how they do it, from time to time and that’s the process we have followed. The ACE has an overriding ambition which is ‘achieving great art for everyone’ and successful applications to this programme will be the ones that help them do this best, across art forms and across the country. We are clear going forward how we will use our different spaces to create and present the most exciting programmes of theatre and our developmental priorities are around developing new writing, creative collaborations with a range of different companies and artists, training and talent development, and participation work with communities that are least engaged with the arts. What changes can our audiences expect to see over the next few years? Our longer term vision is to continue to be an internationally recognized centre of excellence for

Issue 8 February 2011

theatre in the UK and a vibrant cultural centre for Manchester and the region. This means that we need to be much more than just a theatre putting on plays, as important as this is, we also have a key role to play in the wider development of theatre – thus our new development priorities. Ideally, current audiences will have an even greater range of work to choose from. How do you plan to communicate decisions? We are currently reviewing how we talk about ourselves. We are striving towards more holistic and clearer communication. As part of this review we are looking at our brand, how we communicate best about the wider range of work we do, how we use digital marketing to sell shows, our website and a whole range of other issues. Within this process it is paramount that we talk to our loyal core audiences without the support of which we wouldn’t be here and over 2011/2012 we will be undertaking significant audience research. Crucially, we also have to talk to new audiences and younger audiences. How can our audiences and supporters help? Through their continued attendance! Regular donations from individuals and businesses are also incredibly important, if people are in a position to increase their support it would have a significant impact and would help us ride the storm. Crucially our supporters are advocates for the general importance of Art and Culture in Cities – the economic and social benefits, the boost to tourism and how the work we do with communities improves social well being and cohesion. What are your priorities as Executive Director? It is my ambition to ensure that the Royal Exchange Theatre remains the theatre of choice for audiences from around the region and further afield, a thriving cultural centre for the city and a key hub for developing theatre talent and practise in the UK.


Backstage Issue 8