Time’s up for the pre-Covid 19 fringe model

There’s been a lot in the media, social and otherwise, concerning the survival of theatre after lockdown, lots of focus on audiences and NPO’s and some thought given to the how’s – regional touring, more digital content. We’d like to talk about models, the fringe – the long defended bastion of “opportunity” and “work that would otherwise never be produced.”

The time is ripe for this model to be reassessed, its repugnant to expect struggling actors to continue to bail out fringe venues with unpaid work and profit-share when this all blows over. The argument previously made was that it was a stepping stone for those performers previously overlooked – that’ll no longer wash. It’ll be obnoxious to expect them to bail out venues with yet more unsustainable productions and product. The fringe model originated fifty years ago, the world was a different place, the economy was different – we actually had one. To retain that old way of thinking is obstinate and indifferent to where we are now.

Fringe venues with salaried Artistic Directors who do little more than programme and administrate and rarely artistically direct.
Massive cast sizes with crowded dressing rooms with actors bringing home little more than sweat and smelly costumes.
Producers able to create plenty of paid work but only outside the actual venue they run.
Is profit-share capable of insuring you against catching Cornonvirus?

All of these are up for question and rightly so.

We’re all in this together and yet there are venues whose very articles of association require them to retain 6 month’s worth of operational running costs – will this ever be ploughed back into repaying the actors? Will venues reflect and consider whether they are truly living up to the National Living Wage stickers they proudly display which apply to bar staff but not performers? Will the Fringe learn from newer venues that have embraced the sea change that actors demand – they can and are making it work? Of course it won’t, the Fringe has no single voice, its structures exists to perpetuate venue owners and resident AD’s in their eyries. The Fringe won’t reform, it’s only the newcomers to the Fringe who do the reforming, the old guard resolutely stick to outmoded thinking and views that were formed 30 or more years ago.
So who’s going to do it? Who’s going to demand more? Who’s going to ask questions when this is all over? How did your small venue survive? Why didn’t you change your business model? Why, when we’ve come through all this are actors not considered worth the National Living Wage?

Actors – demand better!

This entry was posted in acting, actors, minimum wage, national minimum wage, nmw, solutions. Bookmark the permalink.

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