Actors taking the best acting classes Leeds has to offer should value their craft, and the training it took to hone it.
This is why the lack of pay for many actors is so problematic, and has recently become the focus of a debate, sparked by reviewer Mark Shenton.
It started with an article on The Stage in which he pledged to stop reviewing plays that didn’t pay their actors. He argued this mainly affected fringe theatre, but that the small-scale nature of the productions was no excuse.
He was then invited onto the Today Programme where he debated low pay, alongside actors and their unions. Equity, the actor’s union said on the show: “you wouldn’t open a cafe and then tell the staff that they’ll be no money to pay them!”
This latest furore follows on from many years of campaigning to get actors at least minimum wage. Just a couple of years ago Equity helped a group of actors who were not paid for their time in rehearsals, when their play fell through.
An employment tribunal found that performers who were signed on to a profit share were entitled to the minimum wage for the hours they worked, and ordered the respondents to pay all their overdue wages.
Though working for free is not breaking any of Equity’s rules, the union makes it clear that employers are breaking both minimum wage regulations and potentially working time directives.
The union has a number of case studies showing the outcomes for low paid workers in tribunals.