UPDATED with quotes, 7:42 AM: Members of the UK’s major theater unions have spent the past hour protesting against the sudden closing of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella run in London’s West End and have warned of more to come.
Actors union Equity organized the protest outside the Gillian Lynne Theatre after multiple cast and crew found out over the weekend via Twitter that it will be ending its run in just six weeks’ time, before the show is completely revamped and moved to Broadway.
Protestors waved Equity flags and showed solidarity for Cinderella’s actors and stage management, warning that there will be lightning protests outside West End theaters in the coming days to show solidarity for actors and stage management.
No members of the Cinderella cast joined the public protest and most were union reps working in other London shows.
The roughly 20 Equity members were joined by behind-the-camera union Bectu reps and the protestors had three demands:
- Producers should give more thought to the effect of their business decisions on the real lives of their work force and how they communicate it to them: For example: Do not tell cast and stage management that the contract is cancelled on a Sunday evening in advance of a bank holiday.
- Tell the Union in advance of intended closure, and make sure that all cast members have been individually told in good time before releasing any news via social media or the press. Do not think that sending an e-mail out to an Agent or cast member after hours is fulfilling your obligation. It is not a press matter it is a matter of workers dignity.
- Compensation should be made to both current and future cast members. The full value of the current cast members contract until it ends on July 17, and payment of adequate compensation to those contracted who were due to start work beginning of June.
Union officials also noted that they have asked for meetings with the Society of London Theatres to examine how West End casts and stage management are treated by producers and theater owners.
Cinderella is a modern retelling of the fairytale and is written by Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman creator Emerald Fennell. It was originally slated for June 2021 release but was delayed by two months due to the pandemic.
Management from Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group wrote to cast and crew Sunday expressing their “huge gratitude to everyone involved” with the play and saying the company had “held the [UK] government’s feet to the flames throughout their changes of heart during the pandemic.”
Lloyd Webber, the UK’s biggest theater name, has been a vocal critic of the government for the impact its policies have had on the creative industries, but his decision to close Cinderella attracted a wealth of criticism.
Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming added: “Equity members made this show. They poured their hearts and skills into it through the worst two years in living memory. Now they’re jobless, effectively sacked by press release. All unions are fighting forms of this practice right now – and Equity will get compensation for our members after the pain and distress this has caused them.”
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