West End Two-Timing Sundays?

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UK Equity actors appear to still be voting on whether they’ll agree to a second involuntary Sunday performance on West End stages.

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Scene from “The 39 Steps”

Producers have proposed the double shift, and Equity staff seems to cautiously support it, if its website’s wording is any indication. We say cautiously because public comments from actors seem opposed to the extra work on the traditional day of rest.

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In a brief website update Friday, Equity told members:

Discussions in recent days have centered on arrangements for Sundays although performances have been a part of the agreement for the past four years. The essential concern appears to be the possible requirement for a second Sunday performance with payment but without the consent of the cast and stage management.

This is what Equity will do from here: The vote made by the end of 15th March will be counted. Equity Officials will consider how the Sunday issue may be addressed and will also discuss this with the Managers. The Equity Council will consider the matter.

We will come back to you following the Council discussion.

But a Sunday article in The Independent said the Equity vote was taking longer than expected, and was still in progress.

thMeanwhile, actors starring in West End productions have been opposing the proposal on double time. Notes The Independent:

Jennifer Bryden, starring in The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, said that more pay and sick benefits were welcome but the issue of Sunday working was more important. “While I don’t wish to undermine the hard work our union puts in fighting in our corner, it does seem to me that the compromises outweigh the benefits,” she said. “Actors already work antisocial hours in regards to leading a normal family life, and to eat into this time any more is too much of a sacrifice.”

The Olivier-award-winning actor Roger Allam, set to play Prospero in The Tempest at the Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside, was more forthright. “I’m dead against it,” he said. “I was against it when we moved to Sunday performance as more or less normal. Having two shows on a Saturday and a Sunday is just a nightmare if you’ve got kids. It’s awful. It’s just absolutely dreadful. I wouldn’t sign a contract for five shows over the weekend. I just wouldn’t do it.”

The BBC last week quoted Olivier-winning star Bertie Carvel, who was in a twit on Twitter: “Five-show weekends will become the norm and ruin family life unless we reject the #WestEndSettlement.” Carvel urged Equity members to oppose the proposal.

The BBC article also quoted an Equity spokesperson who was trying to put any opposition in perspective:

We consulted with members currently and recently working in the West End over all the proposals currently being balloted on. At that time there was not widespread concern over two shows on a Sunday.

The article added that Hilary Hadley, Equity’s head of live performance, said any settlement agreed to would last for just two years, and would allow both sides to monitor it.