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Equity calls for compensation over closure of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella

Maureen Beattie joins theatre performers and supporters demonstrating outside the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane (Ian West/PA)
Maureen Beattie joins theatre performers and supporters demonstrating outside the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane (Ian West/PA)

Performing arts union Equity has called for compensation for both current and future cast members of Cinderella after it was announced that the West End show is to close.

It was announced on Sunday that, despite opening to rave reviews, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production will end on June 12 after less than a year playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

Some cast members have claimed they read the news on social media or news websites before being told themselves.

Equity is staging a protest outside the theatre on Tuesday afternoon calling for creative workers “to be treated with dignity at work”.

Its general secretary Paul W Fleming said: “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.”

The union is demanding current cast members receive the full value of their contracts until they are due to end on July 17 and that those who were due to join the cast at the beginning of June get “adequate compensation”.

Cinderella – London
Union members from Equity and Bectu demonstrating outside the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane following the announcement that the West End production of the musical Cinderella is to close on June 12 (Ian West/PA)

It is also demanding producers give more thought to the effect of their business decisions “on the real lives of their work force” and alert the union in advance of any future closures.

A statement said: “Do not think that sending an email 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.”

Written by The Crown star Emerald Fennell and starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, Cinderella is described as a “complete reinvention” of the classic fairytale and is based on an original idea by Fennell.

It has been hit with Covid-19-related disruption since first being workshopped in 2019, before previewing in June 2021 with a reduced audience due to pandemic restrictions.

Hope Fletcher, who plays Cinderella, wrote on Twitter: “I don’t think I have the words. And if I did I would probably be advised not to say them. Sending love to all impacted by todays news and by how that news was delivered.”

Theatre producer and writer James Graham said in a tweet: “When your show became the face of ‘reopening’. When you are entirely in control of the announcement about it closing, definitely make sure the people employed hear first.

“Definitely don’t write an article days before you tell them for the trade mag. Definitely call your actors.”

In a nearly three-hour long video on Instagram, actress Summer Strallen said that, although her agent received an email, she had “basically got fired by social media, which is just not OK”.

The theatre star had been due to take over the role of The Queen from Rebecca Trehearn.

In a statement, Lord Lloyd-Webber previously said he was “incredibly proud” of the show, adding: “Not only did it get some of the best reviews of my career, but we led the charge to reopen the West End, ensuring that theatre and live entertainment remained relevant and in the news.

“While mounting a new show in the midst of Covid has been an unbelievable challenge, we held the Government’s feet to the flames throughout their changes of heart during the pandemic.”

Lord Lloyd-Webber’s statement added: “Now, I am really excited to get to work putting together a new production with (production company) No Guarantees for Broadway.

“Thank you very much to everyone involved, particularly our UK audiences who have loved and supported the show. See you next March on Broadway.”

Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group has been contacted for further comment.

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