The president of the Equity union has raised concerns about a “lack of respect” for theatre workers as its members staged a protest over the sudden closure of West End musical Cinderella.
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.
Speaking as Equity members took part in a protest outside the London theatre on Tuesday afternoon, the union’s president Maureen Beattie said: “We are increasingly concerned about the lack of respect being shown to our workers.
“The people of Cinderella found out that their show was closing through a tweet – this is absolutely disgraceful behaviour.”
Beattie said the industry has come through “a shocking two years of Covid” which saw theatres closed.
“The vast majority of people who work in our industry, certainly members of Equity, don’t earn the bulk of their money in this industry because there is just not enough work about, and the money we get paid is not good enough often,” she said.
“So people actually pay their way, feed their children, etc by having a second job – and all the second jobs during Covid also went because they tend to be in the service industries.
“So we’re coming back. We just need the people we’ve made a vast amount of money for over the decades to just take care of us now and look after us and have the respect we deserve and give some of it back, and that doesn’t seem to be happening. ”
The protestors, some carrying flags and banners, chanted “dignity for Cinderella workers” and “dignity for arts workers” outside the theatre.
Nicola Blackman, 66, of Rotherhithe, Southwark, south London, who plays the role of Mrs Boyle in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap also in the West End, said she was at the protest to show “solidarity”.
She said: “I’m here in solidarity. Dignity for West End artists. I just think it’s shameful.”
Equity 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 set to join the cast at the beginning of June get “adequate compensation”.
It is also demanding producers give more thought to the effect of their business decisions “on the real lives of their workforce” and alert the union in advance of any future closures.
Written by The Crown actress Emerald Fennell, and starring Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role, Cinderella is described as a “complete reinvention” of the classic fairy tale 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.
In a statement, Lord Lloyd-Webber previously said he was “incredibly proud” of the musical, 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.”
He 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.