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Lesley Manville: 'Most actors are not loaded'

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment & arts reporter

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image captionManville, pictured here in World on Fire, was Oscar-nominated for Phantom Thread

Lesley Manville has said she "feels for young actors" during the coronavirus crisis, most of whom she says are not as well-off as some people may assume.

The Mum star, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2018 for her role in Phantom Thread, is among a host of big names to have delivered a new monologue online for the Equity Benevolent Fund.

The union is offering support to actors in need of help during the pandemic.

Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi also uploaded solo performances from home.

"I really feel for young actors at the moment, who are just getting going," Manville told BBC News.

"They're now stuck in this real kind of critical situation that we can't see at the moment quite how we are going to get out of."

"You know, will theatres survive even? And when are we ever going to be in front of a camera again?" she continued.

"It's just very scary. They've devoted their time to studying and becoming actors, and then suddenly they can't do what they're trained to do."

Manville believes there is "an illusion", or general perception that "if you're an actor, you must be loaded".

"I'm not denying that there are some very well-paid actors around without question, who are not going to be knocking on the door of the Equity Benevolent Fund at all," she went on.

"But that is not the case of the majority. This is about them just needing support at a time when hopefully we're going to get through and there will be an industry when we come out the other side."

image copyrightPA Media
image captionMichelle Collins is also involved in the For the Love of Arts initiative

The star was asked to take part in the collaborative new project, called For the Love of Arts, by Michelle Collins, whom she acted alongside in Real Women.

It arrives during a period of great uncertainty for British theatres and cinemas, which remain closed and are grappling with how to reopen and, in some cases survive.

Manville said she was working on the National Theatre's production of The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt when the virus "pulled the rug [from] under our feet".

The 64-year-old believes that out-of-work actors of all ages are at risk of falling through the gaps of the benefits system and government furlough schemes due to the unsteady nature of their profession.

Collins, who had been rehearsing for a tour of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party before the lockdown, told PA this week that young people were at risk because Downing Street officials were "ignoring" the crisis facing her industry.

In response, a DCMS spokeswoman told the BBC: "The government has announced unprecedented support for the cultural and creative sectors, including the Self Employed Support Scheme, the job retention scheme, a years' business rates holiday, and the Arts Council's £160 million emergency response package.

"We're working closely with the industry to plan for the future and support its recovery. [On Wednesday] we announced the appointment of Neil Mendoza as commissioner for cultural recovery and renewal and the creation of the Entertainment and Events Working Group as part of our commitment to getting our cultural and creative sectors back up and running again."

She added: "As soon as it is safe to do so we will be encouraging everyone to get out and experience the UK's fantastic creative and cultural offerings again."

Manville's own offering is a performance of The Girl with No Name, which she describes as "a glorious bit of writing" by Real Women and Coronation Street screenwriter Susan Oudot.

The soliloquy is delivered by a middle-aged woman with children who finds herself dipping her toe into the murky world of online dating for the first time, after her husband of many years leaves her for a younger woman.

"I'd have loved to have had more time to really learn it and have done it a bit more justice," admitted Manville, who received the script and performed the single-camera piece in just two days.

"I just had to kind of busk it a bit, but I think we're all busking a bit. But we're doing it for a good cause, so that's the main thing."

Other contributors to the cause include After Life's Mandeep Dhillon reading a "Letter to My Future Self", and Joseph Fiennes performing King Edward's monologue from Edward II, by Christopher Marlowe.

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