LETTER:The martial art of theatre

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The Independent Online
From Mr Jeffrey Segal

Sir: Mark Lawson's article "Luvvies, the SAS of the arts" (21 March) makes the important point that the disaster which has struck the play Cell Mates "is not unconnected with the fact that neither of its stars are stage actors but solo entertainers from a very wide variety of other fields".

The vast majority of actors who work in the straight theatre turn up for work well before the time they are due (they are paranoid about punctuality), learn their lines and interpret them to the best of their ability; generally fulfiling their obligation to give the audience of whatever size or temper, value for the good money they have paid.

True, sometimes actors are ill, or they are stuck in traffic jams or in the Tube and someone has to go on for them, but this is always followed by a sense of inadequacy or guilt and they are back on stage at the earliest possible moment. The very simple reason for this is that it is their job, and job satisfaction is a highly prized feature of the actor's craft.

I came into the theatre after finishing military service many years ago, and I have always been struck by certain similarities in the two callings; the discipline readily accepted in the case of the theatre, the mutual responsibility and dependence as members of a team and the knowledge that considerable stress can produce beneficial results.

The title of Mark Lawson's piece is therefore apt, except that in place of "the SAS" I would suggest "the PBI" - the Poor Bloody Infantry - of the arts.

Yours sincerely,

JEFFREY SEGAL

London, N12

23 March

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