Intimacy co-ordinators spoil the ‘purity’ of the theatre

Sir Ian McKellen questioned the need for solidarity directors in the theatre, saying such things would “take care of themselves” in their day.

In recent years, the actor said, a director would be responsible for all aspects of a production, including personal scenes between the actors. They would also oversee the casting, lighting and scenery.

Now, the number of technical roles involved in putting on a play could be higher than the actors who will be performing in it, said Sir Ian.

Sir Ian, 83, was reflecting on the changes he has seen in the industry since he began his career in warehouse theater more than 60 years ago.

“There have been many changes, not always for the better,” he said in an interview with poet laureate Simon Armitage.

“Look at the back of a theater program now and see that the director has an assistant director and an associate director and what is called a dramaturg. I don’t know what playwrights actually do; I have asked many of them what they do and they are not very clear to themselves. However, they are there.

“Then there’s the lighting designer and then there’s the sound designer and then there’s the accent coach. All these were unnecessary in the past because people became successful [it] by themselves.

“The solidarity coordinator is the latest. This isn’t mandatory yet, but I can imagine there are situations where you have to be careful and it’s hard for people to get close, so a coordinator is just the thing.

“But why can’t the director do that? Why does it have to be someone who is trained to do it?

“This is a big change and there is little beef for me, because with all these names of the people who were doing all these jobs who would have taken care of themselves before, will not see you actors any other than those you have. see in the play that night because they are not permanently employed,” said Sir Ian, speaking on The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed.

Sir Ian said he preferred the “purity” of a production where “as few people as possible get in the way”.

But Yarit Dor, director of intimate relations at the theatre, suggested that Sir Ian might be surprised if he worked with someone like her.

“If he has the opportunity to do a play with a sympathetic director he might see the benefits,” Dor said, adding that both actors and directors welcome the role.

“I know a lot of directors who have been in show business for a long time and they seem very uncomfortable asking actors to do something quite vulnerable.

“They are free to handle these scenes with someone whose only role is to look at the actors’ comfort levels and create a safe protocol; check with the costume departments under modesty garments.

“It allowed directors to be much more straightforward and honest about the levels of nudity or body contact they wanted.

“Having that third person in the conversation also changes the power dynamic. Actors want to impress the next project or be considered for the next project and sometimes they say there are things they wouldn’t be comfortable with.”

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