Arts Policies – a review

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I finally managed to set aside some time yesterday and digest the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives Arts Policies (Labour haven’t released theirs yet)

The Liberal Democrats;

A nicely presented 15 page document, now the content is important but likewise, it’s nice to see an Arts Policy that actually is well presented aesthetically. It starts with a forward by Baroness Bonham-Carter, which quotes John Maynard Keynes and his 1946 vision for the arts, and their view that the arts are important.

We’re then taken to a informative introduction, it highlights that;

  • the UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP”
  • “In five years time it is likely that the creative industries in the UK will be as important to our economy as the financial industries have been over the past fifteen years.”

I was pleased to see the acknowledgement of the importance of the Arts to tourism but also to diplomacy and them being used to strengthen diplomatic ties.

I was shocked to see that the current level of funding for the Arts Council is only 39p per week per household!! I think we can all agree that’s superb value for money, likewise, we’re not talking a huge amount of our taxes being used. The Lib Dems seem to realise that this is a good investment and that this current level is broadly accepted by members of the public (not just luvies like me!)

Their desire to increase private investment by building long term relationships and investments is to be welcomed.  As is their desire to continue the tax relief currently enjoyed by the UK film industry.

The arts are an essential part of a persons education and their policies on this are to be welcomed. Their desire to get trained drama and music teachers into schools can only be positive as “at present, just 56% of drama teachers possess a relevant post-graduate qualification”

All in all, it’s a very positive policy, whether they implement it, is obviously something time will tell and would depend on them getting into power, however having a party in the house with these views on the arts is useful especially as we seem to be heading for a hung Parliament.

The Conservatives;

You get a 2 page document that has clearly been rushed together – I looked back on the website to ensure I had downloaded all of it and it appears that yes, I have. Just these two pages, which just stop at the end of page 2. I think that says a HUGE amount on how they see the arts, or perhaps how many they think will read this policy?

What about what it says then;

Firstly it says that we’re “blessed” to have such a great amount of arts in this country, and then harps on about how before 1997 they established the Lottery and how that’d given so much to the Art’s, which indeed it has – but that’s not government money and so is fairly irrelevant.

They then have a go at Labour – I’m very anti in your manifestos/policies having pops at the other parties, I want to know what you think and firing cheap shots at other parties puts me off personally.

Next we here about their “approach”;

They mention the “arms length principle” – as we know this is something previously the Conservatives have not got right, so I’m wary of them talking about that.

My next concern is their mention of:

“the promotion of excellence in the arts” : Excellence is a VERY subjective word, and I don’t think the Government are able to designate what is excellent and what isn’t.

They do wish to remove “the myriad of targets”, this is to be commended. As is their desire to give every child in school the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.

However their policy makes no mention of, Art, Dance or Theatre, which seems odd for an Arts policy.

As I said, it appears to just stop, so maybe they’ve not got their website sorted. However it’s certainly lacking when compared to the Lib Dems.

I recommend you look at the policies yourselves, but for me, I’m happy and impressed with the Lib Dems. It’ll be interesting to see Labours as and when it’s produced.

Ibsen here, Ibsen there, Ibsen everywhere

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Rosamund Pike as Hedda in the Bath Theatre Royals production

There seems to be a great selection of Ibsen plays on at the moment, good news for any Ibsenites like myself.

There’s a production of Ghosts on in the West End, Bath’s Theatre Royal has a production of Hedda Gabler on at present which will transfer to the West End soon and Sheffield’s Crucible re-opened last week with a production of An Enemy of the People.

Ibsen’s plays were powerful social comments in their day and continue to be so in our time. Sadly some of the issues he addressed 100+ years ago have yet to be fully dealt with in our 21st Century. It was said that

“any play by Ibsen became a battleground between conservative and reformist forces in the period”

It appears that this continues, I’m genuinely excited that I’m off to see the Theatre Royal Production of Hedda Gabler next week, as I’ve only seen The Dolls House (at the Theatre Royal Bath a couple of years ago). I studied Hedda for my assignment last year at college and look forward to seeing it on stage and seeing how Adrian Noble chooses to bring this play to life.

I highly recommend taking this opportunity to see some of Ibsen’s work on the stage, his plays and the messages they contain are needed today.

Funding pt 2


Following on from yesterdays post, I read a superb letter in the Evening Standard last night, I’ll quote the last paragraph;

“Subsidy gives us great art (which does indeed contribute to greater democratic freedom) and is repaid financially and aesthetically, so what’s the problem? Leave it to the market , and you get pickled sharks in tanks and stale musicals that play for decades.”

Says it all really.

Arts Funding

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There was an interesting interview with the Conservatives shadow Arts minister on Radio 4 the other day. He was trying to assure the listeners of Radio 4’s arts program Front Row, that everything would be ok under the Conservatives (as if he’d say anything else!).

I can’t say he came across very convincing. They would certainly cut back funding and I wasn’t at all persuaded by his commitment to “arms length funding”, the last thing we want is a return to Thatcherite censorship of the arts, but I fear we may be heading down that road again should the conservatives get in.

On a positive note, at least they are addressing the issue of arts funding, I never tend to believe what politicians say before and election, so we’ll have to see what their plans really are, but I fear a swathe of cuts will occur. The arts are crucial to society and in the UK one of the few things we are still exporting and have a good reputation for worldwide.

As the other parties release their manifestos, it’ll be interesting to see their commitment to the Arts.

Standing on the Shoulders……

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I’ve been looking at several other directors as part of my course this week, namely;

Antonin Artaud and Jerzy Grotowski.

While a summary of their views and contributions will follow on another date, I’m just struck as I go through this course, how far theatre has come in the last 100 years, and how much I take for granted that 50 – 100 years ago was seen as “cutting edge” or downright subversive/revolutionary (and to some still is seen like that)

I’m amazed at how much I’ve just assumed that’s how it’s always been when in fact, it’s not been that way for very long at all.

So today I just say a big “Thank you” to all those who’ve gone before and helped make Theatre what it is today.

Review: Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

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As I booked my tickets for this play, I was wondering if this concept of Tom Stoppard’s script and Andre Previn’s music would work.

Firstly I just want to mention the National Theatre itself, I’ve not been to the National for a good many years (early 1990’s in fact – that makes me feel old!), their ordering of tickets and website has to be the best I’ve used. I also like the fact I can buy the program and/or the script for the play as and when I order my tickets (I always get a program, except when they’re ludicrously expensive as some musicals seem to be making them). It’s a welcome change when some ticket vendors or theatres seem to make the purchasing of tickets via the website as hard as possible, or when they add a “donation” to your ticket price automatically. The National ask if you’d like to make one, not sneakily add it to your bill in the hope you won’t notice.

Does this collaboration of sinfonia and script work? Indeed it does, Stoppard’s witty and disturbing script is ably assisted and complemented by Previn’s score. Is this just a cute idea, of two leaders in their field collaborating to produce some trite work, hardly, EGBDF has to be one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I’ve witnessed. The story is truly disturbing, a sane man Alexander, put in a psychiatric hospital (prison) because he voices his dissent at the political system under which he lives (Soviet Russia in the 70’s), who won’t be released until he admits he’s been cured of his madness. Yet Stoppard manages to inject great comedy into this play so that it never strays into melodrama. Previn’s score comes to the fore appropriately and resumes it’s bubbling under the surface as and when the play requires. The music conveys cleverly the intensity of Ivanov’s madness and allows us into his unreal world.

The Southbank Sinfonia, play (and act)superbly, and are pushed to their limits as they have to deal with cast intermingling with them and in particular one scene where members of the orchestra are being rounded up by the authorities, this scene was one of the highlights for me, as music, acting and dance all intermingled to show us the horror of the regime. I’m not sure how the cellists feel about Stoppard’s script though as they’re repeatedly put down by Ivanov!

The cast strike the right balances; Julian Bleech plays “the mad conductor” with sensitivity and humour that never feels over the top. Adrian Schiller as Alexander is moving and scarily realistic in the hunger strike scenes. The supporting cast of Jonathan Aris as the doctor, Pandora Collin as the teacher and Wesley Nelson as Sacha, help us to gain another perspective to the characters, they’re the sane ones outside the hospital, and Wesley Nelson is especially moving in his scenes where he’s trying to get his father to “not be so rigid”.

This was a creative, moving and clever piece of theatre, and I’m glad the National took the challenge to revive this play and that they’ve done it so capably. My only regret is that I saw it on the last performance, so if you’re now hoping to go and see it you’ll have to wait for the next revival (or hope the NT do a tour of it).

Journey of discovery

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One of the things I love about my college course, is the fact that it’s opened my eyes to peoples work I never would have looked at or experienced had I not been doing the course. Or names I know of or have heard about, I actually get to read and study their work.

My current module unit has done both of the above. I’ve read more of and got a much better understanding of Brecht. While having my experience widened by being introduced to Joan Littlewood, John McGrath and Augusto Boal (a name I’d heard of but never studied).

I was particularly struck by John McGraths thoughts and work. I’m currently reading his book A Good Night Out and I’ll comment further on that here at a later date.

I’m also currently reading Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, likewise my thoughts on that will follow.

Sometimes I’ve found the studying really hard especially when I’ve had to plow my way through text that I’ve found anything but inspiring , but I’m reminded this week that there are always some real gems waiting to be discovered as I persevere. This is certainly the highlight of studying theatre for me, I never quite know  what’s going to come my way next.

I’m now onto the next unit and will be revisiting some directors work I’ve looked at in the past, but will be going into more depth, Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook. Exciting stuff!