A stage too far for young Worthingtons

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The Independent Culture
Noel Coward's celebrated lyric can now be amended. "Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington - unless you and Mr Worthington are prepared to pay for her training."

The Gulbenkian report highlights the utter illogicality of a system that gives mandatory grants for art and music education, but none for dance and drama. An aspiring actor offered a place at Rada or another drama school is likely to have to find pounds 7,000 out of his or her own pocket, or more realistically his or her parents' pockets.

Rada's working-class heroes, from Albert Finney to Jane Horrocks, are likely to become a phenomenon of the past.

This may be music to the ears of Hollywood producers who can now look forward to a stage army of Hugh Grants and Helena Bonham Carters to bolster their image of Merchant Ivory Britain. But it is a depressing scenario for aspiring stars, in both dance and drama, not possessed of rich parents. It is small wonder that some in the profession yesterday seized on the idea of lottery cash being used to pay part of the tutition and maintenance costs of dance and drama students. It is an idea that has already seized the imagination of the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley.

Here would be a chance to throw money at real people, young people, poor people, talented people.

It is a temptation hard to resist in the run-up to the election, and one she is keen to see realised despite the opposition of Lord Gowrie, chairman of the Arts Council, which distributes the lottery cash.But lottery cash is an unpredictable planning tool, and, who knows, could in future years be diverted from the arts to other areas.

Mrs Bottomley and Gillian Shephard at the Department of Education and Employment need to see dance and drama students not as "good causes" who could benefit from lottery cash but as legitimate higher-education students, meriting mandatory awards.

The alternative is a class-based profession which puts private income above talent. A recipe for true luvvies.

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