David Lister: Is this a case of a great but troubled ballet star being wronged? I don't think so

The Week in Arts

On Thursday, it was reported that Sergei Polunin, the Royal Ballet star who dramatically quit the company a week ago, has now lost his work permit, according to a Royal Ballet spokesperson. It would take a hard-hearted person not to feel sympathy with the brilliant 22-year-old. So, call me hard-hearted, because I'm afraid I don't.

Much of the coverage of this mysterious affair has focused on how this undoubted talent may have felt too regimented at the Royal Ballet, may not have been allowed to guest for other companies, and that such a free spirit would now either run the tattoo parlour that he owns and says he might make his career, or join a rich Russian dance company.

I don't think any of the coverage has focused on the rather more mundane fact that in making his dramatic exit one week before he was due to star in the Royal Ballet's current production The Dream, he has callously let down ticket-buyers who have forked out up to £100 a time to see him. It would be nice if Sergei could use some of the profits from his tattooing business to refund the disappointed fans.

I'm also a little unclear about this supposed ban by the Royal Ballet on him guesting because three days after exiting Covent Garden he was dancing in a pre-arranged guest performance at Sadler's Wells, all agreed to by the Royal Ballet. It rather seems to me that this has been a dramatic gesture by a talented but maverick young figure, either for no clear reason or for a very clear but as yet unrevealed reason, namely to join another dance outfit. It's also, of course, possible that he wanted to live the tattooing dream.

Maybe I'm too much of an arts junkie and not sufficiently appreciative of the joys of tattooing, but I'm doubtful that high streets will one day be full of Polunin Parlours transforming young bodies into psychedelic wonders. Rather, I suspect he will find happiness in dancing again, and his bank manager will be happy, too.

In the meantime, if, as a result of no longer having a work permit, he has to leave the UK, as the reports have speculated, then spare a thought not only for him, but for the audiences he has let down. Quite naturally, we consumers of the arts tend to sympathise with the talent and not with the bureaucratic companies that employ them. But talent can be selfish and thoughtless, too. And it is audiences who suffer, just as those same audiences at Covent Garden suffer from the constant and unreported absence of opera stars from performances through mysterious illnesses – those strange diseases that never seem to strike on press nights.

Polunin chose, in an old-fashioned term, to flounce out from a company which is on something of a high at present. He chose, in another old-fashioned term, to let a lot of people down, not least his most devoted fans. The next Polunin Parlour may well have to open abroad. But let's not turn him into a martyr to his art, or think of this as a disgraceful case of Britain kicking out talent. This time it's the talent that's to blame.

What 'handling' did this £1 buy?

My long campaign against booking fees in the arts, not least the meaningless "handling" charges, has always emphasised how much they irritate arts attenders, no matter how small the charges might be. A good example has been sent in by Nigel Surry, who was charged a £1 booking fee by the British Museum when he booked online for its Hajj exhibition. Mr Surry loved the exhibition and loves the BM, but rightly wonders why he was charged this, as there was no "handling" of any sort. He "assumes it was a way of generating extra income for doing nothing."

A British Museum spokeswoman tells me that the online service is run by a third party and the booking fees are used for maintenance of the online platform, but she "realises that people do get frustrated by the additional fee at the end of the process."

Yes, they do get frustrated, even when it's only £1. Simply incorporating the fee into the ticket price would leave far fewer irritated visitors.

Don't look now, but Keira's just gone and ruined all the mystery

In the wonderful 1973 film Don't Look Now, Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland enjoyed a memorable sex scene. For decades movie buffs have debated whether the couple actually made love for real as the cameras rolled. When asked about it recently, Christie wisely said she wouldn't dream of interfering with a great film story by giving a definitive answer.

This week at the premiere of A Dangerous Method, the film about Jung and one of his patients, Keira Knightley was asked about the scene in which she is spanked (one of the more interesting scenes in a film I found tedious). She said they did it in one take, they had a vodka after and "he never really spanked me."

Keira, take a leaf out of Julie's book. Leave film fans a bit of mystery and some scope for years of debate. We don't really want to know that it's all done by smoke, mirrors and trick photography.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

twitter.com/davidlister1

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit