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.



Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015