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 and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes