ARTS: CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
4 TO THE Vaudeville, to see Dealer's Choice transfer from the National. All around me, the kind of people the West End needs to attract, and struggles to - urban, bright, and a lot younger than the punters piling into Sunset Boulevard next door.

At first, as plays go, it seemed like quite a good sitcom - we could have done with cameras and close-ups. But in the second half, I saw what the critics had meant. It became more substantial and more theatrical, with a poker table on a revolve showing us the faces, and hands, of each character in turn.

The transfer is a triumph for Patrick Marber, a seasoned radio and TV writer (Knowing Me, Knowing You, etc) making his thea- trical dbut as writer and director. Directing your own play is a hazardous business. Simon Gray used to be directed by Pinter, but opted to do it himself for Cell Mates. As you may have heard, it was not a roaring success. Paul Godfrey directed his own The Blue Ball at the National and it's a turkey - though I'm reliably informed that the problem is more the directing than the writing. David Hare, a director as well as writer, doesn't direct himself - Richard Eyre does. Marber is not the only successful DIY merchant of the moment - Nick Ward did well with The Present at the Bush this year - but he is the most prominent. I fear he will start a trend.

4 CLASSICAL MUSICIANS who specialise in that tricky area known as contemporary are used to odd requests from composers - play this note on one leg, whistle the Marseillaise, and so on - but even the hardened Arditti Quartet, who have seen it all before, are nonplussed by the new Stockhausen piece they will be premiering at the Holland Festival in June. The idea is that the players will appear on stage, acknowledge the audience and exit from the hall on to the roof where four helicopters - one per musician - will airlift them away for the performance, which will be relayed back to the hall by television. The reason (a sensitive word in the circumstances) is that Stockhausen has now officially admitted that he was not born on Earth but on the star Sirius, and he wants to get his music closer to base so the folks back home can hear it. Stockhausen fans will be pleased to know that the new artistic director of the Barbican, Graham Sheffield, is eager to bring the piece to London, air-traffic control and men in white coats permitting.

4 NOT FOR nothing do they call this The Column That Gets Things Done. In March I had a go at the British Press Awards, for giving a commendation in the Critic of the Year category to Julie Burchill of the Sunday Times. A formidable controversialist, Burchill was no sort of film critic. A recent column boasted that she spent many screenings talking to "my girlfriend", before walking out early. Now, thankfully, she has taken this process to its logical conclusion: from today, she is writing about "current affairs", and leaving the cinema to those who are prepared to take it seriously. If only a similar inclination could overcome the paper's TV critic ...

Jack Hughes

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