Arts Diary

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CALLING ALL actors manques: get down to the Hampstead Theatre where there is a fascinating new development which I forecast will spread through theatres across the land and give hope to life's understudies. The theatre, which has a strict policy on not admitting latecomers until a suitable break, is to start giving the aforementioned latecomers a synopsis in the foyer of what they have missed. No matter what time they arrive, a staff member will duly give a synopsis up to that point. If only this could become common practice. It is a marvellous opportunity, a public audition, a chance to play the whole cast. "Now, at this point Ewan McGregor gives that sexy smile to the front stalls, rather like this..." Of course, it would have taken a confident female member of staff to precis the first 20 minutes of Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room; a true man of the world to summarise the latest Irvine Welsh. But these are challenges understudies should thrive on. And if the performance in the foyer is good enough, with a bar on hand as well, why bother to go into the auditorium at all?

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THE NORMALLY effusive director of the Victoria and Albert Museum is in an unusually curmudgeonly mood this week, writing in the V&A magazine that "the press can, and usually will, misinterpret everything". I for one shall take his rebuke to heart and try not to misinterpret in future. I do notice that the large news section of the magazine which goes to the V&A Friends fails to mention one of the big news stories emanating from the V&A in recent weeks, the highly embarrassing loss of some extremely expensive Constable sketches. But I must beware misinterpreting the reasons for that. It is no doubt due to lack of space.

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SIR DENNIS Stevenson has provoked a timely debate with his remarks that modern composers can be arrogant and elitist. But his views have not gone down too well with modern composers. Stephen Montague, who is both composer and artistic director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, has written to the redoubtable Sir Dennis, who is chairman of Sinfonia 21, in the strongest of terms. "I am flabbergasted by your ignorance of the current contemporary music scene," he says, adding, "I cannot believe that these unpleasant characteristics (elitism and arrogance) are any more prevalent in the composition profession than in your business community." Ouch! as they say in new music circles.

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IT IS a hazard of working in the arts that you begin to talk in artspeak: a tongue thousands in the country now spout like natives without realising it. This column will chart the growth of this exciting new language. One example came this week when Helen Carey, who is in charge of public art at At-Bristol, the new science, nature, art and discovery centre being built in the Bristol docks, gave a presentation on the art that will be involved in the millennium project. Even the underground car park will be artist-designed, as you will see, said Ms Carey, when you return "to rediscover your car".

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