Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture
CHANNEL 4 is shortly to broadcast a four-part series on the critics - the lives, though sadly not the loves, of theatre and music critics. I know most of these people and, without wishing to lose too many friends, I do think a four-part series is a bit over the top - about three and a half parts over the top. A couple of cameos in In The Psychiatrist's Chair would have been sufficient.

Besides, a much more interesting decision was taken this week which could one day make critics redundant. Patrick Marber's hit play Closer has taken out its own web site. It will allow users to give their views and comments on the show for others to read. As most producers acknowledge that it is word of mouth that sells tickets, a web site with word of several thousand mouths could prove highly significant. Next Thursday the innovative Internet chat scene featured in the play will be recreated with a live chat with Marber. I sincerely hope it catches on. Imagine an Internet chat with Harold Pinter, with users mistaking every pause for a fault in the system.

NOW WE know what the opposite is of men in suits. It's girls in tutus. Deborah Bull of the Royal Ballet posed in hers for the front page of one national paper after being appointed to the new Arts Council. Miss Bull declared: "Serving on the council has been done by old men in suits. It's been decided that we want fresh blood and young people in the arts." Certainly, there should be plenty to exercise Deborah's fresh blood and her blood pressure in the coming weeks. Should the council agree to the demand from the Royal Opera House for a doubling of their grant? That is sure to be high on the agenda. Except that Deborah will have to leave the room when the ROH is discussed because she is one of its employees and her presence would be against Council rules. Presumably she will also have to leave the room when ballet grants are discussed, as the Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Ballet would cry foul if an employee of one of their rivals was present. Indeed, as the ROH is the council's biggest client, most grant discussions will have to be conducted in Deborah's absence. It will give plenty of time for limbering up in the corridor while the key decisions are taken - by men in suits.

SIR GEORGE Martin's call for record companies not to use musicians who take drugs seems a little extreme and illiberal, and would cut a veritable swathe through Britpop. He'll want them banned from Tony Blair's soirees at 10 Downing Street next. I suspect memories of the night of 21 March 1967, during the making of Sergeant Pepper, might be partly responsible for Sir George's aversion. John Lennon, who had taken an LSD tablet by mistake (thinking it was an amphetamine), said he felt ill, and Sir George marched him up to the roof of the Abbey Road studios, saying briskly: "What you need is a breath of fresh air." John lurched towards the edge of the 50ft drop, swaying gently, looked at the stars and said: "Wow, isn't that amazing?" Paul McCartney and George Harrison ran up the stairs, rushed out and grabbed their colleague, later explaining gently to their producer that a roof is not the ideal place for someone having a bad LSD trip. Sir George recalls wanly in his book, The Summer of Love: "The stars did look good, and there seemed to be a great many of them, but they didn't look that good." Nearly losing a Beatle in the middle of recording their most famous album must leave you pretty traumatised, even 30 years on.

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