Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture
SIR PETER Hall has suffered a rather startling setback in his laudable aim to run a repertory season at The Old Vic next year. Sir Peter asked the Arts Council if he could have a pounds 500,000 guarantee against loss (not a subsidy, he stresses) for the next three years. "They were sympathetic but not encouraging," he told me. "Their view is that there is sufficient serious theatre in London."

How fascinating to learn that the funders of drama will pay for only so much "serious theatre." What is their cut-off point? How do they define serious? Oh to to be a fly on the wall at the next council meeting. "I'm a bit worried about this Racine bloke in the West End. Sounds suspiciously serious." Gloomy shaking of heads all round. "Yes, French. Must be serious. Oh dear. Not even a Hollywood star we can give some public money to, and show Chris Smith we're modern and cutting-edge."

I look forward to the Arts Council drama director, Anna Stapleton, explaining what constitutes serious theatre and exactly how much there should be in London. In the meantime, Peter Hall's offer to run The Old Vic with a repertory company and an artistic policy should be embraced and properly funded if there is a genuine concern about theatre, "serious" or otherwise.

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IS STEPHEN Daldry (right), the Royal Court's artistic director, auditioning for a role as a spin doctor? Certainly he delivered a Shane Warne-like linguistic googly when The Stage raised the question of croneyism over the Arts Council awarding an extra pounds 2.5m lottery grant to the Royal Court. The council's chairman, Gerry Robinson, used to sit on the board of the Royal Court. Daldry told the newspaper: "It is not additional but extra on top of the feasibility forecast as a result of the final and accurate costings." Not additional but extra. Staff at the Royal Court should remember to use that wording next time they ask for a rise.

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HERE IS the trivial arts pursuits quiz question of the week. Who described what as "an extraordinarily awkwardly designed rhinoceros"? Sir Peter Hall on the Arts Council? No. It was Sir Richard Eyre's description of the Lyttelton auditorium at the National Theatre, which, of course, he used to run. There is clearly not much love lost between Sir Richard and the National Theatre architect Sir Denys Lasdun. At the same Barclays Theatre Week conference Sir Richard reminded the audience that he found it hard to have a constructive relationship with Sir Denys who had denounced both Sir Richard and the designer Bill Dudley as "barbarians and vandals."

Clearly life behind the scenes at the National Theatre has not been all air kisses and luvvyish being there for each other. The National's design does have its problems, particularly in the Olivier's acoustics, though I believe the building as a whole is still vastly underrated.

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