Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
SOMETHING most untoward happened when the West End theatre-gongs season opened on Monday night, with the Evening Standard awards. The award for Best Play went to the best play in contention - Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard. To add to the shock, the award for Best Actor could not be argued with either. It went to Ian Holm, for making a comeback from 14 years of moonlight in Stagefright - or should that be the other way round? And the gong for Best Musical went not to the grossly inflated Sunset Boulevard, which is running and running, but to the far superior City of Angels, which has already closed, and made heavy losses.

This is not the done thing at all. Awards ceremonies are supposed to provide easy targets for snipers like me. Happily, the Standard panel did not entirely forget this. They gave Best Actress to Fiona Shaw, for Machinal. It's not that Ms Shaw didn't deserve an award, but the one she should have got was for the Best Shot at Salvaging a Truly Atrocious Play. Machinal is an apologia for a woman in 1920s America who murdered her husband because he was boring. Shaw invests the woman with a lot more life than Sophie Treadwell's text ever managed; but not even she can make the character sympathetic, and if you don't do that you can't be said to have given a very good performance.

TIME FOR another in my occasional series of arts look-alikes. Leafing through the new biography of Rodin, The Shape of Genius by Ruth Butler (Yale, pounds 19.95), I came across the photograph on the left. The book claims that it shows Rodin's sister, but anyone who goes to the cinema will see through that. Those disappearing lips, that puggish nose, those eyes signalling vulnerability, suffering, and a heavy burden of guilt, with a slim hope of redemption: yes, it's Harvey Keitel. I suppose the man needed another outlet for his talents. He hasn't had a film out for a whole month now.

CENTRAL Television is a company with a distinguished record in documentary-making. Its Viewpoint series recently ended with Saddam's Killing Fields, Michael Wood's challenging film about the destruction of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq. The same strand enabled John Pilger to keep the continuing inhumanities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the eye of the public for 10 years. With offerings such as Hollywood Women and The Good Sex Guide, Carlton TV's documentaries have yet to prove they pack a comparable intellectual punch. We are assured that a takeover by Carlton would not affect Central's output. But didn't we get similar assurances from Rupert Murdoch when he bought the Times? Corporate culture is like Noel Edmonds: there's no stopping it. It won't be long before we see a Central- Carlton co-production: John Pilger's Sex Guide.

(Photograph omitted)