Arts: A week in the arts

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Theatre just isn't "relevant", intones Dominic, the pompous young TV producer in David Hare's outstanding play Amy's View, which transferred to the West End this week. He is suitably chided - with Hare's approval, one suspects. But in the Royal Shakespeare Company's new season brochure also out this week, I spy the "make it relevant" factor at work once more.

Take this breathless description of a play. The hero, we read, "is the only one who knows who has killed his father. When he alerts the murderer to the fact, he puts his own life in danger." That's Hamlet. OK, that was easy. What about "Is it his conscience that troubles the king ... or another lady?" If you plumped for Henry VIII, proceed to the final round. "A complex web of sexual passion, political hope and private despair." Gotcha! Anyone who correctly guessed Uncle Vanya can proceed straight to an executive job in the RSC marketing department.

On one level, I'm in favour of any wheeze that encourages more people to see Adrian Noble's latest London season; on another, I smell the "Dominic tendency" here: make it all sound "relevant". And it's a bit of a con trick, ultimately of doubtful benefit.

Hamlet, despite the protestations of innumerable directors chasing the young persons' vote, is not a thriller. It is a richly layered, complex, poignant, poetic drama, with insights that transcend its age. It is best appreciated with some advance study of the text and its language, but the rewards are lifelong. No marketing person is going to write any of that, of course. But aren't psychological insights, poetry and unrequited love as "relevant" as the cinematic sound-bites of "alerting the murderer" and "putting his own life in danger"?

Of course, it's all a way of trying to get a new audience into the theatre. The problem with trying to persuade them that they are about to see LA Confidential on stage is that they might just leave at the interval.