Arts: A week in the arts

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The comedian Arnold Brown had a nice ad lib when people coughed in his Edinburgh Festival shows. "That's a bad cough," he would muse, "what's a good cough?", which led on to a quasi-linguistic debate. There is, they would have us believe, no such thing as a good cough at a classical music concert. This week Radio 3 announced it would be handing out cough sweets, with waxed, silent wrappers, at its live recordings, to silence the coughers.

This is a retrograde step. One of the aesthetic pleasures of attending a classical music concert is coughing between the movements, and glaring at those novice concert-goers who applaud instead. A light clearing of the throat for early music, a heartfelt splutter for the romanticism of Brahms, a rasping hack for the drama of Beethoven.

So why the assault in every national newspaper on the aficionados of concert-going whose coughs emanate from years of musical study? The answer could be that Radio 3 has employed a marketing agency, Amadeus, to raise its profile. The coverage this week was ostensibly about Radio 3's alarm over coughing, but it also served to remind the nation that Radio 3 made live recordings at concerts around the country. A clever piece of classical music spin-doctoring. But I, for one, shall cough on regardless, and impress my neighbours with my musical expertise.

Stars are so expensive these days, but who needs 'em when your local MP is an actor manque. Yesterday a new acting discovery was being filmed for a video cameo, playing a newsreader - originally played by astronomer Patrick Moore - in the stage revival of Return to the Forbidden Planet, Bob Carlton's rock 'n' roll send-up of The Tempest. The revival at the New Victoria Theatre, Stoke, will mark the first time an arts minister has not just supported his portfolio, but nabbed a starring role in it.

Mark Fisher, arts minister, is undeterred by the sporadic boos when he made a speech from the stage at the Glastonbury Festival. A method actor, Mr Fisher has apparently been studying ITN's Trevor McDonald, and if he manages to mix McDonald and Moore, he should give a performance worth walking to Stoke for, particularly with such couplets as:

"Confused? Amazed? Now gentles please take heart

For we will now commence the second part."

But there is one snag. Is Mr Fisher, a staunch supporter of trade union rights, a member of Equity? Or will he attract the pickets on opening night?

Who is this arrogant spendthrift referred to in the new volume of memoirs from Sir Denis Forman, former chairman and MD of Granada Television. He describes "the moonlike smile stretching from ear to ear beneath a pair of huge circular spectacles...He reminded me," writes Sir Denis, "of the wartime graffiti character Chad whom one would encounter peering over walls or round corners asking, `Wot, No Tea?'" The chap with the moonlike smile apparently got from Sir Denis money to subsidise a group of actors for three months to develop "the comedy show to end all comedy shows". After three months he asked for and got more money, but produced nothing. Sir Denis concludes: "As I see him reorganising the BBC today with much the same degree of confidence and much larger sums of money, I hope the end result will be better...

"John [Birt] had no talent for the management of people, which in the end is the sort of management that matters most."

You may not believe it but... classical concert promoter Raymond Gubbay really was in a taxi from Dublin airport to the city concert hall for a performance of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The driver was unusually enthusiastic. He knew The Four Seasons was being performed, and said he had heard tickets were selling well. "Wonderful stuff," he sighed, "but a pity that Frankie Valli left them."

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