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Oh to be a fly-on-the-wall at the next faculty meeting of the English department at London University's Queen Mary and Westfield College. Lisa Jardine, the college's Professor of English, argued in the Independent's education pages this week that "our great theatre companies have lost their nerve with Shakespeare". In contrast to the new film of Romeo and Juliet, our national theatre companies, she claims, offer "inert, elitist, studiedly authentic pieces of literary history based on some kind of assumption that audiences `ought' to enjoy them."

Lisa Jardine's colleague, senior English lecturer and Shakespeare specialist Rosalind King, is on the board of the English Shakespeare Company, whose production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is currently touring with marked success and lack of inertia. The next meeting between Ms Jardine and Ms King should, I am informed, resemble the meeting between Helena and Hermia in The Dream, the one where the two have to be forcibly restrained.

All praise to the new Romeo and Juliet film with the Montagues and Capulets in their souped-up cars and beach fights. It has brought a new audience to Shakespeare, and that is marvellous. But it doesn't mean all future productions have to ape the "fresh, fast and funky" style, as it is billed. Adrian Noble head of the Royal Shakespeare Company saw and loved the movie, but I felt he was right when he told me afterwards that if you went to see Blur perform St Matthew's Passion, it would be a great night out, but you wouldn't necessarily want or expect all future recitals to be in the same mode.

Perhaps there is a lack on stage today of the past boldness of Trevor Nunn's musical Comedy of Errors from the Seventies and Bill Alexander's 1950s nostalgia Merry Wives from the Eighties. But these, like the "Verona Beach" Romeo and Juliet will always be glorious alternatives. Authenticity in staging a great classical text can demand some preparation from the audience; it certainly repays study. But that does not make it elitist, any more than a classical music concert or a TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is elitist. To call Shakespeare on stage elitist is worryingly patronising to the bulk of schoolchildren and students, especially worrying when the assertion comes from a professor of English.

To prove that nothing is elitist in this postmodern age, rock star David Bowie is to move into publishing art books. Bowie, along with gallery owner Bernard Jacobson and Modern Painters editor Karen Wright, will launch 21, their new art-book publishing venture with a state of the art party in May. David Bowie enthuses "21 is the future. It will revolutionise art publishing in this country." Why 21? "It's art publishing in the 21st century," Bowie explains. "It's because all three of us are well over 21," adds one of his two colleagues equally accurately.

In Tom Stoppard's play Night and Day, a journalist from the Grimsby Evening Telegraph being patronised by one from The Sunday Globe retorts that the Grimsby Evening Telegraph is more important in Grimsby any day of the week than The Sunday Globe is around the globe. I was reminded of this by the general laughter this week over Dudley Moore forsaking Hollywood to appear in panto at the Southampton Mayflower Theatre. To which they might well retort on the south coast that the Southampton Mayflower is more important in Southampton any day of the week than the West End is in the west.

Actually, the plot is rather more complex. Paul Elliott, head of ENB productions, which is staging the panto, tells me he has been after Dudley Moore for five years, believing him a Buttons sent from heaven. Elliott has long wanted to convert the Americans to panto, and if Moore makes 'em laugh in Southampton, it could be next stop Broadway with a panto star the Americans have actually heard of. So Southampton could yet have a historic part to play in international theatre.

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