arts notebook

It always surprises me when actors and actresses claim a deep affinity with the characters they are playing. Surely it demands less talent to play yourself or someone physically, spiritually and emotionally like yourself than it does to play someone who is temperamentally a complete stranger. Were I on the Academy Awards Committee that's how my thinking would go.

Nevertheless, Madonna, now an Oscar possibility for Evita, this week claimed she identified "on many levels" with Eva Peron, from their mutual love of dancing to coming from a small town and hitting the big city and achieving "something incredible" with their lives. Madonna still seemed to be identifying with a president's wife when I met her this week and she graciously allowed me to kiss her hand. She told me she doesn't know what her next project will be. I suggest that in the interests of role identification she should steer clear of Hedda Gabler.

The Policy Studies Institute this week released the most comprehensive account of arts funding in the UK yet published. The study, "Culture as Commodity", received scant attention, perhaps because the year it focuses on, 1993-94, was the year before the introduction of the National Lottery, which rather moved the goalposts on arts funding. It is not without its interesting statistics though. The study shows that only 50 per cent of arts funding comes from the Department of National Heritage, Scottish Office, Welsh Office and Northern Ireland Office.

Fourteen per cent comes from other government departments, 24 per cent from local government, five per cent from Europe, four per cent from business and four per cent from charities, trusts and volunteers. It's a surprise that DNH ministers, faced with the annual campaign over the size of the DNH grant to the arts, do not point out these other sources of funding more vociferously. I suspect that in future they will.

Talking of statistics, the Royal Albert Hall has uncovered a few of its own in a glossy new booklet celebrating its 125th anniversary. England and Italy competed at the turn of the century in an indoor marathon race, doing 524 laps of the Hall in 1909. A mass baptism complete with the "river Jordan", a galvanised iron tank surrounded with sand and flowers, took place at Easter 1928. The Beatles and Rolling Stones appeared on the same bill in 1963. Yet when Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jnr appeared together in 1989, it was called the Ultimate Event.

National Theatre actor Colin Stinton's feat of appearing in two of the complex's theatres on the same nights - changing costumes several times as he rushes back and forth from the all-singing, all-dancing Guys and Dolls to the quiet tragedy of Death of a Salesman - is commendable but doomed. One of these nights he will quite simply flip, cut down in his acting prime by a case of theatrical split personality as he grabs Willy Loman's lapels and yells "Sit down you're rocking the boat". His fate is clear - a lengthy sojourn in the Royal Hospital For Split Personality Actors, where he will spend his days playing dominoes with Madonna.

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