David Lister: Sport and the arts can live together happily – yes, even during the Olympics

The Week in Arts
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The Independent Online

The British Film Industry is in a lather.

It is worried that next year could be one long disaster movie, with film fans deserting the cinema for the Olympics, the Euro 2012 football championship and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Oscar-winning producer Lord Puttnam has called for a financial injection, a series of special events and media promotions to ensure that people don't desert the cinema. The chief executive of the Film Distributors' Association, Mark Batey, seems to agree, adding: "Next year will be very challenging."

I generally support everything David Puttnam says, his being one of the sanest and most inspiring voices in the arts. But on this occasion I fear that he and other film industry bigwigs underestimate the ability that we film and sport fans have to multitask.

It's hard. It's tough. It demands a summoning up of the spirit and a girding of the loins worthy of David Puttnam's own Chariots of Fire, but I think that we film and sport fans can muster up enough energy to watch the Olympics, watch Euro 2012, and still get to the cinema. Those who want to should even have the stamina to attend a Diamond Jubilee street party as well.

What is it about the Olympics that inspires such panic and such visions of chaos? Not only is London going to grind to a halt, apparently, not only does the whole of the arts world feel obliged to mount expensive extravaganzas in the hope that people's eyes will be on art not sport, but now joining the spectre of 24-hour traffic jams and countrywide Shakespeare recitals is the spectre of empty cinemas and a bankrupt film industry.

What it really raises is a worse spectre, one which was once prevalent but I hoped had been long buried – the conflict between sport and the arts. It used to be held as a truism that you were on one side or the other. You liked sport or you liked the arts; you were good at sport at school, or you preferred the arts. It's absurd. There are plenty of us who love both sport and art.

And we can juggle things sufficiently to handle watching both Usain Bolt and Johnny Depp in one week, actually in one day. There are also, of course, plenty of people who don't like sport. So quite why the Olympics or football should stop them from going to see films is a mystery.

The key to people going to cinemas, be it during the Olympics, a football tournament, the Diamond Jubilee, or any time at all, is to have good movies on. If we have a weekend like this weekend on next August, with The Ides of March, The Help, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Tintin et al, it will take more than a rash of gold medals or a ticket to the beach volleyball to keep people away from the multiplex. Well, possibly not the latter. But either way, the Olympics shouldn't be a scapegoat for the art not being good enough.

It's important to make your walkout count

Making an exit is as big a statement as making an entrance. When you walk out of a play, it has to mean something. You must choose your production wisely, make a protest that is going to resonate; either walk out through genuine shock (hard these days), or boredom (easier), or from deeply held political beliefs.

So it's hard to get one's head round the walkouts that have been taking place in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Company's revival of Marat/Sade. Yes, there is nudity, some sexual explicitness and grotesque behaviour. But none of it is exactly new. This play had shock value when it was premiered by the RSC in ... 1964, and the nudity belonged to one Glenda Jackson. The play is hardly an unknown quantity now. Were the walkers exiting for nostalgia's sake? Or perhaps when a play is revived, some of the audience think they should revive the walkout, too.

Let's start a Pete Campbell fan club

There was an intriguing interview published this week with the actor Vincent Kartheiser, better known as Pete Campbell in Mad Men. Pete Campbell is anxious, feels overlooked, and is a bit jealous of Don Draper. Vincent Kartheiser came across in his interview as someone who is anxious, feels overlooked and is a bit jealous of Don Draper. Hats off to the casting director. This was clearly inspired casting.

I was puzzled, though, to read that both Kartheiser and his interviewer felt that viewers had a visceral dislike for the Campbell character. Kartheiser describes Campbell as "a douche bag". However, he believes Don Draper to be just as bad and is flummoxed as to why that character gets more admiration than Campbell.

Me, I've always warmed to Campbell's insecurities and general chippiness mixed with an eagerness to please. I warm to him even more now I discover that he is an extension of the actor playing him. I must get an "I like Pete Campbell" badge.