The Week in Arts: A daring new role for the National Theatre

Share
Related Topics

The redoubtable Thelma Holt is a West End producer not averse to taking risks. Her track record has been recognised as far afield as Japan, which recently bestowed upon her its prestigious commendation, the Order of the Rising Sun. But with her next venture she is doing something even she has not done before - putting on a show sight unseen.

Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy, starring David Suchet, had had a regional tour, but Ms Holt had yet to see the production. The controversial play has not been staged in London since 1963, when its plot of a father asking his son to pretend to be homosexual to entrap a client caused a predictable stir. Thelma Holt wanted it back in the West End so badly that she dispensed with the usual formality of actually seeing it.

For me, she has highlighted a bigger issue here than this particular play. It is the issue of how some of Britain's foremost playwrights fall out of fashion and are neglected. Any play by Rattigan in the West End is rare. At the National Theatre his plays are rarer still. Should it not have been Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre that took the plunge and restaged this cause célèbre?

But then, for all its brilliance under Hytner, the National Theatre is still not a place where one should look for a history of British playwriting. I have given up asking directors of the National Theatre how they define the words National Theatre. It's too painful to watch the puzzled expressions on their faces. And nowhere in the NT's own literature is it defined.

Rattigan, once a giant of the British theatre, who must be virtually unknown to two generations or more, is seldom staged there. It's the same story with a host of other playwrights who were significant figures in their time - from Somerset Maugham to Arnold Wesker.

It is wrong to assume that there is not a hunger among audiences to explore the work of writers long thought to be out of fashion. Look at the success over the past year of R C Sherriff's First World War play Journey's End and the extensions to its run as the audiences kept on flocking in.

It shouldn't have to fall to bold, commercial producers such as Thelma Holt to put the microscope on Britain's theatrical heritage. The National Theatre could mount a season of 20th-century British playwriting every year in one of its three auditoria. Perhaps one decade could feature each year. It would be a way of reflecting not just on styles of playwriting but also on the social mores of the period.

Now there's a daring new role for the National Theatre. It could be a National Theatre.

Today they want a revolution...

It's always fun when Radio 4's Today programme puts on a music item to show that there's more to the world than politics. It featured a report on "answer-records", the trend for songs that respond to another song, usually involving two singers who were once in a relationship.

But the first "answer-record", according to the Today programme, came in 1968. It was "Street Fighting Man" by The Rolling Stones, a response to The Beatles' ambivalent song "Revolution". Segments of both classic tracks were played on Today and a member of The Rolling Stones, Ron Wood, even came on the programme to say how much he loved performing "Street Fighting Man". Ron's very quotable, but he wasn't, of course, a Stone in 1968.

It's a fascinating thesis by Today. But Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, pictured, must have been blessed with psychic powers. "Street Fighting Man" was recorded in March/April 1968. "Revolution", John Lennon's response to the student uprising in Paris of May in that year, was recorded on 31 May.

¿ Sir Peter Hall's desire to stage Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre in London this autumn is understandable. He wants to mark the 50th anniversary of his staging the premiere of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece. But his wish has been ruined by the Barbican Theatre and the Beckett estate which have jointly forbidden it, as the Barbican is mounting its own version next year.

Does the Barbican think London theatregoers can't cope with two productions of a classic several months apart? Sir Peter says he is "amazed and disappointed" at the Barbican's action. I'd add that the Barbican should perhaps remember that it has a theatre only because of the determination nearly 30 years ago of one man, the then head of the RSC, Sir Peter Hall.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital