The Week in Arts: The gods smile on those in the cheap seats

Related Topics

The Proms are in full swing. And, next week the BBC hospitality boxes at the Royal Albert Hall will be in full swing. Alfred Brendel's last Prom and Simon Rattle conducting Das Rheingold on period instruments will be hot invites. But there's a rather embarrassing problem for the BBC and for the hall. It's been claimed that these much sought-after boxes, with perfect views and perfect wines to match, are not best placed acoustically.

Let's not beat about the bush. They are, in fact, the worst places in the whole of the Royal Albert Hall from which to appreciate the music. The claim comes from one of the most distinguished musicologists in the country, the composer Michael Berkeley, who also presents a programme on BBC Radio 3.

Giving his advice on how best to hear the music at the Proms, Mr Berkeley wrote in a newspaper article: "Under no circumstances should you sit directly opposite the stage ... This, believe it or not, is where the BBC has most of its hospitality boxes, and the music comes at you as though through a telescope held the wrong way around. It is simply too far away." He rather likes, he adds, the gallery, where there is marvellous view "and the music rises up with an astonishing if ethereal quality".

Now if I were Nicholas Kenyon, the director of the Proms, I would be less than pleased that Michael Berkeley had told the world that you get a better deal way up in the gods for a few quid than you get in the top-price BBC boxes.

But actually the Royal Albert Hall is not the only place in which top price and top sound quality are miles apart. Michael Berkeley also says that the sound is better in the cheaper seats at the Barbican. And I was once advised by a senior executive at the National Theatre to avoid the front of the circle in one of the main auditoria as you couldn't always hear in the first (and top-priced) row. As I cling to the quaint notion that hearing the actors in a theatre can (usually) enhance the performance, I took his advice.

It's rather disconcerting for those splashing out a lot of money for their seats to discover that they are getting poor sound or even no sound at all. Perhaps there's a need for greater honesty here. Tickets do tend to state "restricted view" when the sightlines are not good. Should they not also state "restricted sound" if the acoustics are a problem? Now there's a talking point for the hospitality boxes at next week's Proms.

Portrait of an artist - but which one?

Certain tantalising clues have been leaked about the film that Woody Allen is shooting in London. We know that it stars Scarlett Johansson and that some of it at least centres on the world of Brit Art. Rumours have been carefully spread that we will recognise some of the characters on screen. It's even said that Charles Saatchi, the multimillionaire collector of Brit Art, might have a cameo.

But the details of the plot and characters are being kept secret. Who among the femmes fatales of Brit Art will Scarlett play, I wonder? Will she base her performance on the vivacious Cornelia Parker, the reserved and serious Rachel Whiteread, the enigmatic Sam Taylor-Wood? No, I predict that, in a career-defining performance, Scarlett Johansson will be none other than Tracey Emin. It won't be easy. One is mysterious, young, alluring, softly spoken and innocent. And then there's Scarlett. But never fear, she can do it. From Girl with a Pearl Earring to woman with an unmade bed. Woody Allen's masterpiece awaits.

¿ Children should find M Night Shyamalan's The Village enjoyably scary when it goes on general release in the UK next Friday. But they nearly weren't able to see it. Shyamalan explained at a Q&A session after the movie's premiere in London this week that he altered a stabbing scene to get the American censors to reduce the certificate from an adult rating to a PG13. The knife still goes in, but Shyamalan has taken away the thud sound.

At a time when many Hollywood directors and producers want to add a bit of violence or swearing to ensure the street cred of a higher age certificate, it's rather refreshing to find a director who wants a younger audience. And what's a thud between friends?

React Now

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album