The Week in Arts: We are programmed to pay over the odds

Share
Related Topics

Why are programmes at theatres so expensive? The question is not mine, I hasten to assure those theatrical impresarios who sometimes accuse me of being too negative. The question comes from the Minister for the Arts, Estelle Morris. Writing in the
New Statesman magazine, Ms Morris poses what she calls some "unanswerable questions about the arts".

Why are programmes at theatres so expensive? The question is not mine, I hasten to assure those theatrical impresarios who sometimes accuse me of being too negative. The question comes from the Minister for the Arts, Estelle Morris. Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Ms Morris poses what she calls some "unanswerable questions about the arts".

Question number one asks why it is that in America you get an informative and well presented playbill absolutely free, while here you "pay through the nose" for a programme with more pages of adverts than anything else.

And what is question number two? That is also about theatre programmes. The minister cannot understand how "First Division football clubs" produce bigger and better programmes - sometimes twice a week - for a fraction of the cover price of those for most West End theatre productions, which remain the same for the duration of the play's run.

Good for Estelle Morris. Generally, arts ministers are a little scared of asking obvious questions for fear of betraying some gap in their cultural knowledge. Estelle Morris, like the little boy in the emperor's new clothes has no such inhibitions. And that could make her a very valuable arts minister indeed. Give her a drink or two and she could find some more unanswerable questions.

Why are Richard Curtis's films so similar? Why does Sarah Lucas get an exhibition at the Tate? Why couldn't the English National Opera open its new building on time? Just what are "handling charges" that are levied on theatre tickets? Why do we need an Arts Council when we have elected ministers to take decisions?

You'll love the arts, Estelle. They're full of unanswerable questions. That's why they're so challenging. And, yes, you're absolutely right about programmes. West End theatre programmes are often a disgrace. And football fans would probably riot if they had to pay £3 for a collection of adverts and "biographies" of performers, which usually amount to little more than a list of plays they have appeared in. Programmes at classical music concerts are just as bad, by the way. Not a line about a violin prodigy's background - just a list of recordings that he or she has made.

Why on earth do producers and theatre owners allow it? Perhaps they think it would be wrong to give away too much information as that would destroy the sense of illusion so vital to theatre. The only other answer would have to be sheer greed. And neither I nor the arts minister would want to believe that.

Go on, give yourself credit where it's due

Little Richard doesn't mince his words. I know this from experience. When the old rock'n'roller was over here for a tour in the 1990s, I asked him about the alleged ill feeling between him and his fellow crooner, Jerry Lee Lewis. He gave me a thoughtful and explanatory response of "You shut your mouth!".

This week he was again on form. Rolling Stone magazine asked a number of rock stars for their choice of all-time greats. Most chose The Beatles or Elvis or Bob Dylan. Little Richard chose himself. He told the magazine: "A lot of people call me the architect of rock'n'roll. I don't call myself that, but I believe it's true. I don't think I ever got what I really deserved."

There speaks one honest rock star. Most of them actually think what Little Richard said. They are the best at what they do and never really got the credit they deserved. In the dead of night a lot of non-rock stars think it too.

Who reads verse better - an actor or a notable poet? In the past few days I have heard on the Radio 4 Today programme a recording of Richard Burton reading from Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, and the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion reading William Wordsworth's "I Wander'd Lonely As A Cloud". Burton's reading was so full of feeling that I did not want it to stop. Motion, on the other hand, made me yearn for a teacher to say: "A little more expression please, Andrew. No, no, not so quickly. Try to make us picture those daffodils dancing in the breeze." Or, as the late Joyce Grenfell's comic creation of the weary primary school teacher would have said: "Andrew, don't do that."

React Now

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
 

If Renee Zellweger wants to look different, who are we to question it?

Boyd Tonkin
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker