The Week in Arts: West End closes its doors to singletons

  • @davidlister1

Theatre, it seems, is now a place for what Bridget Jones called "the smug marrieds". Single people are being politely discouraged from attending. If you want to see a play, then jolly well go and pick someone up. Don't think you can just stroll in for an evening's Shakespeare if you haven't scored. Someone did try to go it alone at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, and was quickly sent on their way.

You might have thought this couldn't possibly happen at a time when West End managements are meant to be encouraging people to go to the theatre. You might have thought that a tale of someone being turned away from a performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company's All's Well that Ends Well, because they wanted a single seat, must be a practical joke. But, yes. It really happened.

A theatre-goer was told by the Gielgud's box-office clerk that seats could be sold only in pairs. That theatre-goer wrote about the incident in a letter to a newspaper. My own inquiries reveal that the Gielgud has given the same response to other theatre-goers. One, indeed, was an actor, who immediately went backstage and told his friends in the cast what was happening.

It beggars belief that the RSC, which should delight in people wanting to see Shakespeare, would allow this to happen. Where is its public protest to the Really Useful Theatre company, which owns the Gielgud. But then, it beggars belief that RUT, the biggest theatre owner in the West End, would allow this to happen. I hear that the co-producer of All's Well..., the redoubtable Thelma Holt, has now put up a notice in the foyer saying that single seats most certainly will be sold from now on. Thank goodness for her. But a number of insiders I have spoken to this week tell me that the practice goes well beyond the Gielgud, and that the policy of not selling single seats is discreetly operated across the West End. If so, it is a disgrace.

Mind you, I'm a freak. I quite like going to the theatre on my own, being absorbed on my own, reflecting on my own, and - if the show is no good - walking out on my own. It's sometimes a relief not to have to worry about the reaction of the person sitting next to you. I must be the sort of person who makes West End managements despair. But then, I despair of them, as they seem determined to discourage going to the theatre.

Meanwhile, if you want to see Dame Judi Dench in All's Well that Ends Well, it should now be OK to go alone. But, just to be on the safe side, turn to The Independent personal columns, and see if you can find a partner for the night.

A classic tale, courtesy of Hollywood

God bless Hollywood. It's not so much the films - it's the way the stars and the movie magazines sell them. On release later this year is Troy, an epic tale of, well, the epic tale. It will star Brad Pitt as Achilles, Orlando Bloom as Paris and Diane Kruger as Helen. The movie will be loosely based on Homer. Empire magazine has a Hollywood critic looking forward to "a great script... And there are and a couple of nude scenes in there for Brad and Orlando".

Orlando Bloom has been quoted as saying: "Paris is like the anti-hero. He's just a young guy who's madly in love with Helen and he doesn't realise the consequences. He's a lover not a fighter."

Empire predicts the film will have "a little something for the fellas; a lot of something for the laydeez; bloody action scenes for the gorehounds".

Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, will be turning in her grave. She has been described in many ways over the centuries, but never, I suspect, quite as dismissively as "a little something for the fellas".

¿ I visited the Britart exhibition at Tate Britain this week and watched as a lady, in some distress, had a fit of the vapours. "I won't look at it!" she cried. "I refuse to look!" The exhibit in question was by Damien Hirst. It consisted of a glass box containing a life-size, twitching, white-coated scientist sitting in a laboratory with butterflies flitting between cut flowers and pot plants. The trapped butterflies were, for this lady, an artistic statement too far. So, now we know. Nudity no longer surprises. Violence in art is old hat. Political posturing is a yawn. Any budding artist who really wants to shock should go catch some butterflies.