I wasn’t going to return to the issue of not being able to see in some seats in numerous theatres and opera houses. After all, I highlighted this two weeks ago and reported last week about the emails from readers I then received adding their complaints to mine. But how can I resist coming back to the issue, when this week has seen the head of Shakespeare’s Globe make such a mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, eye-watering admission.
The normally estimable, and I suppose commendably honest, Dominic Dromgoole was speaking of the newly opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe, an indoor venue, based on a Jacobean playhouse, and lit by candlelight. It recently staged The Duchess of Malfi starring Gemma Arterton.
Mr Dromgoole said in an interview with The Stage newspaper : “Some of the sightlines are s**t. You have to make a choice about whether you’re going to be like every other theatre in the contemporary world or true to the architecture of that moment many years ago. There are 2,000 theatres built every year and they’re all trying to be like each other and conforming to some odd idea of what is right. We had to try to build according to principles of what it was like then, and then deal with it.”
I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the Globe’s planning meeting for the new venue. Did it go something like this?
Mr Dromgoole: “The sightlines will be s**t, but at least they will be authentic s**t.” Globe box-office manager: “That’s fine, boss, should we tell paying audiences that their seats will be s**t, or just let it be a s**t surprise?” Mr Dromgoole: “Let the authenticity steal upon them, as it were.” Box-office manager: “It’s just that, how can I put it, you know these whingeing audiences, if they’re not complaining about lack of parking and toilets, they’re moaning about not being able to see or hear. There’s just no pleasing some people. The really pernickety ones might feel a bit cheated, might feel that seeing Miss Arterton was not much to ask for their hard-earned money.” Mr Dromgoole: “Cheated! I have never heard such nonsense. We have spent years raising money from philanthropists to provide these shit sightlines. Tell them to show a bit of gratitude.”
But perhaps Mr Dromgoole has a point. Perhaps we should be “true to the architecture of that moment many years ago.” Perhaps we should also be true to the crime, poverty and disease. I’m sure that the Globe could arrange to make the journey home quite exciting in that regard. You can’t have too much authenticity, after all.
Or perhaps we should simply take the best and most memorable aspects of the period, which certainly includes theatre architecture, and adapt it so that the very basic essentials of an evening at a theatre in 2014 are catered for.
And the most basic of basic essentials is being able to see the performance.
The critics were strangely quiet about ‘JamAIca INN’
And now, on to not being able to hear. One odd thing strikes me about the furore over the sound quality in the BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn. Be it a technical issue or actors mumbling, thousands of viewers complained that they could not hear. Yet, I read the reviews in the daily papers, and none of the critics seemed to mention this problem. They would have written their reviews before the sound quality/mumbling controversy erupted. So they just told it as they saw it and heard it, and heard it they clearly did. Do TV critics have better hearing than the viewing public, or have they simply become immune to mumbling?
In honour of an actor who never phoned it in, even in interview
Interviewing stars can often be a disappointment. Comedians turn out to be dour, actors who are serene on screen turn out to be short-tempered and cheeky chappies emerge as boringly formal. Bob Hoskins, who died this week, was a real exception. He had the same direct, cockney humour off screen as he did on. When I met him I told him I had heard he received quite a lot of what used to be called “knicker mail”. Was he ever tempted? “Nah,” he chuckled. “Am I going to risk my marriage for some soppy cow who can’t keep her drawers on?” I also mentioned to him the “It’s good to talk” adverts he did for BT. “You know something,” he replied, “it made BT £287m profit in one year, and they wouldn’t even give me a mobile phone, no I’m serious, not even a mobile phone.” He told it like it was.