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The most dramatic Ukip policy isn't anything to do with immigration

It's to do with what people should wear to the theatre

It has been impossible to escape Nigel Farage this week. But in all the coverage and debate of his policies on Europe, immigration et al, no one has mentioned the one Ukip policy of pressing concern to readers of this page — should we dress up for the theatre?

As Farage and Ukip celebrate their European and council election successes, and start to think about drawing up their manifesto for next year’s general election, it is only right to remind them of a clear commitment in their 2010 manifesto to make dressing up for the theatre compulsory. Will that clause surface again in the new Ukip programme?

The issue rumbles on. Mr Farage was asked about it in a recent interview, refusing to comment about dressing up — a sure sign that it is a matter of extreme controversy.

And in The Spectator, Charles Moore, biographer of Margaret Thatcher and former editor of both The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph, weighed in supporting the idea.

He wrote: “It is now almost compulsory NOT to dress up for the theatre, even in the West End. This has had the predictable result that theatre-goers pay less attention, eat and send texts all through the performance.

Although ‘audience participation’ has been theatre orthodoxy for 40 years now, the simplest way for an audience to participate in a production is to dress up. By doing so, they recognise they are part of the performance.”

It’s unclear what Messrs Farage and Moore mean when they say dressing up. Is it suit and tie for men and smart frock for women? Or is it evening wear, bow tie, jewellery and the full Glyndebourne regalia?

Whatever they mean, it clearly isn’t going to happen, unless we are to see the weirdest passage of legislation through the House of Commons, followed by theatre bouncers to turn away the underdressed.

The more reasonable idea of encouragement rather than compulsion is also wrong-headed. It’s not that one can’t thoroughly enjoy dressing up. It can be fun, as has been realised by the organisers of such successful schemes as Secret Cinema, with its young patrons more than keen to put on their glad rags. But what one wears has no effect on one’s involvement in a performance.

Most theatre, like most cinema, should not be an occasion, nor an irregular and glamorous treat, but a constant part of our lives which we take for granted, wearing whatever we feel comfortable in.

Wrong-headed or not, I actually applaud Ukip for wanting to address the issue, and rather hope they keep it in their manifesto. It means that Farage’s party sees theatre as worthy of being considered alongside the big issues of the day. How many of the other parties will have the word "theatre" anywhere in their manifesto?


Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin stormed off stage in Nottingham this week when his pizza-themed parody band was booed and pelted with beer. Culkin’s band The Pizza Underground changes lyrics of Velvet Underground songs to celebrate pizzas. And so “Perfect Day” becomes “Pizza Day”, “Walk on the Wild Side” becomes “Bite of the Wild Slice.”

Hilarious. The audience, having clearly got the “joke”, caused Culkin to bring the gig to an end after just 15 minutes, which sounds about 12 minutes on the generous side to me. It’s a shame that they didn’t enter into the spirit of the themed evening, hold on to their beer, and hurl a few slices of pizza at the stage.


Matthew Warchus has been named as the person to succeed Kevin Spacey as artistic director of The Old Vic in London. The announcement does not mention that Warchus was once, very, very briefly, artistic director of the Old Vic, prior to Spacey taking over more than a decade ago.

Warchus himself didn’t mention this either. Even The Stage newspaper, the theatre bible, only said coyly that there were “reports” back then that Warchus had become artistic director. But all those years ago, I sat next to Matthew Warchus at a lunch and he told me that he was just about to start as artistic director of The Old Vic.

A couple of weeks later it was as if the appointment had never been made. It, and indeed my  lunch, have been written out of history. It’s a mystery, and I’m sure there’s a play in it somewhere, one that the new artistic director of The Old Vic could stage.