Diary

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The Independent Online
LORD RIX, the former actor, impressed many people when he stood down as chairman of the Arts Council's drama panel with one of the best resignation letters of the year - 'we have had to creep and crawl every year for our funds' and so on - but it didn't impress the council's chairman, Lord Palumbo.

At the time, Lord Palumbo paid tribute to Lord Rix's work and suggested that he had resigned because of his ill health, despite Lord Rix's clear declaration that he was leaving on a point of principle. But Lord Palumbo's tune had changed when I spoke to him yesterday.

In his office overlooking Westminster Abbey, he said: 'Dear Brian said the Government had treated us with contempt, but it certainly hasn't treated me with contempt. Nor do I find this organisation supine. It's a case of two spectators watching the same play with completely different interpretations. What got under Brian's skin was the fact that the arts were going to be cut. I would much rather he had stayed on board to fight and reverse the decision.'

That planned cut in arts funding is pounds 5m, but Lord Palumbo warned that the figure would be nearer pounds 10m after allowing for inflation. The cuts take effect towards the end of his reign at the Arts Council, but he warned they could even influence the decision of foreign companies to invest here, 'because companies are also looking at the social and cultural attractions for their workforce.' Peter Brooke, National Heritage Secretary, is, he assured me, well aware of his views.

I ASSUME the following incident took place before Michael Howard became Home Secretary, but I still think he should get a grip on the prison service. According to Dogberry in Police magazine, a man given five days' imprisonment at Winson Green, Birmingham for failing to pay a fine was told by a prison officer: 'You automatically get half the time remitted. It is now Friday, so we should release you on Sunday, but we don't do releases at weekends. Hang on a minute and we'll get a car to take you home.'

Dramatic licence WITH estate agents now legally required to describe their properties accurately, can I suggest the same should apply to those trying to interest us in theatre tickets? I know we shouldn't be swayed by such things, but reviews on theatre billboards proclaiming the sensational, once- in-a-lifetime experience of a particular production are often difficult to ignore when deciding which play to see. For example, I haven't seen Ray Cooney's It Runs In The Family at the Playhouse Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, but I might just have been lured indoors by the advertisement outside the theatre: Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: 'A Rolls- Royce of a farce.'

If this theatre critic (an old school friend not afraid to criticise a production) saw the play this way, so probably would I. However, what he actually said in his review was this: 'In its meticulous construction, It Runs In The Family is a Rolls-Royce of a farce, but in this crude and bumpy production it's treated like a stock car at a demolition derby.'

Crude and bumpy, doesn't have the same ring, but how many plays are we flocking to see with insufficient, indeed misleading, information to help us make up our minds?

Another example. Outside the musical, City of Angels, at the Prince of Wales theatre, the hoardings read: 'Fiona Hendley . . . breathtaking.' Possibly. But what Malcolm Rutherford actually said in the Financial Times review was: ' 'With Every Breath I Take', sung by Fiona Hendley as Bobbi, is breathtaking.' Did the Sunday Times really describe the play, as suggested, as 'venomously funny'? No it didn't: the critic was lauding Larry Gelbart's original book.

Meanwhile Michael McCabe, who produced the promotional literature for Elegies, which opens at the Criterion on Monday, is unrepentant about using a Financial Times quote - 'Sensational' - on puffs for the play. The fact that Malcolm Rutherford was talking specifically about the final song was beside the point, he told me. 'We wanted a one-word quote and that was the one chosen. It is a wonderful word, and it does describe a part of the production.' Around 4 per cent, to be exact.

A GOOD definition of slowness is queuing for a passport at Petty France, and the office is certainly not rushing to change its temporary visitors' passports either. One issued to a colleague this month still includes: 'But not valid for travel to Greece or Turkey by overland route through other adjacent countries, except Yugoslavia.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

24 June 1822 William Cobbett writes in his journal: 'The custom is in this part of Hertfordshire to leave a border around the ploughed part of the fields to bear grass and make hay from, so that, the hay now made, every field has a closely mowed grass walk ten feet wide all round it, between the corn and the hedge. This is most beautiful] The hedges are now full of the shepherd's rose, honeysuckles, and all sorts of wild flowers; so that you are upon a grass walk, with this most beautiful of all flower gardens and shrubberies on one hand, and with the corn on the other. And thus you go from field to field, the corn, underwood and timber, the shape and size of the fields, the height of the hedgerows and the trees, all continually varying. Talk of pleasure-grounds indeed] What, that man ever invented, can equal these fields in Herts?'

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