David Lister: Dylan and McCartney don't mix

Friday 18 October 2013 06:13

It emerged this week that Bob Dylan was keen to form a songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney. McCartney's people were delighted and an artistic collaboration between two legends may well go ahead. I'm not sure if the coming together of two songwriters from different cultures, and with different artistic approaches will work. I wonder how they would go about it. Perhaps they would write alternate lines:

"I was driving down Highway 61 with God and the devil in sight.

So let me take you dancin', dancin' tonight

Verlaine and Rimbaud were my inspiration.

Meet you at the chippie at Lime Street Station."

This collaboration of legends may not be such a good idea. But it's no surprise that it is generating excitement. It's that dreaded word "collaboration". It has become the holy grail of the arts world. If you can bring two big names together, preferably from different art forms, then gaze in wonder. That is an order. Never mind the quality, feel the breadth.

I was an audience victim of such a collaboration last week. The world's most exciting choreographer, William Forsythe, got together with the country's most exciting art gallery, Tate Modern, to mount a dance performance in Tate's gigantic Turbine Hall. Naturally it was sold out. Dancers stretched, altered their body shapes, gazed up at the high, distant roof, apparently making statements through dance about gravity, as Forsythe laboured to find some connection between dance and the vast Turbine Hall. The hall is not made for a dance audience, so the spectators had to sit on the floor or stand. It was one of the worst, and certainly most uncomfortable, two hours of my life.

But critical judgement has to be suspended because this was a "collaboration", hitting that all-important base of cross-fertilisation in the arts, showing that art forms do not exist in isolation, that audiences must naturally be excited that such collaborations occur.

And they can indeed be illuminating. The work of Africa Express in getting Western and African musicians to perform together has proved just that. There are dozens more examples. But collaborations do not automatically signal success or daring or an imaginative stretching of boundaries merely because they are collaborations.

Violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy with a group of Polish jazz musicians sounds good on paper. The stream of people walking out at last summer's Proms showed that it was less good on stage.

Collaborations between the arts and sport are also increasingly fashionable. But poets in residence at Tottenham Hotspur, Barnsley, and Brighton and Hove Albion do not seem to have achieved much for the cause of poetry or those particular football clubs.

Unusual collaborations can, of course, quicken the pulse, but there is a danger in them being thought of as something worthy or even exciting in themselves. Don't do it, Bob and Paul. There will be a gigantic clash of egos, a mishmash of musical styles, and critical opprobrium. Apart from anything else, the live concert would be a problem. The two fan bases would never get on. Though there might be the sight of dancing at a Dylan concert, which would be a cultural first.

Stratford is back on the rails

Is this a victory I see before me?

Last year I complained on this page that the lack of late-night trains from Stratford-upon-Avon to London meant that if you went from the capital to see the RSC perform, you could not get back unless you had a car. This proved particularly galling for young people, the very audience that the RSC wants to cultivate. David Tennant's Hamlet with a curtain down at 10.50pm saw a surge in last-minute hotel bookings from theatregoers with no luggage.

Now, thanks to The Independent's lobbying, the RSC and Chiltern Railways have got together to introduce a late-night special train departing from Stratford for London this summer. So well done, the RSC. It's good to know that it does listen and does take the audience's problems into account.

The special train will leave Stratford-upon-Avon at 11.20 at night. Even the most dogged RSC director should not be able to drag out a Shakespeare play for that long. Probably.

Alice Eve, daughter of Trevor and budding film and stage actress, gave a memorable quote in an interview with The Independent last Tuesday. She remarked how she had dated actor Rufus Sewell when they both starred in Tom Stoppard's play Rock 'n' Roll. She explained how their relationship had developed in a sentence that leapt out at me. "It felt organic to perform with him and then to go home with him at night," she said.

What a great line. I suppose it's liberating that it comes from an attractive young woman rather than a seedy middle-aged man. "That was a very constructive rehearsal. I think we will find it totally organic to go home together now." Miss Eve has coined the ultimate actor's chat-up line. She has earned her place in the Dictionary of Quotations.

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