Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Antony Crogan


  I do not know if you intend to call any users of the arts at your inquiry. I, we, they, are the purpose of whole business for all artists that we know about have sought an audience to be appreciative of their work and to receive its message. They also expect us to pay for the privilege both directly at the Box Office and through taxes. I do not necessarily object to this use by the government of my money. It can be quite a real investment producing a lot of returns, not necessarily financial.

  Well I have been an audience for the Arts for over 50 years now and I rather resent today's attitude that our only function is to be passive and receptive of what the Artist wishes to do and to pay up without complaint. I have also as an Academic teaching librarians had a professional interest in all of the media and the arts not simply print. I have been watching the Arts Industry for a long time now. So here are some moderately relevant comments.

  The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and the proposal to tear it down. The stated objective is to "attract a younger audience". Why? The young grow old and how far will the proposed redevelopment contribute to the understanding of the plays of Shakespeare in performance which is the RSC's main purpose. As I have heard the intention is to reduce the capacity of the Theatre so less people will be able to see the plays performed. This will reduce the income from the Theatre which will mean even higher seat prices—or more public funding—does this make sense?

  The building: Ms Cusack in giving evidence was worried by the people up at the back who could not hear. At the end of the 40s and the start of the 50s I sat in those seats as a young man and I could hear perfectly well. There is a factor that contributes to this. The actors, and others in the theatre at that time had worked mostly in theatres of all kinds but none of which outside the Other Theatre were particularly small—the Lyric Hammersmith held 800. Electronic amplification was I suspect non existent. In short I think that actors today simply lack a skill. Today's young actors are possibly a lot fitter than their predecessors—they should learn to speak up. I also wonder if the director today ever goes to the Balcony to demand "speak up darling—they have also paid up here".

  The theatre is a different medium from television or cinema. Actors cannot simply perform in the same way or demand that the conditions be altered to suit themselves. They should adjust to the difficult medium.

  What exactly is the relevance of the adjuncts to the performance of Shakespeare that are proposed in Stratford? What audience are they aimed at? How will they make the visitors wish to attend the performance more than they do today. What will be the difference from the lightweight but pervasive sense of the Great Shakespeare that permeates the Shakespeare shopping mall which is Stratford-upon-Avon today (In 1950 it was a small country town with an added extra A Theatre and a Great Man.) That will make the addictive shopper, but non theatre-goer dash to the box office?

  As a member of the public I must also ask who is to pay for this re-development? I do not think the cost is justified from taxes—my money. The RSC gets an allowance at the moment to carry out its perceived purpose—to disseminate the works of Shakespeare—this is acceptable. But I think that Shakespeare as a percentage of the RSC's programme cannot now be considered a major objective and I do not necessarily wish to enable the other work that the RSC wishes to do. If I had to draw an analogy about the use of public funds the rail system and the RSC do not seem too far apart.

  I make no comment on the quality of the RSC's current work for though I like Shakespeare in performance I seldom go to see the RSC's productions now.

  The present proposal means that we lose an interesting if imperfect theatre but nothing I have heard so far convinces me that it is worth this loss. And it is worth noting that directors of theatre companies change and so do the companies. There is a fashion now for small unprofitable theatres that are dependent upon outside funding.

  The National Theatre also has a somewhat odd proposal on similar lines. A brief history of the Stratford-on-Avon Theatre tells me that it was "designed according to the theories of the time" ie the fashionable idea. And 70 years on . . . . well?

8 January 2002

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