Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Don't shoot the messenger

He's right. He's absolutely right. It's just not always right to say it.

Hugh Grant suggests that seeing a play is a hit and miss affair with the majority being, well a miss. Whilst it would be easy to carp and suggest he examines his own catalogue for the odd howler, it would miss the point. And the point is that he is correct.

There are three productions this year that spring to mind. Firstly, Three Days of Rain starring James McAvoy. After a perfectly decent first act, the whole plot quickly unravels once the rain starts and then only the most short-sighted person would miss each and every clue offered before the interval. Suddenly the play becomes a case of join the dots and the last 30 minutes are rendered meaningless because what looks like a taut script turns into plotting so obvious you've seen it in a dozen ITV sit-coms.

The second production is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Whilst it would be churlish to knock anything with James Earl Jones in, he did star in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof suffers from being lionised. And yet this production made it seem like a Carry On film with enough innuendo to lubricate everyone's throat. Everything about it carried the weight of people trying too hard to be clever, all too aware of the play's reputation as a classic and trying to justify it.

And finally, the abject Footsbarn Christmas Cracker at the Globe. It's only been on two days and I haven't found a review online yet. There are a variety of reasons for this. Goodwill towards the Globe. The brevity of the performance. The time of the year. The production is so short that calling it limp would not adequately do it justice. It is a miserable trawl through, well what? It was hardly all things to all Shakespeare lovers. It was a confusing, short mess with random tightrope walking thrown in to cover for costume changes.

Three productions with an element of pre-existing kudos. Three major disappointments. Ah, the joys of the theatre. I really want to see Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art. I will need to build up some courage beforehand. I want it to be good but I'm worried that because it has the pre-existing kudos, people are being kinder about it than they would for other art forms. The theatre is weighed down by historical and cultural baggage. Not enough people are prepared to state quite clearly that:

It's not as clever as it thinks it is, as often as it thinks it is.

So bravo Mr Grant. You may be knocked for saying it, not because of what you're saying but because of who you are. And that's a shame. Because you're correct.

When is reform not a reform?

Answer? When it's a "think tank" (pressure group) dedicated to self-promotion and endless public haranguing in order to suit it's own ideological ends.

Reform, the pressure group, claims to represent many shades of political thought and to have some base in market economics but it is thoroughly Victorian in its outlook.

Its basic rule of thumb seems to be, high end education for a few because that's how it stays a high end education. Education must be segmented so you and you can do A-levels and go to university but you, you and you should be doing something more appropriate and maybe one of you can go to an old style polytechnic.

And while we're at it, we're going to remind you, you and you that you are not as valued as you and you because you're not doing A-levels. In fact, if you do try to do A-levels, we're going to say that you, you and you are responsible for dumbing down education.

Reform does not represent reform. It represents regression. This was drummed home when one of it's number, a prospective Tory MP and nominally in charge of Reform's education research said that her view of education was based on the miserable time she had at school. "Quite a lot of my ideas came from what I experienced at my school."


No research needed there. Only blinkers.

It's good to know she's broad-minded and open to thinking about new ideas. Oh hang on a minute...

Think tank is one of the most abhorrently inaccurate terms ever used. In Reform's case it should be "grumbling bludgeoning".

Merry Christmas to those whose job it is to come up with ideas and yet manage to only moan and pick. They are responsible to reducing politics to a shouting match where doing is no longer important because saying is everything.