Thursday, 15 November 2007

I'm Gonna Live Forever

I've been namechecked on the Guardian blog. At a time when the Guardian is contractually obliged to source two-thirds of its blog contributions from amongst my friendship group, perhaps all that's surprising is that it took this long for me to find this fame. More dedicated readers, however, will simply find themselves wondering why I haven't been asked to contribute myself. But I'm afraid I can't decide which of the available flippant answers to give to that question, so they'll have to continue wondering.

So instead I'll direct you to Andy Field, Guardian blogger extraordinaire (one n? one r? it doesn't look right), who has a bit more to say on the history of a conversation that, were it to take place in a pub, would look for all the world like a clique of bloggers. For the record, I've never actually met Andy F and were it not for his byline photo on the Graun, wouldn't know him from Adam. But I've known Andrew H for nearly ten years and Alex F was at university with my wife.

I'd also like to point out my favourite irony of recent months, in the photo selected by the Guardian subs to adorn Andy's post. To illustrate an article comparing theatre's audience engagement unfavourably with that of sport, the photo shows a sparse audience dozing off at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre (I'd know those orange seats anywhere). But they're not dozing off during the current production of Amadeus, directed by the splendid Nikolai Foster, oh no. They're dozing off during the snooker.

Nonetheless, everything Andy says is entirely right.


In other news, Glasgow's Tron Theatre is advertising for a new artistic director, barely a year after the appointment of the current incumbent Gregory Thompson and little more than six months since his first production there. Now I've met Greg; he's a top man and a triffik director, but it's fair to say that his work there has not been popular. But a little year? Are we seeing in theatre the disease that infects football (McClaren Must Go!), whereby managers get a couple of dozen games to prove themselves before speculation breeds that they're facing the boot? Or did he jump? Either way, McClaren must go.

Before Greg, the Tron's artistic director was an Irishwoman whose name escapes me (Abigail something, I think),* and she, also, was there for little more than a year. And before that the building was run for ten years with phenomenal success by Neil Murray, a splendid fellow who's now Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Scotland. Michael Billington recently wrote an article of rare good sense arguing, inter less uncontroversial alia that the current spate of appointments of producers to helm theatres cannot be to the good: "theatre is too serious a business to be left to the suits". Neil Murray is the most powerful counter-argument that statement could have.

I recently met Mark Feakins, who's co-helming Sheffield Theatres during their post-Sam West dark period (pun intended?), during which they're presumably replacing the orange seats, not to mention the extraordinary carpet, a local talking point, which somehow manages to clash with itself. Mark reminded me of Neil Murray in several ways: grounded, fun and stuffed with good sense. I don't want to talk my sort out of jobs, but Billington's view is rather Manichean. Directors have run theatres badly and made appalling artistic choices, just as producers have run them boldly and well. Who'd've thought Avram Grant would be doing so well at Chelsea?

* Postscipt: it was Ali Curran

ANOTHER POSTSCRIPT: one or two of you have asked if my gruntles have been dissed by my not having been asked to contribute to the Guardian blog. Set your minds at ease. Assuming journalism hasn't changed in the five or six years since I practised it, it would be necessary for me to ask them if I wanted to contribute, not the other way about. I was merely being tart without cause.

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