Memorandum submitted by Mr Antony Crogan
THE ARTS DEVELOPMENT INQUIRY
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
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 pricesor more public fundingdoes this
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 smallthe
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
predecessorsthey should learn to speak up. I also wonder
if the director today ever goes to the Balcony to demand "speak
up darlingthey 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 taxesmy money. The RSC gets an allowance
at the moment to carry out its perceived purposeto disseminate
the works of Shakespearethis 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