I know I’m going to incur the wrath of many people with this blog.  But I’ve just got to say it. I was born and brought up in Yorkshire, (that’s not the wrath incurring bit). Going to the theatre was a treat. Going to see great theatre was a rare, exciting experience.  In the sixth form we had a school trip to Stratford to see the Royal Shakespeare Company.  This was memorable for two reasons, we saw a great production of Coriolanus and the English master, Mr Walker, crashed the van on the way home. Didn’t put me off going to the theatre, but it might have had a different effect on one of my friends – Ian Cordingley.  It’s possible he came away from the experience with a completely different take on going to the theatre.  After the van had left the road, turned over, windows smashed and write-off damage done, we were all crawling out from wherever we could, except for Ian who was trapped in the back.  He called out for help and it was at this point some wise guy, I hasten to add it wasn’t me, shouted out – “Run – it’s going to blow.”  This naturally enough didn’t go down too well with Ian, as he watched his cowardly, self-preserving mates all going hell for leather as far away from the van as possible, with the expectation that he was soon going to be engulfed in a ball of flame. The van didn’t blow up, it was a joke in particularly bad taste, Ian was rescued, and no permanent damage was done, but I would imagine this experience tarnished his future view of going to the theatre.

When I first started going to London, most times I’d hitch hike, I had an opportunity of watching more great theatre.  The first play I saw by the National Theatre Company, they were at the Old Vic at the time, was The Advertisement by Natalia Ginzburg.  It was directed by Laurence Olivier and stared his wife Joan Plowright and Edward Petherbridge.  Not only was this for me at the time a privilege to watch such masters of their craft at work, it had the added bonus that Edward Petherbridge came from my hometown. A Bradford boy made good on the London stage.  If he could do it – so could I.

Over the next few years I became a frequent visitor to the Old Vic and the great thing about it was you could stand at the back for a fraction of the price of a normal ticket. I tried to see as much as I could when I was a student, quickly realising that not only was it enjoyable, but it was also a way of learning. Watching and even better working with good people is one of the ways to learn about both acting and writing.

Now to the wrath incurring bit. The RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) has ended its sponsorship deal with BP.  After eight years of sponsorship it’s over, because they no longer want to be associated with a fossil fuel company.  All very noble. Nothing wrong with wanting to save the plant.  This has come about because of ‘a vociferous campaign from artists, the public and environmentalists.’  Part of that sponsorship was a £5 ticket deal for 16 to 25-year-olds.  Casting my mind back to when I was that age, I would have found that an amazing offer. You could see one of the world’s leading theatre companies for just £5.  I may be wrong and if I am, I will apologise most profusely, but I don’t think stopping the sponsorship is going to affect BP in the least.  Again I may be wrong, but I haven’t seen closed signs go up any garage, I’m not aware of any less cars on the road using petrol, I’m pretty certain airports are as busy as ever.  It seems to me that only people that are going to suffer from this are the 16 to 25-year-olds and not BP.  Again, as so often in this country, we’re doing things the wrong way round and the innocent are being penalised. I would imagine the majority of those people campaigning to end the subsidy can afford to pay full price. If this action did push BP to stop producing petrol then I can see its merit, but I doubt that will happen. 

I know there will be people screaming at me saying you have to start somewhere, and I agree.  How about passing a law that makes all bags biodegradable, not just use it as a way to make more revenue. When I was a kid we had a couple of shopping bags and everything went in it loose – potatoes, carrots, broad beans – no expensive wrapping hermetically sealed packages, and we weren’t picked up from school in a 4 x 4, we walked home. How about banning all plastic bottles and going back to what it was like when bottles were returned, washed and reused.  How about everyone stops sitting in front of screens playing games and using vast amounts of electricity.  The list could go on.  It’s like the artists who said it was okay for them to fly on planes, but it wasn’t okay for the rest of us.  If we are going to save this planet then we need be realistic and not just eek out punishment to people who don’t deserve it and can’t afford it. 


And whilst I’m on the subject, the students at Manchester University who are suggesting that clapping should be replaced by jazz hands, because it could trigger anxiety, really should go back to 1642. That would have been an age when they would have been more than welcome, because Oliver Cromwell had decided to really suck the joy out of living and close down not only theatres but many inns, both which were frequented by all classes of society.  Only the other night we watched a excellent school play of Beauty and the Beast and we saw the absolute joy on the children’s faces when they received the applause they had worked so hard to get.  I didn’t see one twinge of anxiety. 


We need to change, I get that.  And the majority of people get it, hence whole cities no longer come to a halt because of the smog.  We have taken steps and let’s continue to do so, but not at the cost of sucking all the joy out of living, because if there’s no joy in living, then what’s the point of living.


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