Category Archives: Politics/social issues

Above the Stag’s 3rd birthday party

For the third of my party collections to be featured in this week’s issue of The Stage (see also the Sheffied Crucible 40th birthday party and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas press night), I went to Above the Stag’s 3rd birthday party.

This theatre, established in a room above the Stag gay pub in Victoria, has established a reputation of hosting mostly gay, often musical productions that are usually highly enjoyable. Monday’s event saw a collection of monologues, short scenes and musical numbers from recent shows. Even those productions which didn’t work too well in full length could contribute something pithy, moving and/or funny to the mix, resulting in a highly enjoyable evening.

The Colored Museum – Talawa Theatre Company, Victoria and Albert Museum

The Colored Museum – Talawa Theatre Company, Victoria and Albert Museum

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Back in March, the Victoria and Albert Museum – home of the theatre and performance galleries which once housed part of their collection in the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden – opened its doors on a Friday evening for a series of theatrically-based events. Some were more successful than others: a “cardboard representation of the West End” turned out to be less the meticulous recreation of some of Theatreland’s most magnificent architecture, more a load of upturned cardboard cubes loosely arranged along walkways that claimed, and failed, to emulate the layout of W1 roads.

One of the definite highlights of that evening, though, was cramming into the museum’s Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre to hear Timothy West and his son, Samuel, read from an original Shakespeare First Folio book. It was a presentation that clearly asserted the theatre and performance galleries’ determination to be an intrinsic part of the V&A – something that many people, myself included, worried may not happen when the Theatre Museum closed.

One thing that the V&A’s Covent Garden venue allowed but which the South Kensington museum has traditionally not is the possibility of regular live theatrical performances. So the fact that this week the same lecture theatre at the V&A is playing host to a production brings pleasure by sheer virtue of the booking alone. The fact that it’s an unmissable piece of theatre helps too.

Continue reading

The Colored Museum – Talawa Theatre Company, Victoria and Albert Museum4Scott Matthewman2013-05-14 17:11:29

Back in March, the Victoria and Albert Museum – home of the theatre and performance gallerie…

How the Daily Mail selectively quotes in order to lie about attitudes to gay people

From today’s Daily Mail:

Most people still oppose gay marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, a Government report revealed yesterday.

More than half believe homosexual marriages should not be allowed and two thirds think the adoption of children by same-sex couples should not have become legal nine years ago.

Unfortunately for the Mail, perhaps, the Office for National Statistics’ Population Trends Autumn 2011 is available to the public. And within the section concerned, Civil Partnerships Five Years On, we see that the information around which the Mail has hooked its “Look, look, Britain’s as homophobic as we’ve been telling you” hat comes from two 2006 Eurobarometer survey questions, included for cross-Europe comparison but not collated by the ONS:

Eurobarometer is run by TNS Opinion and Social on behalf of the European Commission. In 2006 two questions were asked to around a thousand respondents from each of the EU25 countries25. Given the small sample sizes for each country the results can only be indicative of the main differences and general ordering of countries.

(My emphasis.) So the ONS explicitly warns against using the Eurobarometer survey results in the way that the Mail has done.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Just as we shouldn’t be surprised that the Mail has ignored other statistical information within the same report that shows that the proportion of the population that believes same-sex relationships to be wrong is substantially smaller than the proportion which doesn’t.

Update: Ruminations of an Englishman examines the original Eurobarometer and finds that while 45% disapproved of gay marriage, 46% actually agreed…

Meanwhile, the Pink Paper swallows the Daily Mail’s spin hook, line and sinker. They should be ashamed.

The myth of the racist children

ANTI-BULLYING RULE THAT BRANDS CHILDREN RACIST” screamed the Express, who always assumes its readers can’t cope with headlines in mixed case (and, indeed, that SEO is about repeating the same keywords over and over in a URL…)

‘Racists’ aged THREE: Toddlers among thousands of children accused of bigotry after name-calling” said the Daily Mail.

The Evening Standard followed with “Children as young as three should be reported for ‘racism’, Government-funded group claims“, and the Telegraph added to the pile with “Children as young as four reprimanded for racist behaviour“.

The general gist was the same in each case, despite the differing levels of hysterics in the headlines. By recording incidents of racist behaviour, children would be branded for life if they uttered anything which the teachers might consider to be racist or homophobic.

But wouldn’t you know it? There’s not all that much in truth in the way the papers have covered the story.

From Show Racism the Red Card, the organisation campaigning against racism in football and society:

It is vital to understand that the recording and reporting of racist incidents by schools is NOTHING to do with labelling or punishing children. It is ludicrous to suggest that future employers will be turning away candidates because they uttered a racist word at nursery. Baseless stories such as these are simply scaremongering and continue to erode belief in the value of recording racist incidents.

Recording racist incidents means that schools are able to identify patterns; do incidents rise in response to particular local or national events? Are the incidents all of a particular nature or between specific groups of young people?

It helps schools to identify whether any strategies that they have put in place are having an effect and to identify whether there are any specific training needs for staff or pupils.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it creates a school environment where young people know that they will be taken seriously, where all young people feel valued and where racism and discrimination are not accepted. It is beneficial for the Local Authority to collect this information, so that they can gain a better understanding of issues within schools and offer relevant help and support.

Of course, if children grow up with respect for themselves and each other, they’ll end up as adults who are far less likely to fall for the tabloid papers’ catalogue of hatred and self-pity that they rely upon for newsstand sales and website page views. So maybe there’s some self-interest in their misrepresentation of this story?

Johann Hari’s apology is a “lesson in cynicism”

At heart is not Hari’s lack of journalistic education – as his new editor claimed ludicrously last night on Newsnight – but his very low opinion of journalism. You don’t stuff up your interviews with quotes from elsewhere and then pass them off as your own work unless you think that no-one will notice or care. You don’t pinch someone’s name to attack critics on Wikipedia unless you imagine colleagues are stupid. Ease of career passage has bequeathed Hari nothing but contempt and cynicism. His ‘apology’ is a lesson in cynicism.

Madame Arcati on Johann Hari’s admission that he plagiarised quotes for his interviews, and also used the pseudonym of “David Rose” to maliciously edit the Wikipedia page of other journalists he had fallen out with and attempted to edit his own to make it more positive. (For more background, see Jack of Kent’s blog post).

Is musical theatre colour-blind?

Colour-blind casting. It’s a phrase that’s used to mean that the ethnicity of the cast performer isn’t taken into account when casting a role. And in practical terms, that tends to mean that a role traditionally played by a white actor is being played  by a non-white one.

In ‘straight’ theatre, it’s almost taken as given these days – despite the same examples being trotted out time after time (David Oyelowo’s Henry VI for the RSC, forever cited whenever the topic arises, was 11 years ago in 2000, for goodness’ sake).

But in West End musical theatre, there do seem to be precious few examples.

Continue reading

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 13.08.48

Jon Stewart’s embarrassment of credibility

I’ve previously expressed my admiration of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – so much so that, when Channel 4 announced that it would no longer show the satirical comedy show on its digital channel More4, I subscribed to receive episodes via iTunes.

What has always impressed is how he is willing to defend himself from the attacks that come at him, predominantly from the right wing of the US media – because that’s where he finds most of his material.

This weekend, he appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, fulfilling an agreement they made when Wallace was on the Daily Show. He starts off amused, then bemused, at some points seems to get angry, all the while making Wallace’s position seem all the more sneering and smug.

The killer quote for me:

The embarrassment is that I’m given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.

He also raises the point that a University of Maryland study found that Fox News viewers were more likely to be consisently misinformed than consumers of other news media.

The interview in full:


Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

It’s a while since I’ve reviewed a book – unlike my theatre reviews, I don’t have a professional sideline in the field any more, and with writing about & watching a lot of television and radio as well as numerous theatre trips, my recreational reading is much less frequent than it has been, or should be.

I have, however, utilised the time I spend walking and/or commuting with a subscription to Audible.co.uk, which gives me a credit for one new audiobook every month. My most recent ‘purchase’ under this scheme has been Sing You Home by American author Jodi Picoult.

It’s the first of the author’s books I’ve either read or listened to, having been spurred on to investigate after seeing her do the rounds of UK daytime TV shows while I was off work ill last month. I’m glad I did, because it’s a fascinating literary look at some contemporary issues that, while maybe not bringing too much to the table for someone who’s been aware of (and at times immersed in) LGBT politics for years, demonstrate to a wider audience just what’s at stake in allowing gay and lesbian couples the same rights that straight couples automatically enjoy.

Continue reading

Cleveland Street – the Musical, Above the Stag

I tend to want to be as generous as I can to any new musical that actually reaches the stage – so many, too many, never reach that stage. Once the house lights come down and the production has started, though, the quality of the book and the songs are what matters.

Here, Glenn Chandler, author of plays Boys of the Empire and Scouts in Bondage as well as the creator of ITV crime drama Taggart, has taken the real-life tale of a Victorian male brothel and the scandal of its high society clients and, with music by Matt Deveraux, has concocted a tale that’s redolent with period touches but has a tendency to subsume an interesting story under layers of exposition.

Continue reading

My Midsomer Murders musings

Over on TV Today, I’ve written some thoughts about Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May’s suspension over comments he made in an interview to promote the series:

The news that Brian True-May, co-creator and producer of ITV1 crime drama Midsomer Murders, has been suspended from his job for commenting to Radio Times about his refusal to cast ethnic minorities on the show, should come as no surprise. The way he chose to justify his stance read like comments from a bygone age that have no place in the modern broadcasting industry.

That said, I grew up not far from Midsomer country – north Buckinghamshire rather than the South Bucks/South Oxon used for the series’ location filming. And the rural villages of this part of the home counties were, in my youth, almost exclusively white. At my local school (which I left a little over 20 years ago), I think the number of non-white pupils out of the entire school roll of 650+ never got above single figures.

My post has been already been picked up by Anglophenia, BBC America’s blog covering UK television and culture.

Unfortunately, it’s also been picked up by a load of new commenters, who seem far too busy defending someone who won’t hire ethnic minorities – in the name, of course, of fighting ‘political correctness’ – to actually stop and think about the issue at hand.