The Evil Imp

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?


Things must be very slow during the summer at Arts Council England (ACE) because the funding monolith has gotten all “FBI” and is “launching an inquiry” into just why there are so many US musicals in the West End of London instead of really boring British ones.

Emma Stenning, the unfortunate ACE Special Agent officer charged with finding out why British musical theatre is dying a slow death, is quoted in The Stage as saying; “I felt it was something that ACE had to pay more attention to. There’s an awful lot of talent out there, but there isn’t the structure that the US has.”

A guy called Chris Grady who represents an organisation titled ‘Musical Theatre Matters’ (yes it does Chris and don’t you let anybody tell you otherwise, now run along and play, Ed!) has “welcomed” the inquiry because he has, apparently, been trying to get ACE to pay attention to this situation for 20 years (and that’s not a typo!)

The Stage is quick to point out that no matter what the outcome of this inquiry it is “unlikely” that ACE will be stumping up any cash to fix the problem, they’re a funding body after all, why would they?

While it is safe to say that as far as contemporary dance is concerned the UK and Europe are ahead of the USA by about ten years it is not too surprising that our American cousins are far better with the showbiz leanings of musical theatre. The Americans know how to put on a big show and they throw money at it in spades to make sure the show is as big as it can possibly be. If the show is too big for the theatre they just knock the walls out and rebuild the theatre. No problem is so big it can’t be fixed with a big hammer!

That’s why people pay big money for tickets to see their shows, musical theatre is all about spectacle and the Americans can deliver spectacle and then some!

Handing over £45 to watch 70’s warbler David Essex in the home grown production ‘Aspects of Love’ is not something that really grabs the attention of the theatre going masses. We also suspect that the American onslaught into the West End has a lot to do with payback for decades of ‘Chess’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Cats’ and, what our editor calls, “that bloody roller skate thing!” (he means ‘Starlight Express’)

We can speculate that since it took ACE 20 years to acknowledge the problem, coupled with the fact that they are not going to spend any money if they find a problem, that sometime in 2087 we should see some action on this issue. Never let it be said that when ACE senses there is work to be done to set something right it doesn’t leap into action like an arthritic cat overdosing on Xanax™

This “inquiry” is all starting to sound eerily familiar. The same thing happened when Government forces tried to figure out why the British film industry wasn’t doing very well. On that occasion they did throw money at the problem only to realise that the British film industry was failing because it was no bloody good.

However, we do rather enjoy the image of ACE folks donning dark blue wind breakers with “ACE” emblazoned on the back in big yellow letters, busting up the next matinee of ‘Lion King’ and hauling the protagonists in for questioning. We’ll follow this up in 2087 and let you know how it all went.