Research Nuggets: I have just read a pretty dry history of the Royal Court Theatre : The Royal Court Theatre and the Modern Stage by Philip Roberts . Mainly to get a vague idea of the climate of the last fifty years of theatre production. The Royal Court was a bad one to pick however, its program to be a new writers theatre sets it at odds with much commercial theatre in London. What came out instead was the wranglings of a public sector organisation, underfunded and overly political which sometimes put on plays. The plays (with the exception of the odd really important ones like Look Back In Anger or Top Girls) are usually referred to once, as if in the scheme of things they were unimportant. The backstage drama deserves an account and there is nothing wrong with presenting it as a cultural sausage factory. I suppose the real problem comes in presenting the Court as a really badly run sausage factory, where the sausages are of no intrinsic value.

What is most interesting about the account is the role played by our old friend Lindsey Anderson. In the whole overly political battles of artistic directors, no-one stirs more, acts as an agent provocateur or is more willing to use the word Cunt than Anderson. In conspiring to get people sacked, to build a management conducive to his own ideas and kingmaker Anderson excels. It is also therefore lovely when all his plans come to naught, that like many an arch meddler their schemes come back to haunt them. It is the only satisfactory narrative in the book and you get the feeling that Roberts is pleased to have such a Machiavellian in his cast of characters. The rest are generally a bunch of worthy do gooders often doing bad. Perhaps worse than this, the book never ever considers whether running a new writing theatre is a good idea in itself. And it certainly has not enticed me to go.

The Brown Wedge