Wednesday, 3 January 2018

JESTEM POLAKIEM

I opened an email from my dad today and discovered that he'd sent me a scanned copy of my Polish birth certificate which he'd just been sent. For some reason that's not how I was expecting to discover that legally I was now a dual citizen: I think if you'd asked me to think about how I'd find out I'd have expected some sort of Official Note From The Polish Government (I do in fact actually have one of these as well) and if you'd asked me to not think about it I'd assume that they'd send me a passport (despite repeatedly being informed that's not how it works). But no: my life has been reconned in Polish, or something.

It is a bit of a strange project: I think that as with a lot of people going through something similar, the pragmatic impetus was to remain eligible for an EU passport and to do the same for my son. But I suppose ultimately Brexit has surely provided a romantic impetus for people to *vom* reconnect with their heritage.

I am acutely aware that Poland is neither a country I have spent much time in, nor one that is exactly a beacon to the world at the moment. When large numbers of Poles started coming over in the last decade, it did feel like a pretty brutal lesson in how un-Polish I in fact was. At least one of my main motivations for *vom* reconnection was crushing guilt at being able to speak Polish at a young age but forgetting after I staged some sort of stupid toddler protest against it. I am sure in a sense the option to take up Polish nationality has allowed me to displace disappointment at the stupid EU referendum into kidding myself I am somehow culturally different, when I'm sure 48% of the country feels the same.

Nonetheless, my dad is both Polish and a Polish historian, my grandparents were very Polish, I grew up with Polishness and Polish history and a spectacularly Polish name. I am fascinated by the country and have been learning the language properly in lunchtime classes for a year now. I have a towering sense of guilt and a fairly solid work ethic. I'm hopefully not a total fraud. If my whole life is, in essence, a very delayed accident of the second world war, it is nice to have a certificate telling me I have, in a literal sense, always been Polish.

I SAW THE LAST JEDI

The Last Jedi is an enjoyable space film that also feels like confirmation that the ‘new’ Star Wars films are not going to continue the series in any genuinely meaningful story sense. 

As with predecessor The Force Awakens, it gets members of the original cast to play with, one of whom is sacrificed to underscore how Important the events depicted are (SPOILER: it’s Luke, though the strong inference is less than he’s dead, more that he’s found some sort of cosmic zen or something).

I enjoyed it, but there's a lingering air of inconsequence: if in a decade or two a new episode VII and VIII were made, either replacing these two films or telling a different story set before or after, it’s difficult to imagine much fuss. To all intents and purposes The Last Jedi is another film in which Some Cool Starwarsy Stuff happens within the vague, reconstituted Empire vs Rebel Alliance scenario that is the First Order vs the Resistance.

From people who've loved it there's lots of praise for writer-director Rhian Johnson's iconoclasm in subverting traditional Star Wars tropes, but I'm not sure that's a great virtue purely on its own; I find most of its subversions quite pleasing, but they don't really add up to something of great meaning. Worse, it feels that as with TFA and Rogue One, it can't exist without the old films as reference. There’s a scene at the end where the original sacred texts of the Jedi order are destroyed, but whatever symbolism may lie there, the original trilogy of films remains the touchstone of the new trilogy and surrounding films. It’s increasingly fascinating to look back at the prequels - the first two of which were definitely not good - and see George Lucas just blithely writing a new story in a way that has completely eluded the new directors. 

It’s definitely easier to be hard on it, because its failures feel Star Wars-specific, whereas its successes largely lie in cinematography, design and direction of its action sequences. The bookending action sequences are incredibly gripping, and the blood red soil under snow of the final showdown is just gorgeous stuff. 

But also Mark Hamill is excellent as embittered old Luke, even if it’s a slight frustration that the film isn’t really ‘about’ him. Oscar Isaacs is by far the best of the ‘new’ heroes - he kind of manages to be a dickhead in a very sincere, alpha male hero way that doesn’t feel like it’s Han Solo redux. Laura Dern is good as Holdo the haughty head of the Resistance fleet. There is nothing as bang-head-on-wall stupid as Starkiller Base, and most of the really dumb stuff feels like an inheritance of The Force Awakens. A learned Twitter colleague had suggested to me that he sees the new trilogy is a sort of elaborate lit crit type thing to subvert and end the original story so that the NEXT trilogy of films can tell an original story. Which seems pretty psychotic  but not entirely implausible. Anyway, it’s fine, but doesn’t alter my basic contention that there are only really six Star Wars films at this point.


Seven vaguely annoying things
  1. I don’t really ‘get’ the First Order
    An inheritance of TFA, but it remains maddeningly unclear who the First Order are; terrorists? A mercenary army? They clearly have a quasi-imperial air to them, but I don’t think they’re running the galaxy.  They’re just, like, some guys? 
  2. I don’t really ‘get’ the Resistance
    It just seems mad that there’s so few of them, even accepting the mortality rate, the idea that only 400 people IN AN ENTIRE GALAXY can be arsed to fight the First Order is imbrobable (more Westerners than that probably signed up to fight Isis).
  3. What did Holdo do to the First Order fleet?
    The web descriptions just say she rammed them at lightspeed but that seems like a bit of a bald description, was there some reason why she or one of the other ships was unable to do that much earlier? (Other annoying science - heavily implication the ships were burning fuel to travel, but in space that’s surely not the case? And what the hell was the nonsense with the tracking device?)
  4. Rey is a terrible character
    She’s occasionally mildly amusing but mostly she’s just dull and bland. This feels MASSIVELY compounded by the fact she’s so posh, which just completely undermines the idea of her having ‘umble origins. She’s basically a virtuous posh person being effortlessly brilliant at things.
  5. Finn is a bit of a waste
    I think I said this around TFA, but a traumatised ex-Stormtrooper is kind of interesting, but they never really explore this, he’s just the slightly comic relief-y character. His sub plot just shows him to be A Nice Guy, and it’s the most pointless part of the film (it tries to show you a little about how the galaxy works, but the maddening vagueness of the First Order/Resistance thing just totally undermines it).
  6. I don't really 'get' the map to Luke
    Why was there a map to Luke? Given he didn't want anybody to find him it seems really unlikely he'd have left it, but who else would have done? And why is nobody bothered by this? ALSO I know he was in a mard but he seemed totally unbothered by Chewie and R2 being on his island – they all basically ignore each other.
  7. There's no cliffhanger
    Nothing feels particularly unresolved: the rebels have escaped, the First Order – whose scale as an outfit remains opaque – don't seem to be in the best of shape. Clearly the last film will end in a reckoning for Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. But with the universe seemingly curiously unarsed about any of this, it doesn't feel particularly important, while Ren's redemption is of questionable interest – clearly he has done such bad things that he's unlikely to be let off the hook. Presumably good will win out in the end, but the fact the reset button was pressed so airily with The Force Awakens suggests perhaps it doesn't really matter.
ANYWAY. It’s fundamentally an enjoyable film. I dug the Porgs.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO

I think it was probably a pretty difficult decision for the Royal Court to pull its January run of the revival of Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too. 

I imagine it was also a very difficult decision to un-cancel it in light of widespread accusations that they were censoring the playwright, an iconic working class writer who burned bright and died young etc. 

This is obviously all pure conjecture, but I would further guess that the fact Court AD Vicky Featherstone ultimately changed her mind is reflective of the fact she had struggled with the decision in the first place. I certainly don’t get the impression that the reinstatement has been made through gritted teeth, or that the backlash has been comparable to that against, say, the Tricycle’s decision to back out of the Jewish Film Festival.

So I’m a bit depressed by the polarised tone of many of the reactions to it, that a decision probably agonised over has been turned into some sort of Biblically stark scenario.

My hilariously convoluted personal view is that there were sound reasons for cancelling it - which seem to be the ones most people on side seem to be assuming the Court cancelled it for - but that the Court’s actual stated reasons were pretty questionable. 

The press release announcing the cancellation said very little about Max Stafford-Clark, but instead suggested that the themes of the play made it inappropriate to stage in the light of the Court’s admirable recent work in addressing abuse in the industry. 

A lot of ‘theatre people’ are aware that the play has a history bound up with the recently-outed-as-an-abuser etc Stafford-Clark, that he was originally scheduled to direct this revival, and that the Royal Court is a new writing theatre that hardly ever plays host to revivals and that Stafford-Clark - who directed Rita, Sue and Bob Too’s premiere at the Court in 1982 - was essentially the reason the revival was calling in. I think those are all pretty sound reasons to reject the production, a touring show from Out of Joint, the company MSC recently left in disgrace. 

However, none of them were publicly stated as reasons for its cancellation and I’m not sure much of this is widely known outside a fairly narrow circle of industry figures/theatre buffs. So I’m not very surprised that a large number of people not in the industry have taken the Court’s statement – which I think was clumsy at best – at face value, believing that the principle reason for taking Rita, Sue and Bob Too off is that the themes in it are not appropriate for staging (at this time, sure, but when would they ever be?) And it’s not much of a leap to then start fretting about the irony of ‘censoring’ the blameless Dunbar – one of the most iconic working class playwrights of the '80s – in the name of young women who’d been abused.

Were the Court's reasons for taking it off actually the ones stated? If I had to guess I'd say no. I imagine it’s legally difficult to say much more about Stafford-Clark without opening yourself to possible legal action, given he’s not been charged with anything and the public accusations against him are thus far both recent and limited. In fact I don't think I’ve seen one person defending the decision on the grounds of the wording of the decision, but on a subtext that they assume to be there. But it may not be, and it’s certainly not going to be apparent to people like, say, Hadley Freeman or Gloria de Piero who have expressed their upset at the ban. It has been suggested to me that I’m being pedantic over the wording of a press release, or that the real reasons go without saying. I really don’t think so - your public statement is your public statement. Words matter. You're communicating to the world, not a clique. 

Clearly there are some absolute free speech bore dickheads who’ve waded in unhelpfully, without meaning well. And I feel uncomfortable about older male figures of the MSC vintage giving anyone any lectures about anything. But a lot of the people who work in theatre or write about theatre who wanted the play reinstated had earnest and heartfelt reasons for it and the way I’ve seen some of them spoken about on Twitter is almost is if they’re traitors to some sort of grand cause that the cancellation of Rita, Sue and Bob Too was furthering. As it is, I don’t even think there had been any sort of meaningful motion to ban the play prior to the Court doing so itself. (Which is not to say that it hadn’t been viewed as problematic, but perhaps it had been given a pass specifically because of the good work the Court has been doing lately).

Anyway - the Court has stated there should be no grey areas in terms of professional and personal relationships. But other grey areas will always exist. Rita, Sue and Bob Too exists in a grey area because there are legitimate reasons for taking it off and legitimate reasons for keeping it on. In the end I get the feeling that Featherstone’s decision was swayed by the fact that the Court is a writer’s theatre first, and perhaps the indignation for Dunbar's sake offered her a default route to take that aligned with her theatre's mission. All I can really say is that I don’t think any of this is a sign of weak leadership, just hard decisions. Agonising over something difficult is perfectly normal. Suggesting Vicky Featherstone has been bullied into providing a platform for Max Stafford-Clark is reductive at best, cobblers at worse. 

The fact that the play can only be either off or in doesn’t mean either state is perfect.

I imagine there’s is a certain awareness that the route that would have caused the least fuss would have been not doing anything and hoping the run went off with minimal comment.

I imagine there will be a lot of people very relieved when the run is over.

Personally, I think the best outcome now is that the discourse around it can go some way to pry the play from the shadows of its past. People would like Dunbar's reputation to survive her director's. So I guess if the show is now happening, let's go into it with that frame of mind.

Monday, 23 October 2017

HE IS SIR NICHOLAS HYTNER

I interviewed Nick Hytner for the first time the other day, and I thought it turned out rather well, and I could barely really scratch the surface with what I could get into the Time Out article, so here we go, a lot of stuff on British theatre, the Bridge, An Octoroon, some rather vague answers on diversity, and THE SVERM QUESTION – uncut. It's pretty much a transcript though tidied up a bit. Anyway, enjoy, obviously I slightly regret not getting him to slag off Gove now but it's quite a good theatre geek chat, I hope.




Did you leave the National to start the Bridge, or was it just a case of needing to find something to do once you’d left? 
Well we knew we’d leave the National, Nick Starr and me, and we both wanted to go on making theatre and I wanted to go on directing theatre and the idea came from Nick initially - we didn’t particularly fancy going off to the West End and joining the long queue of producers trying to get hold of theatres for a season and I’m not sure that seasonal thing quite makes sense, there aren’t that many theatre in the West End that you actually really wanna be in. But also we neither of us have a particular history in the West End, neither of us are particularly attached to the West End as an institution and we start thinking how would it be if we built our own. 

There are sound commercial imperatives behind it, 25 percent more tickets are sold now than there were ten years ago – that’s levelled off but it’s not declining, there’s certainly enough ticket buyers there. 

Is it hard to build a new theatre? 
We looked at all sorts of way of doing it – the particular site we’re at was a stroke of good luck, Nick had already left, we d started talking to property developers and we’d realised that if you were talking to developers building big, multi-purpose developments, when you explain to them what a theatre audience attracted to their site might do for their development as a whole then we were finding people pretty receptive. Some recent London property developments, quite a lot of them come with planning permission that insist on a degree of culture but it’s usually small stuff not sustainable without subsidy or philanthropy of some kind, quite often they just disappear down the plug hole. And I think quite a lot of the local authorities are aware of that. So here, by good fortune, is something already built with 50,000 square feet a big, huge kind of concrete void with a Section 108 from Southwark Council, looking for a tenant because they had one but it fell through. 

So they were just looking for a cultural 'thing’? 
They were looking for a cultural 'thing’ but they had no idea what it was going to be and so two-and-a-half years ago we started a process of bidding. There were some rival bids, galleries, that kind of thing, but we persuaded them that ours was the best. And so that’s what it is. It’s flats, it’s expensive flats and restaurants all that kind of stuff, which happened to have a huge aircraft hangar-sized void in the bottom and a lovely riverside frontage. 

Did you actually know what you were doing?
By good fortune or maybe because we kind of rumbled how this was going to work if this was going to work we’d been working already with Steve Tompkins on something which in concept can be more or less any size but the shorthand is it’s a prefabricated theatre, it’s a theatre Steven has designed with an American company who do all the big stadium rock gigs, that’s who they are. The brilliant things about that is they’re developing all the things you need to put on a huge tour at very short notice – apparently those tours, if Taylor Swift wants to tour she decides quite soon before they start and they pull together an enormous show and it has to go up like that and come down like that and go on to the next city, they go up in three days. And they started to think, what if you had a proper theatre that could go up in not days, but months, which you could kind of then replicate that came in a kind of kit, so we’d already been working on that, knowing that all we were looking for was a void to put it in. 

Relatively speaking has it been quite a quick process? 
I think it probably has happened very quickly - it could now happen again relatively quickly if the space was available for it. And I think we will now be now – not necessarily looking to do it at the same scale, but maybe do it at a bigger scale as other opportunities arise. Because all other things aside, why should commercial theatre of good quality be limited to a few old theatres in the West End? It’s totally flexible, this space can do anything, that is how people write and direct and create shows these days, and you can’t do that in even the most beautiful West End theatres. And there’s all the stuff we’ve already talked about, all the ladies’ loos, all that stuff. 

And I take it you don’t view the commercial and subsidised sector as different worlds? 
They’re demonstrable not. I think if you went to Paris they would be - even the actors don't move from one to another. But here they do and if you look at the most successful West End shows, they’ve either come from and most of the plays - almost all of the plays have come from the subsidised sector, they’re totally mutually interdependent.  

Hardly any new writing goes directly into the commercial sector – why? And why do you think you can change it?
It's a mystery. It’s not that much of a mystery. I’m just about old enough to remember when playwrights like Joe Orton, Michael Frayn, Alan Bennett, even occasionally Harold Pinter were writing for the West End. That all stopped because they all migrated to the subsidised theatres. Why not try again? 

I read in your book (Balancing Acts) that The Lady in the Van only went to the West End because Maggie Smith hates the Lyttelton…
She doesn't like the Lyttelton. And also that’s the theatre she comes from, she started off in Revue in the West End. 

Is the Bridge basically just a fancier version of the Lyttelton?
Well actually it’s a bigger capacity than the Lyttelton… I don't want to be rude about the Lyttelton because I love the Lyttelton – I particularly love the Olivier, I love them both – but honestly if you were designing them now, you’d put those seats in a smaller volume of space. They only problem with the Olivier is it’s 1150 seats and it looks like it’s more. So what we’re trying to do now is partly a consequence of better engineering. Nick Starr is fond of saying that theatre engineering has not really advanced since the invention of the cantilever. But yeah it is, it’s 900 comfortable seats, the long thrust is a probably a bit less, the promenade probably a bit more, but it won’t feel as big as the Lyttelton. It’s not like you need that number of seats to make money; you need that number of seats to do plays that have big costs - we could perfectly happily run a smaller theatre but you wouldn't be able to put on Young Marx. Nightfall, Barney Norris's play, is a four-hander you don't need a 900-seat theatre to put that one, but we love it. 

So is it a West End theatre or isn't it?
Well here’s another difference – commercial produces in the West End, they're a pretty determined, strong-willed and heroic bunch, because they’ve first got to join the queue for the good theatres, then they've got to join what is in effect a seller's market, the landlords have so many people hustling for their theatres they can take turns. But also they have to show a profit every single show. We don’t. Because we have raised the money we needed to build the theatre and put on the first tranche of show upfront and as long as we now continue to operate a small surplus we’ll be okay. If we choose we can cover modest successful and even modestly unsuccessful shows with more successful ones, we don’t need to return money to our investors, we’re in a different game really. 

Is it easier than running the National?
It’s differently stressful. Actually for me it has been less work, Nick has very much driven the building of the theatre, but I am now about to start doing rather more work. 

Where are you finding these plays? Did you take anything from the National? Do you have a literary department?
Nothing from the National. It’s basically me and Nick mucks in and David Sabel mucks in and Will Mortimer from Hampstead work for us one day every fortnight. So it's basically writers that I know or writers that I admire. It’s not to the same degree as it was at at the national, but then there are fewer people to programme. Almost everything we commissions will be staged. We’re not reading everything, we can’t do that and we don't particularly want to, we don't have the capacity. And also it’s a very particular thing we’re asking for, it's stuff that has the muscle. We’ve said eight of them and there are more that didn’t feel comfortable that they were in a place to be talked about. 

I read you have a new Branden Jacob-Jenkins play… 
Where did you hear that? 

He said it himself in an interview with Exeunt
Well there is, that's good. I saw An Octoroon two-and-a-half years ago. That was one of the very few times I felt frustrated not being at the National so I could bring it over. That was a dazzling production as much as anything else. It was by Sarah Benson the director of Soho Rep who is English and Branden told me that one of the reasons she was in New York is that she felt there was no place for her in the London theatre and honestly my blood went cold and I thought, ‘is this my fault?’. Luckily when I met her it turned out she moved to New York in 2001 so I’m not responsible at all. So yeah Brandon came in as soon as we started thinking about this really. So these are people who like Richard Bean I have a long relationship with or Sam Holcroft was one of my absolute favourites from the National. But they will all go on writing for the National. They all get it, it’s a really interesting thing that's happened to dramatists, compared to when I came in – they have such various careers, they write for the movies, for long-form TV, Sam is about to run a writers room with her partner – it’s completely brilliant. If you're a dramatist you can pick up the form you want to write. 

You don't have the Arts Council breathing down your neck anymore but you were quite pointed about letting people know there was gender parity in your commissions – is diversity important to you now that you're under no real obligations to it?
Well you want to because it’s good. The great thing is that I don't have to make speeches about it, I don’t need to make a song and dance. Diversity will just happen because it just happening is plainly on all levels a good thing. It’s good because it’s appealing, attractive inclusive, exciting, because any sentient people would want to. It’s an art-form which is by nature by definition exclusive, it happens for a few hundred people a night, we’re constantly struggling about that, so obviously. But I don't have to make speeches about it. 

If there’s a new Alan Bennett play, do you expect it’ll be staged here? 
Yeah [laughs] 

Why Young Marx as the opening play?
Well listen, it was partly because it's what was ready. Richard writes very quickly – if people had sat in the corner of the National Theatre green room and taken money on what we’d open with, they’d probably have said 'a Richard Bean play'. And also Rory - it felt like a great collection of people to get together. I’m not whatever age I am – over 60! – it’s not like I’m going to be – I hope I reinvent the wheel as far as how I approach shows all the time, you fear as a director falling back on old tricks, but as far as feeling confident about the people I’m working with is concerned I’ve got no problem with that. If you’re going to make a play about the vast and often funny bap between flesh and blood and icon you couldn't do better than go to Marx. It’s a play that’s the most absurd whenever it’s the most true. He lived a brilliantly absurd life, gloriously self-centred and uncompromising and chaotic. He was emotionally illiterate the way great geniuses often are, but he was obviously also must have been infinitely forgivable because people stuck with him throughout his life. It's one of those ones where you don't want to say what the plot is because it'll make people’s eyes pop out. You want a red exclamation mark to come on every time you thought the writer was dicking with you. It’s an appealing play. 

Is what's been announced so far the basic deal with your programming: new writing with the odd bit of Shakespeare?
I think so - maybe occasionally not Shakespeare. You've obviously read the book but I take a bit of a potshot at the thing called new writing, but I take a bit of a potshot at new writing, but I love great new plays. I don't want anybody to think that the policy of this theatre is new writing because it’s virtuous to be committed to new writing. The great thing about theatre is that it doesn’t want to just be entertaining and it doesn’t want to be just challenging, it wants to be both. The movie audience I think maybe want to be entertained - the theatre audience is paying enough to want more than that – I think the best way to do that is to put on great new plays, the biggest hits were always new things. Well-cast Shakespeare would do just fine, but the stuff that really reached out beyond people who usually go to the National was stuff that’s new. So that’s what I love doing at the moment and I also love doing Shakespeare. And Julius Caesar - I'm not the only person to think of doing that at the moment – I've been doing theatre long enough to know that that happens. 

Is it a risk to put on a smaller show like Nightfall? 
Yeah, sure, but we’re doing it for six weeks, seven weeks rather than three months. I’ll tell you the other thing we’re doing here, we’re rightly proud of this theatre, rightly or wrongly, and we’re giving you end on, promenade, and Nightfall is on the long thrust which is why I’m confident you can do a quiet intimate play. 

Are the five other plays officially announced the five next plays on? 
I would have thought that those plays will take two or three years to arrive. There are other plays which we didn't announce and we probably will do first. I think we’ll just put a couple of shows on later in the autumn because they're ready to be put on sale. I have no state of the nation statement to make, there won't be themed seasons. I think we’d like to release ourselves from all that; we’re going to be here a long time. Unless we go belly up, That would be a spectacular failure! [laughs weirdly heartily]

Do you see this as, you know, your last job?
You will find that as the years pass it never occurs to you that you're not 30, you don’t find yourself thinking – you don't find yourself thinking ‘oh, I’ll do this and stop’ – I’m sure everybody thinks ‘I never expected to be this age’. 

But you're in this for the long term, yes?
Well you know, it’s ours. It’s a business, it’s a start-up, it’s Dragons’s Den, there's money invested in this business and at some point we will have to find a way – but not for several years, we’ll have to find way to make sure the people who invested in us do okay but we get to decide to do whatever it is that we want to do. But yeah it belongs to us and our investors, we’re kind of able to do what we like.  Should it be on the list theatre that the theatre crowd starts gossiping about the succession of? No, fuck off. 

Are you aware there’s a Norwegian punk band called Sverm who’ve done a song called I am Sir Nicholas Hytner? 

Long pause.
I have never come across it. 

It exists. 
With Lyrics in Norwegian or English? 

Difficult to say.  
Listen, I’m not going to say I have never Googled myself, I would have thought I’d have come across this. 

Finds it on Google.
Jesus Christ. 

We study the accompanying picture, of Hytner in a nice cardie.  
That’s a particularly vile picture. 

For some reason it won’t play in my phone so he searches for on it his. 
Who calls me Sir Nicholas Hytner? Nobody. I cannot believe I am putting in my own name into YouTube. ‘I am Sir Nicolas’… I’m not going to put in 'Hytner'. 

Finds it.
154 views. Who are the 154? 

We listen to the song, a grindingly atonal thrash.
Are they saying 'I am Sir Nicholas Hytner'? 

I honestly can't tell. 
I am completely thrilled, I could do without the Sir but I am completely thrilled. I am amazed. Thank you so much for that. Only 154 people have viewed it. Now 155 I guess. That’s amazing. The brilliant thing about being Sir Nicholas in our world is you can guarantee that whenever it’s used, it’s used sarcastically.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

WHAT I KNEW

I’m not really a big fan of making Serious Statements on social media/this blog as I can’t help but feel there’s something basically performative about it all – ie I don’t think the aftermath of a terrorist attack needs a hot take from me.

Nonetheless, I’ve seen a lot of stuff flying around theatre Twitter about the silence of the men re: recent revelations, and while I’m fairly sure they mean actual important men like Rufus Norris I might as well quickly write something.

First it hopefully goes without saying that I think all forms of abuse, coercion etc within the industry and without are utterly repellant.

Second I honestly don’t believe I have personally done anything that constitutes abuse, aggression, coercion, etcetera. Ultimately it’s not for me to say that, and god knows I have things to be embarrassed and ashamed of about in my life for other reasons, but I think I’m just going to leave it there.

That leaves what did I know? I really sincerely mean it when I say ‘not a lot’, and I’m probably less connected to the industry than people might expect. I read some gossip about Kevin Spacey on Popbitch and maybe a couple of people told me similar rumours. I guess it needs people to come forward to substantiate or deny; the rumours I’ve heard are pretty mild on the Weinstein scale; other people have heard worse, I think, but there's always the worry it's a malicious distortion against a very famous person who chooses not to discuss his sexuality (I read a popular internet thread about him with stuff in it that was patently untrue - clearly his extreme celebrity is a distraction of sorts).

Max Stafford-Clark - didn’t know, never met him, first I heard of it was that he seemed to fit the bill of one of the people Lucy Prebble described in her Weinstein essay. (UPDATE: for whatever reason somebody has sent me some more info on this confidentially and it’s pretty grim).

I have heard I think three more names in the last week, in two instances literally just names with no behaviour attached, one a little more and totally unacceptable, though probably the sort of thing more damaging to a marriage than a career.

As far as journalism goes, I’ve only really had two jobs and I’ve always worked in small offices, and the senior staff have been women most of the time. I never personally knew any powerful (or non powerful) figures in journalism or theatre who were abusing their power - but it’s worth saying that again I’ve met fewer of them than you’d expect (I worked at Metro regionally for four years and only met the editor when he made me redundant). The worst behaviour I’ve been aware of has been people who were nice (or at least okay) when sober who become horrible whilst drunk.

Speaking of which… Re: Andrew Haydon – pretty much anybody who knew him more than a few years back was aware that he had a drinking problem, and was not a nice drunk. I’m not saying being an alcoholic excuses anything, or that his tendency to pounce on people/institutions who fell below a moral threshold that he himself had crossed wasn’t hypocritical. But the impression I got (I’ve only met him a handful of times IRL and maybe only two of them while drinking, though there Are Stories) is that he was more a misanthrope than a misogynist whilst drunk (ie he was horrible to everyone) and ultimately it seems like he was ashamed enough of his behaviour to kick the booze. I don't know, it all seemed sad and self-sabotaging rather than sinister, but probably not if you're a 19-year-old woman he's saying horrible things to.

So really this has been a boring note saying ‘I didn’t do anything or know anything’ which feels dangerously like self-justification and makes me worry that this is really just a big ego trip. But there it is.

If there’s anything you want to discuss with me from a confidential professional perspective or whatever you can get me on lukowski@gmail.com. Realistically, Time Out is not the place you’re going to go to for a big industry exposé - so possibly that’s a good reason to talk something through with me before committing to talking to a proper journalist, I dunno.

Anyway, maybe this has been useful, maybe this is a box ticking exercise, I can always delete it or rewrite it or whatever. It feels like now seems to be a good moment to say your piece generally, hopefully more people will do so.