Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If There's An Audience To Be Found

Matt Smith has been named as the latest patron of the National Youth Theatre. Yer actual Smudger, who trained with the theatre as a teenager his very self, surprised current members by visiting rehearsals in London. The one hundred and forty-strong cast were putting the final touches to their Olympic and Paralympic welcome ceremonies. Smith said the theatre 'completely transformed my life. No understatement. I'm proud to be a part of it still. I care very deeply about it.' The NYT's artistic director and chief operating officer, Paul Roseby, knew Smith when he was training with the theatre. 'Matt is a perfect role model for the latest generation of brave new talent. Raw, fearless and a passion for theatre is something that doesn't just sum up our company but also the wonderful Matt Smith. As we continue to operate in challenging economic times, like everyone in the arts, it's always good to have a Doctor in the house.' Smith joined the NYT in 2002 and won critical acclaim for his performances as Thomas Beckett in its production of Murder in the Cathedral at London's Southwark cathedral and Basoon in The Master and Margarita at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith. The NYT has also announced it is changing its age range for budding actors and theatre technicians - from fourteen to twenty one to sixteen to twenty five - in order to help young people not in education, employment or training get on to its social inclusion programme. Founded in 1956, the NYT's alumni include Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Day-Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Tate, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ashley Jensen, Sir Derek Jacobi, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Walliams, Matt Lucas and Hugh Bonneville. But the organisation, which is a registered charity, found itself in financial difficulty earlier this year. A statement issued in April said the theatre was, like many arts charities, 'operating in a challenging economic climate and currently experiencing some financial constraints.' But thanks to support from Arts Council England and other organisations, the NYT says it is now back on track.

The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin has talked to Metro about his motivation for writing The Newsroom, what he thinks about journalism and how writing for television compares to film. The first question was why did Aaron decide to tackle the subject of TV news – and why now? 'I like writing idealistically, romantically and swashbucklingly,' he said. 'The best place to do that is in an environment that people ordinarily look at cynically – The White House, for instance. When I did The West Wing, the motivation was that in popular culture our leaders in government are generally portrayed as Machiavellian or as idiots. I thought: "How about writing about a hyper-competent group of people?" And I wanted to do the same thing with the news – to write a Valentine or a love letter to journalism.' Journalism, of course, hasn't had a lot of love letters recently. Was Sorkin concerned the public might not be very sympathetic towards a bunch of journalists? 'That is exactly the reason to do the show, I think,' Sorkin noted. 'The public isn't generally sympathetic towards presidents or powerful people, either. But heroes in drama are people who try hard to reach a virtuous ideal. Whether they succeed or fail really doesn’t matter – it’s the trying that counts.' On the subject on real television news, he added: 'It is fighting against market forces. You can't blame the news guys. They are now required to do the same thing I am required to do when I am making network television, which is to attract viewers so the station can sell ad time and pay the bills. That means the more entertaining news stories are going to trump the more important stories that might be more boring.' So, who does he consider to be the best and worst of the current breed? 'In America, FOX News is the worst culprit but the best depends on what hour of the day it is. My problem with FOX is not the Republican aspect, my problem with FOX is, I think, that it lies. They consistently mislead their viewers. A recent poll showed that FOX News viewers are less informed than people who don't watch any news at all. On the day the US invaded Iraq, sixty seven per cent of Americans thought the country had been attacked by Iraq on 9/11.' So, how does the BBC measures up in comparison? 'I was in London during Hurricane Katrina and watched the BBC news coverage,' Aaron noted. 'That was the first time I ever really watched news about America at length while away in a foreign country. I could not believe the difference in the coverage compared with US news – it was night and day. The BBC is fantastic and, saying this doesn't make me a member of al-Qaeda, so is Al Jazeera.' The Newsroom is the third series Sorkin has written that is set behind the scenes at a live television show and deals with the nuts and bolts of TV production (after Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). What is it that appeals to Sorkin about the subject matter? 'There are writers I admire who write about cops all the time, about crime, or lawyers, or vampires! I find television, particularly live television, very romantic. I love the idea that there is this small group of people, way up high in a skyscraper, in the middle of Manhattan, beaming this signal out into the night.' Asked whether he thought there is as much kudos in making television as films these days, Aaron replied: 'I do, because over the past decade or so there has been a real return to what we in the US call the "Golden Age" of television. That was in the 1950s, when the best writers in America – Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Rod Sterling – looked down their noses at movies. They wanted to write for Playhouse 90, which was live television. Being beamed into people's living rooms was irresistible to them, as was the idea that they could write a ninety-minute play that didn't have to run for three years to make money. They also loved the idea their plays could be seen not just by people who lived in New York City, or by people who could afford a holiday in New York City and a ticket to a Broadway show, but by everyone. That's why I think you are seeing everybody from Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann to Dustin Hoffman and Jeff Daniels saying: "You know what? Great theatre is being done on television. I want to do this stuff."'

The TV Licensing body has launched a campaign to remind businesses of the need for a TV licence if they allow staff to watch the Olympics at work. More than two thousand five hundred hours of live Olympic coverage will be shown over the seventeen days of the Games, which begin on 27 July. If employees have devices such as mobile phones or laptops plugged into the mains at work, their workplace will need to have a licence. Otherwise they'll be put in jail! According to TV Licensing, many employers already have plans in place. For those that have not, TV Licensing has produced a guide to help businesses work out which licence they need. Most employers will only need one licence per premise, although it depends on the type of business and how it operates. People at two thousand eight hundred business addresses were caught watching TV without a licence across the UK during 2010 and 2011. And chastised accordingly. Catch-up TV services, such as iPlayer or ITV Player, are not subject to licence requirements. However, live streams of sports events, press conferences and news channels are. And they'll crush yer bollocks in a vice if they catch you watching them without a bit of paper that says you can. Capiche?

Rupert Murdoch 'sought assurances' from then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s about policing of print union strikes, the Leveson Inquiry has been told. In a written statement, the ex-Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil disputed Murdoch's claim that he had 'never asked a prime minister for anything' and, effectively, called the billionaire tyrant' a liar. Neil also wrote of Tony Blair and Murdoch reaching 'an understanding.' That 'relationship became closer, more extensive and deeper than anything during the Thatcher years,' Neil claimed. 'There was at least one time when Mr Murdoch's support for Mrs Thatcher paid business dividends and undermines the accuracy of his claim to the Inquiry that he has never asked politicians for anything,' wrote Neil, now a BBC presenter. 'In the run-up to the Wapping dispute he made it clear to me one night in late 1985 in my office that he had gone to Mrs Thatcher to get her assurance - to "square Thatcher" in his words - that enough police would be made available to allow him to get his papers out past the massed pickets at Wapping once the dispute got underway.' Murdoch received assurances from Thatcher, Neil claimed, 'on the grounds that she was doing no more than upholding the right of his company to go about its lawful business.' In his statement, Neil suggested that the 'seminal development in relations between British politicians and the media' during his career had been the Murdoch papers' vicious treatment of Labour leader Neil Kinnock in the late 1980s and early 90s. 'This seared into the minds of a future generation of Labour leaders, especially Tony Blair and those closest to him, what could happen if they ended up on the wrong side of the Murdoch press.' The result was New Labour's desire to come to an arrangement with the newspaper group for mutual interest, Neil claimed. He added that in 1996, a year before Labour won power, Blair had told him: 'How we treat Rupert Murdoch's media interests when in power will depend on how his newspapers treat the Labour party in the run-up to the election.' As it turned out, Neil said, Labour enjoyed more than a decade's support from the News International papers, while the media group in turn benefited from relaxed media ownership rules. 'This was something Mr Murdoch's people lobbied hard for, with his support, and they had unique and extensive access to the levers of power at the heart of the Blair government to make this lobbying effective,' Neil wrote. 'When Mr Murdoch testified before this Inquiry that he had never asked government for anything it gave me cause to wonder if he had forgotten this - or forgotten he was testifying under oath.'

Meanwhile, Murdoch has said for the first time that he now 'agrees' with the high court judge who found that the Scum of the World had tried to threaten a woman involved in an orgy with Formula One boss Max Mosley in 2008. In a supplementary witness statement to the Leveson inquiry, Murdoch says he now sees why Mr Justice Eady found the tabloid's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck's threat to reveal the identity of one of the women involved in the sex party was inappropriate. 'I now understand why Justice Eady found that Neville Thurlbeck's treatment of his potential source was unacceptable,' Murdoch said. 'I understand, and of course accept the court's judgment that Mr Thurlbeck's conduct in that case was inappropriate,' he added. Murdoch also explained why he did not respond to a letter from Mosley requesting an investigation into Thurlbeck's conduct in March 2011, months before the paper was closed in disgrace and ignominy over phone-hacking allegations. He claimed that Mosley's letter was passed to well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the then chief executive of News International. 'Mrs Brooks was consumed with the emerging facts about phone-hacking. Within a few months, she was gone as was Mr Thurlbeck, the subject of Mr Mosley's letter.' Murdoch's decision to agree with Eady's judgment will be somewhat cold comfort to Mosley whose successful privacy action against the tabloid in 2008 was decried by senior executives on the paper. Mosley said: 'If News International had been a properly run company there would have been an investigation as soon as the judgment came out. Instead, they applied for newspaper of the year. That says it all.' Although the court awarded him costs and sixty thousand knicker in damages, Scum of the World editor Colin Myler went on to defend his newspaper's decision to publish the story, telling a select committee in 2009 that 'we are who we are and I make no apologies for publishing that story.' Myler confirmed that the cost of publishing the front-page splash on 30 March last year was close to one million quid. The paper lost a high court privacy action last summer and paid sixty grand in damages to Mosley and about nine hundred thousand smackers in legal costs.

Continuing to piss a once promising career down the drain, Alexander Armstrong along with Emma Willis has signed up to co-host a new ITV game show. Prize Island will see four couples 'battling it out in an exotic setting' in order to win fifty thousand smackers according to the Sun. Sounds just like the kind of odious brainless shit that the glakes who read the Sun (or, at least, look at the pictures, anyway) will thoroughly enjoy. The contestants 'will be tested on their own relationships, while having to prove their skills in a series of tasks.' The couples will take part in four rounds of challenges, before making their way to the final stage Buried Treasure, which contains a new car with the prize money locked inside. Armstrong said of the show: 'Prize Island is inventive, funny, compelling, oh, and set on a tropical island with prizes!' This, dear blog reader, form the man that presents Pointless. Willis gushed: 'I am beyond excited to be one of the presenters of Prize Island. It promises to be a show like no other where contestants win unbelievable prizes.' Christ, what a meeting on minds that must've been. ITV has previously dabbled with tropical settings with their risible dating reality show Celebrity Love Island six years ago. That was rubbish an'all. Prize Island is scheduled to be broadcast in 2013 on ITV. Don't say you weren't warned.

The fallout from George Osborne's - now seemingly discredited - attempt to link ex-Labour ministers to the Libor-rigging scandal has continued, with Baroness Shriti Vadera securing a retraction from the BBC after Osborne's claims were repeated on last week's Question Time. Labour's former City envoy instructed lawyers to pursue libel complaints against broadcasters and newspapers after a since-retracted comment by the columnist Dominic Lawson on Question Time on 5 July. Lawson, who appeared on the show alongside Tory MP Louise Bagashite Mensch and former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, claimed that Osborne had said Vadera and former Labour government ministers 'pressured' Barclays to push down its Libor rate so the bank would appear more solvent than it actually was. Vadera has strenuously denied the allegation, which was retracted by the Independent columnist shortly after his appearance on David Dimbleby's BBC1 current affairs show. Amber Melville-Brown, the lawyer acting on behalf of Vadera, said in a statement: 'Dominic Lawson swiftly retracted the allegation and this retraction has been published on the BBC Question Time website. The relevant section is being removed by the BBC from the iPlayer clip of the programme. The BBC has also offered our client a letter expressing its regret at any embarrassment caused to her. Our client did not discuss with anyone in any form of communication at any point the fixing or manipulation of Libor and was unaware of any attempts by banks to manipulate Libor.' Osborne is now under increasing pressure from many within his own party to apologise to the ex-Labour ministers after Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, on Monday denied he was 'leaned on' to lower Barclays submissions. Tucker told MPs on the Commons Treasury select committee he had not been pressured by Vadera, then City minister Ed Balls or ex-No 10 chief of staff Jeremy Heywood. He said: 'I don't think I spoke to Shriti Vadera throughout this whole period.' BBC lawyers have ordered that the programme not be retransmitted on any corporation website without their approval. An edited version of the broadcast appears on the BBC iPlayer website with the footnote: 'This programme has been edited since broadcast. This is due to legal reasons.' Unlike other BBC current affairs shows, Question Time is not broadcast live. The show is filmed shortly before it is broadcast at 10.35pm on Thursday evenings. Lawson said in a statement after last week's show: 'On BBC Question Time on Thursday 5 July I said that George Osborne had alleged that Shriti Vadera was involved in attempts to influence Barclays bank on Libor. Baroness Vadera has in fact denied any involvement at all in this matter and I am happy to acknowledge that George Osborne did not make this allegation.' Lawyers for Vadera are also understood to have written to other media outlets requesting that they contact them before writing about the ex-minister. The allegations have become a prominent subplot in the scandal that forced the resignation of the Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond last week. The BBC said it would make no further comment other than Lawson's statement on its website.

Gromit, the much-loved canine companion of inventor Wallace, was initially supposed to be a cat, creator Nick Park has revealed. 'I had this idea about a guy who builds a rocket in the basement of his house. I thought he had to have an assistant,' the Oscar-winning animator said in a Radio Times interview. 'So I drew a cat called Gromit. But when I came to model the cat out of clay, I found a dog easier to make. Plus I had a packet of dog's noses from a craft shop on me,' he added. 'So Gromit became a dog.' Park also said that Gromit was supposed to be a 'bouncy, extrovert character but on the first day of shooting, he was too hard to move. I found it much easier just moving his brow. It gave him a personality, an inner, discerning mind. Suddenly he became a contrast; a child more intelligent than his father.' Wallace and Gromit's next outing is to the BBC Proms, where they will take part in the Family Prom on 29 July. Proms director Roger Wright is a big fan of the Oscar-winning animated duo. Wallace and Gromit composer Julian Nott has written a piece of specially-commissioned music for the occasion, titled My Concerto in Ee, Lad. It will be performed by the Aurora Orchestra. Wallace and Gromit will be backstage and their antics will be seen via a giant screen. Park told the Radio Times that occasionally, the characters will be seen approaching the conductor via Wallace's 'pneumatic sending device.' The Wallace and Gromit theme tune will also be performed, alongside works by Mozart, Debussy and Shostakovich. The second half of the performance is a screening of the Wallace & Gromit short film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, with a live orchestral arrangement. Park told the magazine that, other than his own work, his three favourite animation films were 'the first ten minutes of Up', The Incredibles and Toy Story 3.

A Jordanian politician brandished a gun after losing his cool in a TV debate. MP Mohammad Shawabka was debating with political activist Mansour Sayf al Din Murad on the private satellite channel Jo Sat. Both men voiced some wild accusations, each claiming that the other was a spy. Host Mohammad Habashneh attempted to calm proceedings when the pair started shouting at each other. However, MP Shawabka removed his right shoe and threw it at his debating opponent, fuelling a scuffle between the pair. Shabwabka then pulled out a silver pistol from his waistband and pointed it at Din Murad, at which point the programme was taken off air.

A Stone Roses fan is attempting to sell a container of 'atmosphere' on eBay from the band's recent reunion gig in Manchester. Bottled in what appears to be a urine sample container, bids have now reached more than five hundred quid. The alleged 'atmosphere' was collected 'at around 10pm on the opening night,' according to the seller, some Manc chancer. 'Here is your chance to own your very own piece of Mancunian history. Approx 10cc of awesome atmosphere.' The seller added that the alleged 'atmosphere' was bottled at Heaton Park on 29 June between the songs 'This Is The One' and 'She Bangs The Drums'. He added that he was unable to accept bids from people outside the UK because of the 'totally electrified and awesome atmosphere in the container. It might cause security/health and safety issues being carried in a pressurised aircraft environment.' The seller says that he will give 'some' of the proceeds to a local music project for young people. The opening night at Heaton Park was the first major UK gig by The Roses' original line-up in twenty two years. The two hundred and twenty thousand tickets for the three Heaton Park gigs sold out in sixty eight minutes. The band topped the bill at T in the Park in Scotland on Saturday. And, fortunately, didn't drown. The group, formed in Manchester in 1983, recorded just two LP before they dissolved in acrimony in 1996. Their 1989 self-titled debut is regarded by many - this blogger included - as a seminal work, combining a trance-like mash-up of psychedelic pop and funky rhythms. The Byrds with James Brown's drummer, basically.

South Africa have announced that wicketkeeper Mark Boucher will miss the Test series with England following an operation on an eye injury. The thirty five-year-old was struck by a bail while standing up to the stumps on day one of the tour match with Somerset over the weekend. He underwent surgery on a lacerated eyeball on Monday. Ow! Nasty. On Tuesday, Cricket South Africa tweeted: 'Mark Boucher will be returning home from the tour. Selectors will name a replacement in due course.' That replacement - which is expected to be announced on Wednesday - could be Thami Tsolekile, with only the versatile AB de Villiers a viable option behind the stumps from the squad already in England. De Villiers took the gloves at Taunton after Boucher was helped from the pitch following treatment on his injury. Boucher, in his fourth tour of England with the Proteas, was not wearing a helmet when he was struck by the bail after leg-spinner Imran Tahir bowled Somerset's Gemaal Hussain. After visiting Boucher in hospital, South Africa's team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee told Cricinfo: 'The extent of the eye injury can be described as severe. The eyeball was repaired during the operation. The long-term prognosis at this stage remains unknown.' South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald, who played alongside Boucher for the Proteas, told Sky Sports News: 'He wanted to finish here. He's been talking about maybe going, if needed, to Australia but he wanted to go out on a real high in England. I can't think of a bigger kick in the teeth than that. To happen on the first day is a cruel blow. Let's just hope he is going to be okay and take it from there.' Boucher has played one hundred and forty seven Tests for South Africa and holds the wicketkeeping record for most dismissals in the five-day format with five hundred and fifty five. The first of South Africa's three Tests against England begins at The Oval on 19 July.

A man has been arrested after running naked across the front of the Olympic torch convoy as it travelling through Henley. The streaker had 'Free Tibet' written on his back and ran a short distance past crowds waiting to see the torch relay beside the River Thames. Thames Valley Police said: 'A twenty seven-year-old man from Henley has been arrested on suspicion of outraging public decency and is in custody.' And for false advertising since, apparently, he didn't have any free tibets on him. BBC producer Priya Patel said that officers tackled the man and 'covered him up.' Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell, overseeing the Torch Relay policing operation, said: 'This was an isolated incident that was quickly dealt with by police officers and thankfully did not disrupt the torch relay as it passed through Henley. The torch relay events of yesterday and today have been attended by thousands of people who lined the routes through towns and villages, and seemed to have really enjoyed this once in a lifetime experience, and we have every confidence that this will continue.' The incident took place shortly before five-times gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave rowed with the torch on the Thames.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. There's really only one thing it can be today.