ARTS WATCH PETER BROWN
Ir's GOOD NEWS for the arts in general this week, particularly for RSC fans in both Stratford and London. The Arts Council's new Arts for Everyone scheme means that from 6 January established organisations, both amateur and professional, can apply for grants from the National Lottery ranging from £500-£5 million for a whole range of new arts projects. A second pilot stream of cash (A4E Express) between £500-L5,000 is available to small organisations who may never have received any kind of funding at all. Unlike the present scheme which is only for capital projects buildings, equipment and film production, the money is available for one-off grants devoted to actual projects.
Further details from the three regional Arts Councils: Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales or the 10 regional Arts Boards. A4E application packs: 0990 100344 but he quick as some offers, especially A4E Express, are for a limited period only.
The Corporation of London has approved a £1.9 million scheme for the Barbican Theatre incorporating architectural, technical and acoustic changes, to make it a suitable venue for opera and dance, as well as drama. The work will be carried out between April and August 1997. The Barbican Theatre was initially designed to suit the performance of the RSC (which moved its London operation from the Aldwych when the centre opened in 1982) and has proved an excellent space for large' epic drama.
The Centre is currently looking at a greater variety of uses for the Barbican Theatre when the Royal Shakespeare Company reduces its tenancy to 30 weeks from next spring. Visits by international and regional theatre and dance companies are planned together with opera and other performances.
The improvements, which are being financed by the Corporation of London (the local authority for the City which owns, funds and manages the Barbican Centre) including the refurbishment of the existing orchestra pit for 30 musicians (which has never been used) and the creation of another pit for 40-plus musicians, beneath the stage area, a portable sprung floor acoustic and audio modifications to improve the sound for lyric theatre and additional places for wheelchairs at the back of the stalls to improve access for the disabled.
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Despite welcome initiatives like A4E, all arts organisations funding continues to be eroded in real terms and one of the major initiatives developed by the RSC, with special input from Allied Damecq, has been the encouragement for young people to attend through a half price ticket scheme for the under-30s. Here's a great idea for a cultural Christmas present. With ten plays to choose from including comedies, historical dramas, revenge tragedies, new plays and medieval classics, there is something to suit most tastes. Details 0374 507599. Bookings by 4 Jan.
Listen out tonight (13 December at 7.30pm) for a Radio 3 live broadcast from
St David's Hall in Cardiff by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales featuring two works with a strong Advent flavour, centred around hymn tunes. First James MacMillan conducts his own Veni Veni Erruncrtuml, based on the wellknown Advent hymn, which was a hit at the 1992 Proms. It is performed by the dedicated, dazzling percussionist Evelyn Glennie.
Finally, last time I mentioned Greenwich Studio Theatre's production of Denis Diderot's The Nun (now finished) at the Battersea Arts Centre. I'm pleased to say I chose well. Using the tiny studio to advantage with a fixed cloister set and moveable props, the audience eavesdropped on the arguments of this powerful drama which championed individual choice and personal freedom in Sister Simonin's everpresent reluctance to take the veil in the face of parental force, petty jealousies and rivalries, teenage hysteria, well-meaning advisers and female seduction. In a wholly excellent cast, Sophie Arnold carried the exhausting title role with dignity and resolution and among her comforters, Charlotte Randle and Ruth Platt, also caught my eye.
Next time, the Lyceum revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.