Anyone reading this is surely aware that we live in an era when what and how we eat is a worry for everyone, whether we're the unfortunate many with too little to eat, or the fortunate minority with too much choice in the matter. We, mostly Western, increasingly fat, few acknowledge that we have a moral duty to worry about the hungry masses. But we are also aware that we have turned the biological imperative to feed ourselves about three times a day into an obsessive pastime - we've made a hobby of our necessity.
The current scandal in Britain is about how a dead paedophiliac appears to have been protected and event abetted in his crimes by his employer. The trouble is that the employer in question was the second most revered institution (after the monarchy) in the country, the BBC. The nature of the complaint against the BBC is not clear, except that it failed to follow up and transmit "Newsnight's" posthumous exposé of Jimmy Savile's assaults on under-aged girls and boys, which were actually facilitated by the BBC and in some cases took place on BBC premises.
Was it a cover-up? Did the BBC top brass know Savile was a paedophile?
I am an EastEnders addict. Anybody reading this who doesn't have access to BBC television will probably be at a loss to understand this reference to the long-running TV soap opera, which takes place in "Albert Square," a fictional postal address in London's East End. I, like millions of other middle-class Brits (though I'm only half Brit, and that by dint of passport only, not birth), go slumming in Albert Square four times each week for a half hour starting at 7.30 or 8.0.
And I mean "slumming." The whole point of the series is that the highest moral type you encounter in EE is the lovable rogue. Otherwise the dramatis personae consist of an entire catalogue of villainy, from Falstaffian slightly bent to Iago-like pure evil. There are no virtuous women living in Albert Square, and no honest men. Even the children, though charming, are adept at calculating the odds.
The Tempest is a play for which it is possible to feel real affection. In this it is, of course, unlike the tragedies: you can't imagine having warm, happy, cheerful or loving feelings about Macbeth, Hamlet or Othello. (There was a famous American Yiddish theatre production of King Lear - the moral of it being, "You bring them up, feed them, clothe them; then look what they do to you in your old age!" You can perhaps conceive of feeling affectionate in a superior, amused way about such a staging.) It's possible to love the tragedies, as it is The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and several of the comedies and histories - and as it is not, say, the Taming of the Shrew or Timon of Athens.
Why am I fond of The Tempest? Not because it suits my political feelings. I can see merit in the interpretation that says the play's point is anti-colonialism - it's a reading that fits. But it can't be the whole story, and making it so has resulted in any number of poor productions that I've seen. The Tempest is too much a tale of the natural order being subverted and restored - of dukes being dukes and princes, princes, and of Miranda being a natural aristocrat, though all the home she knows is the desert isle - to impose a single ideological straitjacket on its plot and subplots.
Kirsty Bushell as "Sebastian"
If there had only been gay marriage in Melville's day, none of it would have happened. David Alden's production of Billy Budd at the English National Opera has received very good reviews from many of my opera critic colleagues. Paul Steinberg's set and Constance Hoffman's costumes send mixed messages about the location and period of the drama, but seem to be trying to place the action in the present, in some sort of forced labour plant - a Soviet oil refinery perhaps? Or in the bowels of a nuclear submarine
Besides the nasty weather we've had during and since the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a storm is brewing about the BBC's coverage of the events, from the flotilla of 1,000 boats to the big lunch and pop concert at Buckingham Palace, to the last day's service at St Paul's, the carriage procession and balcony appearance after them.
At the time of writing, it has been announced that the Beeb has received 4,000 complaints. I imagine all of them were justified, as I'd guess every single one of them complained about the caliber of the presenters, who were the ultimate dumb-downers.
Here's my contribution to the Jubilee. In the summer or early autumn of 1986 I was commissioned by the NY Times - Magazine, I think I remember - to write a piece on the queen and her then prime minister, who was Margaret Thatcher. There had been some trivial business about the two of them wearing the same dress, and this led to a piece in the (British) Sunday Times saying there was some tension between the two 60 year-olds. The tiff has been dredged up for the Jubilee and you can read a summary of it at http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/Interviews/article1041265.ece
Paul Levy is amost a citizen of the world, carrying the passports of the USA and the UK/EU. He writes about the arts in general for the Wall Street Journal Europe more
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