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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 14, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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violence which has forced hundreds of thousands of rohingya muslims to flee. antonio guterres said the situation in the refugee camps in bangladesh was a humanitarian catastrophe with women and children arriving hungry and malnourished. police in florida are investigating the deaths of eight residents at a care home in florida, which lost power when it was hit by hurricane irma. 115 other residents were evacuated, a number in critical condition. china's richest man, jack ma has gone viral. this clip shows the boss of the internet giant alibaba, impressing his staff at the company's annual party. he performed a series of michaeljackson dance moves — only revealing his identity at the end of his show. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news it's time for hardtalk. one of the greatest names in british theatre died this week. sir peter hall founded the royal shakespeare company in his twenties and went on to lead london's national theatre. he spoke hardtalk‘s
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stephen sackur in 2009. my guest today has been a hugely influentialfigure in the performing arts for more than 50 years. sir peter hall has directed stage greats from olivier to gielgud. as boss of the royal shakespeare company and then the national theatre, he's always championed state funding for the arts. but with economic hard times come tough questions — are taxpayer subsidies really necessary to foster creative excellence? sir peter hall, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. you have had a long career, more than 50 years in the theatre. you've worked through good times and bad times,
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what is the state of the theatre today do you think? well, first of all one must use the word subsidy and say, you know, with less subsidy things would be healthier. i've even heard that said from the right. but the thing that worries me is if we stop subsidy next week, there's still a subsidy, and it's a subsidy that the artists give. i don't think the public has any understanding whatsoever that although a few great stars may be jolly lucky and may earn a fortune, 90% of people that work in the theatre work for appalling money, absolutely appalling, and that i think is the chief worry about the state of the theatre at the moment. to be clear about this word subsidy, do you believe that in essence subsidies are bad for the theatre, that they can stifle creativity? no, i don't. i don't at all.
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one goes around in circles on these subjects. it's very clear to me that the only thing the theatre needs is enough money to have cheap seat prices. i think nick has proved that at the national theatre. nick hytner, who we actually had on this programme talking about reducing ticket prices. it's worked. the young aren't saying, "oh my god, we mustn't go there, it's arty, it's difficult, like going back to school," not at all. the place is packed with people with their £10 notes. that's progress. but if one looks at where the theatres are most packed, it's not in the sort of serious theatre that nick hytner is doing, it's in the west end with the musicals, musicals which dominate the west end scene now. correction, the national theatre has been fantastically full on its £10 policy. i mean fantastically.
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i grant you it's been full but with all due respect, there's one national theatre but there are dozens and dozens of west end theatres which are full night after night churning out musicals, what one leading critic has called turning the west end into a virtual disneyland. i think that's a very good parallel, absolutely. well, i would be the last person to say we should stop anything in the theatre because by its convulsions it makes new work, new ideas. but if you actually think 50 years ago, when i started, 55, whatever it was, there was no royal shakespeare company, there was no national theatre, there was no royal court, there was no almeida, there was no donmar, there was the arts theatre in great newport street where, in my early 20s, i was trying to run a theatre and that was about the only thing that was in any sense
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dangerous or progressive. the fact that there is that kind of progress now i think is the chief reason to be pleased. the chief reason to be sad, and it's contradictory, because it always is with the theatre, really contradictory, is that... the subsidy is coming from the people who work in it. that does distress me very much. i'm getting the feeling you see a huge gulf between the subsidised sector and the straightforward commercial west end. straightforward commercial theatre does its musicals, it does very few of its plays or straight plays, it buys them from the subsidised sector. if you were... you are, let's face it, one of the most influential and best—known directors
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in the country, if you went to one of the producers, the owners of one of the biggest theatres in the west end and you said "you know what, i really think i can do chekhov in a way that will draw in the punters," would they listen to you and put it on? no, no, no. they used to say, "what do you want to do, come on, peter, what do you want to do?" that was then. now it's, "who can you get?" if they don't mind you can get a big hollywood star, they say, "terrific, how old is he, 53, can he get away with 30?" stop it! we're not simply about attracting people through star values. i work each summer at bath and we do a season, we've done seven festival seasons there because there i can do the players i want to do with the actors i want to work with. you did a play not so long ago, whose life is it anyway?, and you drew in kim cattral, known throughout the world as the star of sex and the city. she's a very good actress.
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other producers that draw in hollywood actors would say just the same. that was not engineered in that sense. we met years ago, we were trying to do streetcar, and for various reasons the rights went to other people and so on and so on so we ended up with whose life is it anyway?, which he was very good at. are you saying most of the hollywood actors brought in to sell tickets and very good stage actors? no, i wouldn't be so silly. a lot of my friends would be very hurt. is it true because you are good on screen in the hollywood movie, does it translate easy to being good on stage? kim cattral is english actually, was born in liverpool, was trained at a drama school, can't remember which one in london, and is a stage actress. she had the misfortune to be a television star in this particular case and therefore you can make your point.
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i couldn't even tell you how long the list goes of people i've been asked to do plays with who i know have had no experience whatsoever of being on the stage. and i haven't done them. because you've had such a long career, i can ask you this and i hope it doesn't sound insulting, but you've spent so many decades, do you think it is right and proper to think that today's of theatre, and the way it works, and we just talked about that, is not a patch on the way it used to be looking back to the 1960s. michael billington, the guardian critic, talked of a golden age in the 19605 when the actors were finer, the directors were more adventurous, the writers were at their peak, do you remember that golden age? indeed i do, that's when i founded the royal shakespeare company. do you accept that it was? i think it was a golden age but is not as golden as you all make
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out, i know it wasn't. i wouldn't like to go back to there because it's not... it's not as invigorating, it's not as strong as things are now. what is good now is very very good and if we had any government policy which actually understood what the arts can mean to this country, it could explode in the most extraordinary way. this really isn't about government. yes it is. surely it's about names, it's about peggy ashcroft and ralph richardson and ian mckellen. .. ..and judi dench. and john gielgud and all these people, and the writers, pinter and stoppard... most of them, god save them, were still here until a few weeks ago. my point is they were perhaps that their creative height in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and we don't seem to be generating a new generation of people are equivalent in stature. i don't think that's true.
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wait a bit. there's some extraordinary people coming up. but they have to... a writer has to say, "ok, in order to pay the mortgage i've got to write a television series, i hope to god they'll accept it." he has to do that before he writes his play. certainly if his play has more than three or four characters he's going to have a terrible time getting it on at the moment, at the moment. but theatre's changing all the time, always has done. usually they say theatre's dying. i don't think it's dying at the moment, i actually think it's much healthier than many people hold out for. the areas that need looking at are seat prices. the general span and look of the audience. on the seat crisis, are you suggesting to me that as we see in the west end, seat prices that begin at £35, about $50, and go up to £75, £100 or even more... it's quite likely that will kill the theatre as we know it today.
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kill it? yes, it's very, very expensive. seats for two are £95. that's not an evening out, is it? that's an investment! very dangerous. i'm interested you talk about writers who aren't so focused on the theatre because they feel they have to partly to earn money write the tv drama or whatever, but isn't the point that many young writers would see that television has more of a reach and maybe has more to offer than the theatre? look at the case of pinter, he really started on radio and on television, particularly television. it was out of the plays that begun on television that emerged the extraordinary work that he subsequently did in the mid—‘60s, late ‘60s and ‘705. he didn't turn his back on the theatre, he turned his back on television.
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the point is, would he do that if he were a young man today? i think he would, i think he would, but it depends on the young man. i tell you what, let's bring it closer to home, the family, you have a daughter, rebecca, who, in the last year or two, has reached a global audience by starring in some successful films, or co—starring, vicky cristina barcelona with woody allen she's done very well in. she's also done fantastically well in frost/nixon. she's making her name in film and not in theatre. you know why? she said to me not a couple of years, three years ago, i realise that i actually live and work strongly in the theatre doing the things you want to do in the theatre you have to have the power that only the screen media can give you, and that's true. but it was also true in the sixties.
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what does she mean by the power? i won't do this script unless i can have let x, i don't work with y, i don't like him, that's power, rather than just saying, ok, i'll do what the producer tells me. are you sure it's about that, or maybe, you must talk to her about this, maybe in the end she feels there's a buzz, if i can put it that way, more in film, tv today than in the theatre. she doesn't, she loves both and she enjoys both and she wants to have a life in the theatre, you know, which doesn't in anyway kill herfilm career, and it's very difficult to juggle that these days. you speak of the magic words of ashcroft and richardson... my argument there is they stayed in the theatre and stay true to it? yes they were and they fitted in a film between plays. and occasionalfilm, which didn't matter much to them
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because what mattered to them was the theatre and i'm arguing those sorts of actors don't exist any more. they do, ian mckellen, judi dench, patrick stewart. all of a sudden age if i may say so. yeah, peggy ashcroft was of a certain age! i don't think... my daughter wants to bea i don't think... my daughter wants to be a leading stage actress. she feels to do that she needs to be a leading film actress. she is right. so many reasons, box office attractiveness, obviously, selling more tickets if you are known, you also have kind of a magnet that
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actors gather around in a good way, when they feel there is a community centred around a couple of people. this but rebecca was nine, eight, rising nine when she came with me on channel 4. and i knew then, i swear to god, i knew then that she was an actress, not a child actress. a child actress is noble and splendid, but he or she does what you tell them. and what's interesting about a real actress when small is a kind of immediacy. a final point on rebecca. there's this word, nepotism. you notice it in theatre, an awful lot of people who are in it and successful in it have parents
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or other members of family who are also in it. if i may say so, you didn't underline, "and are successful in it." the theatre is a wonderfully loose, warm and loving community. if you are an actor and you want to come in, they will say, here is the door, come in. if they hear that your daddy is a famous director, they will open the door even wider. you only have to open it and then you come in. if you are no good, if you don't do it, you are kicked out and you will never be asked in again. sure, but given that you said you want to see a greater range of people successful in the business? the fact that is that it opened more easily for your daughter. it didn't open more easily. you can't say that. how do you know that? i thought that was what you were implying. no, that is not true. i thought she would play... this was in mrs warren's profession, on a young girl whojust finished her university education, and it fitted her in all sorts of ways. i thought she could do it, and i was right. if i had been wrong, she would have been wrecked. i perhaps would have
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been able to stumble on, but she would not have been asked to do it again by anybody. let me talk theatrical politics with you, if i may, for a short while. it seems to me you have had two amazingly challenging relationships in your career. one, i would say, was with laurence olivier when you took over from him at the national theatre. it was not easy. not at all. he was untouchable. he defined the english theatrical tradition. you had to take over at a time when he expressed discontent about being pushed aside. absolutely. how did you handle that? with extreme deference and care and delicacy, i hope. i tried. do you think you got it right? i think i got it as right as one could in those circumstances. there was not an enormous bust up. but he was not a well man. and he was not handled properly by the board of the national theatre, who thought that, because he was ill, it would be better not to tell him that he was going to be replaced
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until immediately it was going to happen. and that was wrong and stupid, and i said so at the time. before he died, did you come to an amicable relationship? oh, yes, it wasn't warfare. i mean, i worked with him for two years at the national, trying to persuade him to open the national theatre. you did say he had elements of stalinist tendencies. he did, he did. but he was two—edged, very much. the other relationship that fascinates me is yours with mrs thatcher. in this interview you've indicated you have never been happy with the way the politicians treated the arts and theatre. with mrs thatcher you have a poisonous relationship. she referred to you as "that awful man" and wondered aloud why her government kept giving you money. the quotation if i may get it absolutely right, was the minister for the arts and culture and sport, or whatever he was called
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at the time, i can't remember his name, arrived for a meeting with her after breakfast and she was listening to the today programme upon which i was cavorting and banging about, and she said to the minister, "i have been listening to peter hall, can you tell me when we can stop giving money to that awful man?" this gets to the heart... you have defended that governments should support good theatre. they are mad not to. it gives them an element of political control. remember, the prime minister before last stood up and said that life would only be made good if we had education, education, education. i think that was rubbish and is rubbish. what we need is culture, culture, culture, in the widest sense. not everyone sitting and watching difficult plays by aeschylus or some other difficult greek, not at all. but what we need is that expansiveness. and if you see a group of children seeing a shakespeare play for the first time, if it is properly done,
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and well done, it will change their apprehension of things. i mean, why bother with all of this? we had vladimir ashkenazy on this programme not long ago, a brilliant conductor and pianist, and he put up a passionate defence for the best music, beethoven, mozart, he said should be given to young people, even if they have never been exposed to classical music before, because he said that is the best and i want them to be exposed to the best. he is absolutely right. you, sort of equivalent, in a dramatic work, you insist young people should be exposed to shakespeare in its originalform with the verse and the rhythm. of course. that is shakespeare. other things are not shakespeare, which people rewrite and adapt. some people would be turned off by that. they will be turned off and then
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they won't want to go any more. what is the proportion of turnoffs and those who are interested, who would like to give it a chance? you have worked with young people. do you find it easy to take young people who have never been exposed to shakespeare? yes, yes. yes, i do. i remember my first meeting with shakespeare, i was ten years old, and we were in the basement of the grammar school i was at, where there was a tiny theatre about as big as this rostrum, and we put on hats and helmets and cloaks and we pulled out our swords and we shouted macbeth at each other, and macbeth was about witchcraft and about darkness and about plots and murder and sex. and i was hooked on shakespeare at that moment, and i have stayed that way ever since, and i am not ashamed of it. and i think everybody has a capacity.
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you are right, not specifically shakespeare. but when we use the word culture, it's a sneer in our language still, instead of a celebration, and that is dreadful. hooked on it, you say. you are still hooked on it. because you are still directing. you are in your late 70s. yes. are you addicted to it? yes, yes. i love the job of being a director. and i suppose it's getting up to 300 now, plays i have done. and there is still a big list. i won't get through it. but i am interested in this idea of addiction. you talk about adrenaline and it gives you an adrenaline rush you can't find anywhere else. does it mean you are incapable of stopping at any point? i would be very miserable if i had to stop. and if i had to stop, it would because the world said, "you must stop, we don't want you any more." so far they haven't said that. but they will in the end.
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it happens to all of us shortly. even in this late stage of your career you are involved in a new theatre in kingston, just outside london. we began by talking about the economic climate. i wonder whether you are really confident. you have called it the rose theatre theatre, obviously a reference to shakespeare's theatre, whether you believe if one today can look forward to a really solid and bright future? i think it's future is no brighter than any other kind ofjob or any other kind of business. it is desperate. but there is a joke going around the profession, actors are saying, "well, now everybody sees what it has been like for us," because they work for nothing. and they see everybody now reduced to the same kind of level. i don't know... addictions and... it is very hard when you have had... i mean, iam not at all saying i am like picasso. but i haven't been able to give up because i don't want to give up. and i don't carry on because i need the money. i don't carry on because i want fame or whatever that is, or notoriety. i mean, i have gone through many persona, as one does. i am sure you know only too well.
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and that's part of the process of actually having an obsession, which i think is the most blessed thing you can have, myself. when my children say to me, "what shall i do when i grow up?" i am really worried. because i don't know what they should do. they have to find out what they should do. and i certainly don't say, "well, come into the theatre." i certainly don't do that. i say the opposite. sir peter hall, we have to leave it there, but thank you very much for being on hardtalk. hi there.
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the weather's going to stay unsettled and showery for the next few days. certainly cooler for the weekend, as well. the area of low pressure with the first named storm of the autumn season working across to europe. that's aileen. strong winds to poland, lithuania, and estonia. gusts will reach 70 kilometres per hour early in the morning. a blustery started the day for us, with showers around, and if you are heading out early, temperatures will be
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about 9—10 degrees celsius. across the far south of england, towards the south coast, sunshine for a time. there is a strip of cloud coming down across the midlands, east anglia, and across wales, too, that will have heavy showers in it, and that will push southwards as the morning goes by. so the sunshine in the south will not last long. to the north, for scotland and northern ireland, there will be some sunshine to start the day. still with that blustery wind making it feel cool around the coast. factoring in the wind, it will feel a little chilly. going through the rest of the day, that band of cloud and showers pushes south across england before clearing. then the sunshine comes out across england and wales, triggering one or two heavy showers. some showers will turn thundery. when the showers come along, they'll drop the temperatures for a time. cool all day, in any case, across the north—west, with temperatures of 13 degrees or so in glasgow. showers in the north of scotland could merge to form a lengthy
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spell of rain. through the night, the band of showers will push south and across northern england and across wales, as well. still tied in with this week when a front that is pushing its way southwards. going through friday, this will push the showers southwards across the midlands, east anglia, and in southern counties of england. along that line, a lot of cloud, and some heavier showers. sunshine comes out across the north across scotland, northern england and northern island. another cold day in northern part of this time of year. just 12 celsius. factoring in the wind, it will feel that their —— that bit cooler. that low is sending northerly winds across the uk. it continues to feed in showers. the majority of the showers will be across central and eastern parts of england. elsewhere, particularly through the weekend, the weather could become drier and brighter across the north—west of the uk. the winds continue to ease. we will have some cool weather, and perhaps some overnight frost in sheltered parts of scotland this weekend. and that is your weather. this is newsday on the bbc.
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i'm rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: the crisis of the rohingya muslims reaches catastrophic levels — the un warns the exodus is destabilising the entire region. i call on the myanmar authorities to suspend action and violence, uphold the rule of law. but as we've been finding out, in myanmar the crisis is seen rather differently. the perception here among many is that it's burmese buddhism that is under siege from militant islam. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: south korea sets up teams of new special forces as cross—border tensions rise — we'll ask a former colonel what message seoul is sending to pyongyang.
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