Talk about Newsnight

Newsnight Review

Newsnight Review - 13 October, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Oct 06, 07:44 PM

cabaret_203.jpgThe panel, chaired by Kirsty Wark, discuss:

The History Boys; Cabaret; Test Site at the Tate Modern; David Hockney Portraits; plus there’s music from The Lemonheads.

Comment on the latest edition of Newsnight Review and let us know if you agree with our panel Julie Myerson, John O’Farrell, Natalie Haynes and Kerry Shale.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:42 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Simon Watney wrote:

How helpful and enlightening it was to learn from Julie Myerson that all gay men fancy scholboys. Please can we have her on Newsnight Review more regularly in order to learn more of her fascinating and illuminating and admirably self-revealing opinions and beliefs.

Hello, ha, ha, ha!

The Newsnight Review needs a revamp. Too much retrospect. The only redeeming feature was the Hockney.

Quite a lot of gay culture tonight: Bennett the Closet who came out, Isherwood the Teutonophile, David the painter of bums (I would not want to call him a bum painter, because he's good). Whether sliding down a chute is instrinsically a gay activity I cannot tell.

But the Review seems to have picked a load of groaning clichés and re-warms to review.

I think it is well understood that in a single-sex educational situation there is going to be an element of homosexuality. First it was the public schools, now we've got to endure the grammar-school boy rerun of the same theme all over again. When I was at school in the 60s, it was still taboo - though you tended to know which master had a penchant for the younger boys. Has Alan Bennett perhaps run out of things to write about?

Cabaret. As I think Kirsty said in her intro, can you still do anything with this "Naïve Brit and Ambitious Yank in 1930s Berlin" story set to music, after the Minelli & York film? I think not. I think it high time that people stopped parasiting on others' successes. Actually, the Fosse film had copied a lot from a previous stage version. And now people are copying the Fosse. Can't people write original musicals any more?

Slides. I'm glad that John O'Farrell pointed out that this is just a big slide at a funfair. While my profession, literary translation, is virtually ignored in Britain by the Arts Council moneybagses, I'm sure such idiotic and pseudo-intellectual "works of art" as this get smothered in subsidies. Bring back sanity to arts funding.

The best item tonight was most definitely the David Hockney exhibition. Pity that Newsnight had to broach the cliché (pace Kenneth Williams) of the gay with the doting mum who becomes the only female in his life. I see that the first poster, Simon Watney takes you to task for the cliché of gays and little boys, this mum thing, although naturally part of Hockney's life could have been focussed on less, maybe his paintings, even lovers, more.

The panel were alright. I've not seen Brummie Natalie Haynes before. I had, in fact, never heard of her. Turns out she's yet another Oxbridge type who's made it big time in the arts. But she spoke well.

Julie Myerson tends to agree too much and risks sounding a bit pseude, but she occasionally slows down and says sane things.

John O'Farrell and Kelly Shane were a little more sober, not so gushing as the other two.

I've seen Kelly Shale before, but didn't know what he does either.

You know, it's time for a really serious BBC TV books programme, to counter all this waffle about slides and box-office-success films.

  • 3.
  • At 09:51 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Steve Newlands wrote:

While discussing the "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett one of the panel members, Julie Myerson, made a deeply offensive remark. In disucssing her distaste of the storyline regarding students having an erotic interest in their teachers, she commented: "this is the homosexual fantasy it is want homosexuals want." The structure of the statement clearly universalises and stereotypes gay men. The sterotype being empoyed is clearly that all homosexuals have interests in school age students. This is an extremely dangerous and irresponsible statement to make. I also think it extremely poor/ revealing that Kirsty Wark and no-one else on the panel challenged this dangerous stereotyping which in essence criminalises all gay men.

  • 4.
  • At 03:05 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • John Mullen wrote:

Tuned in to see Cabaret review and Tate Modern exhibition,which in the case of the latter was through publicity in the National press,and seemed that frankly is all it was to me..Publicity.I agreed with John O'Farrell who said Alton Towers offered similar delights and did it that you could say that they do not get public money.

"Cabaret" at The Lyric was something I agreed with entirely with the panel as regards that it was on a hiding to nothing when trying to emulate the original 72 film with Liza Minnelli.I think it's sad that they tried to add darkness to it and in my opinion any"darkness" was provided naturally by the wonderful Joel Grey. As for the shock effects that were showing in the short clip, I am afraid I found it as shocking as the presenter Kirsty Wark indiscretely showing her petticoat..and being of a certain age found the latter more entertaining.

  • 5.
  • At 02:16 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • David Mullooly wrote:

I take most broadcasted blather in my stride but I was genuinely jolted by the casual gay-baiting of the panel discussing The History Boys. Who needs the religious and family interest fruitbats when we've got lefty media types on the case? O'Farrell muttered through his blinkers that homosexuality was off the radar for early '80s history boys. "The Smiths" ruled. Yes with ambiguous sexuality in the lyrics. Who is this amorphous group "homosexuals" they kept on attacking? And just for good measure the paedo-gay tag tacitly accepted all round. They need to acquaint themselves with the suicide statistics for gay school-age children. It would be nice to watch an apol next week.

  • 6.
  • At 06:34 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Could you please change the links on the buttons on Newsnight and Newsnight Review pages for viewing latest programmes, or for viewing live, to full urls instead of Javascripts? When one is viewing with RealPlayer they simply do not work because RealPlayer (at least in the latest Mac version) seems to have no Javascript implementation.

And is Newsnight Review only available online in a really low quality, compared to Newsnight? What with so many instances of people shouting over each other in this week's programme it was often incomprehensible in the only version I could find.

Oh, and from what I could hear, I too was rather astonished at the comments on homosexuality, although the early remarks on homophobia in schools were all too accurate. Many authors write some works to reflect how they would like things to be, or to have been; I don't see why Alan Bennett, who has written so much of immense accurate insight about other subjects, other aspects of lives, shouldn't be allowed some pieces saying how he would like things to be, including English social attitudes to homosexuality. After all, people have the choice of reading / viewing / attending the play, or not.

Isn't the test of liberality tolerance of views contrary to one's own? It leaves a bad taste when those who have enjoyed his other works, dealing with other subjects perhaps closer to their own hearts, then condemn a work just as brilliant on a subject that jars. Especially when they move on to affect such ease with the gay nudes of that other great, contemporary, Yorkshire artist, and homosexual man, David Hockney, who now seems at last to have felt safe to return to, and work in his native county.

Both these men attended Yorkshire boys' schools where the homophobia must have been atrocious. They've apparently kept quiet about that, until now, as the government is supposedly actually tackling the issue, one writes a play touching on the subject. Shouldn't we be listening?

  • 7.
  • At 09:59 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Simon M.Denyer wrote:

Strange how little a really great artist can have to say about his own work.The only revelation that I took away from the Hockney interview is that he and his mother liked to play scrabble!And yes,the paintings do look dated,but probably by about 2020 they will look completely fine.

  • 8.
  • At 10:44 AM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

With the history boys a gay classic is born (having now seen the movie - not wholly on the strength of your review). But I have to add ‘maybe’ because the gay world is a world I have little insight into. The world I do have some insight into, a boys grammar school in the eighties (no choice there, much as I would have preferred a comprehensive), albeit in Essex not Sheffield, means that for me my skin crawls with the suggestion that this is at all representative of the 80s (though there was a more or less hidden level of homosexuality among the staff). For those soon to be leaving school without money or family connections the overwhelming emotions at that time were hopelessness (remember YOPS and YTS?) and fear. As I could at least do the science it was not hopeless (who with any ability and no connections did humanities at that time – that’s what the (fortunately declining) arms trade and science departments desperate to retain their status would have you believe – there are always jobs for scientists who don't ask the 'bigger' questions to find new ways to kill people), but it was above all scary. Again I can only imagine, but leaving to fight a war would be more scary, but at least honourable. Where was honour in the dole, or working all hours on tedious IT projects, to create the resources to share with those who did not happen to have what it took (as it would undoubtedly be a moral duty to do)?

I got enough motivation from reading histories of quantum mechanics and figuring out general relativity in books from the local library (even before ‘A Brief History of Time’). I found there the intellectual engagement I never found at school. On the surface my being in a ‘double maths’ group of seven would be much like the boys in the film. But I remember asking tentatively about maths at Cambridge and being told no one in the school was good enough. And anyway, I didn’t ‘have’ French (what did that have to do with maths? Only bizarre educational snobbery); of which I was all too aware, as that more than anything was what I had wanted to go to secondary school to do, but was sadly thwarted by what in retrospect was spectacularly bad teaching: two probationary teachers for the first two years for a start; as well as a school trip to Paris every year, for those who could pay. Languages obviously were only for those who could afford foreign holidays, and that was many years away for me (so you can understand how shocked I was to hear when specialisation started to come in that old grammar schools were choosing to be language not science specialist schools – more middle class deception in aid of their own kids futures). All motivation was sadly dashed at University in Nottingham where intellectual creativity counted for nothing and battling tedious monotony for everything, as at school. But I suspect that suits the people they aim to take in. But I did find that with a little money to spend I was far more of a ‘people person’ than I expected, albeit far too late to factor that into my state provided 'formal' education. I did much later find I was quite able to learn French, and finally, years later, did get to Cambridge for my PhD viva (in management) at least.

I guess because the 80s was too late for the film’s writer and director, but too soon for the actors, it seemed right to them, as well as the technical reasons around the exam apparently. And maybe for the vast majority of people who do not have my experience, it will raise the questions the creators want, independent of the time it was set. Tony Blair may have been speaking to his country about what he meant as education. But he certainly was not speaking to the Labour Party. His fetish for a teenage educational pressure cooker, the results of which are supposed to determine your position in society for the rest of your life was never a reality for most, even if for many of the middle classes, and in the modern fast changing world of lifelong learning is even less relevant. It only serves to tell those who know they are not in the race that they are being set up to fail. The only worthwhile conclusion for me, even though I now teach in the University of London, is that education of that sort really does not matter.

  • 9.
  • At 01:33 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Charlie D. Prewitt wrote:

The production of Cabaret looked unnecessarily grim and not at all the kind of thing I'd want to go and see on a Saturday night.If this and the Tunnel are the best that the Review can offer then Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Phantom of The Opera look increasingly attractive.Facile those his productions are,they are at least good family entertainment.Can it be so hard to find effective examples of accessible culture which dont either offend ,or insult the viewers'intelligence?

  • 10.
  • At 05:28 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Adam Hartley wrote:

Rather terrible to see Ms Myerson at the mercy of the thought police.No doubt her remarks were totally off the cuff,and not pre-meditated-except perhaps for two or three seconds in the green room.Still,if you appear on National Television I'm afraid its a case of she who lives by the sword must die by the sword.

  • 11.
  • At 01:23 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Sylvie Blyton-Johnson wrote:

Watching your programme,I was struck by the limitations of the commentator who described art as something from which we cannot attempt to seek answers but only questions.Art may indeed be a catalyst for emotions and provide a kind of sounding board for responses to the human condition.But this kind of wishy-wash approach seems to me to be something of a cop-out.Without wishing to rehearse the tired arguments surrounding Intentional Fallacy,art can play an important part in many areas of education-such as history.I should add that I write from the perspective of someone who teaches art to seventeen year olds.

  • 12.
  • At 01:32 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Hannah Allen wrote:

Loved the film,but as an eighteen going on nineteen year old hoping to sit Oxford entrance exam in six months I hope my papers wont be judged on whether I can pick up on every cultural reference.I think I would be a bit of an under-achiever by that standard.

  • 13.
  • At 04:24 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Chris Alleyne wrote:

Actually, Adam Hartley, Julie Myerson's remarks were not "off the cuff" as she reviewed the play on which the film is based for Newsnight two years back. One would assume therefore that her opinions on it are by now fairly thought out.

But do we agree with her? Do all gay men want to be propositioned by teenage boys? Do all heterosexual men want to be propositioned by teenage girls? One is about as accurate (or as stereotypical) an insight as the other, I would think.

  • 14.
  • At 08:55 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Adrian wrote:

The panel's comments on the new production of "Cabaret" were shockingly ill-informed. Let me take two examples.

First, Julie Myerson said that, compared to the film, it "did nothing new". Now this is such a false statement that she must have either not seen the film, or not bothered to go and see the new production. For a start, the stage musical "Cabaret" is already very different to the film. It has many different characters, different songs, and a different subplot. Simply by putting on the stage version you are doing something new. More importantly, this production offered interesting new stagings of almost all the main songs, and re-thinkings of almost all the main characters. Let me take two examples. In the film, "The Money Song" served to represent Sally's seduction by Maximillian's wealth. In this production, it was re-imagined as a representation of antisemitism. (And, of course, the character of Maximillian does not appear in the stage musical.) In the film, Sally Bowles is a sexy, sassy American who can belt out the show-tunes. In this production, she is much closer to the character in Isherwood's stories: a vulnerable, almost child-like ex-choir girl, maniacally prentending to be a sexy, sassy Caberet artiste. (Anna Maxwell Martin gives a truly brilliant, subtle, and moving performance as Sally. Kerry Shale's criticisms can be explained by the fact that he wanted a Liza Minnelli-style performance, did not get it, and did not realise that that was a good thing.) Second, John O'Farrell's comment that the production had to tell the audience that there was something wrong with Nazism, by having "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" end with the character's "shuffling off to the camps", is manifestly false. The naked dancers that appear during this song represent the (unhealthy, but also seductive) health and beauty aspirations of the Ayran ideal - as Kirsty Wark rightly pointed out.

The panelists on Newsnight Review have a real responsibility: to inform themselves of what they are reviewing, and to offer careful comments backed up by argument. And it seems their comments have had an effect on people who contribute to this forum. Let me take one example. "Collected Eric" writes:

"can you still do anything with this "Naïve Brit and Ambitious Yank in 1930s Berlin" story set to music, after the Minelli & York film? I think not."

It's actually the story of Knowledgeable but Confused Yank (Cliff) and Naive Brit (Sally) (an even that is radically to simplify matters). So, we are not even dealing with the same story.

  • 15.
  • At 09:09 AM on 21 Oct 2006,
  • Adam Hartley wrote:

Mr.Alleyne,I stand corrected.That does put rather a different complexion on the remarks.I have no doubt Ms.Myerson is biting her tongue.

  • 16.
  • At 03:59 PM on 22 Oct 2006,
  • Fred Renault wrote:

Personally,I thought Hockney's little potted anecdotes were a delight.And please dont knock scrabble,it has got me through many a tedious evening at a fraction of the price of visiting a nightclub,real or theatrical.

People should be allowed to go naked in certain recreational areas only - Or specify those areas and you have another persuasive speech topic

I can't be bothered with anything lately. Such is life. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I've just been staying at home not getting anything done. I haven't been up to anything today, but oh well. I haven't gotten much done lately.

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites