Over the last few weeks, Whispers has detected a recurrent theme to many of the conversations that he's had in the various bars and foyers of the Scottish theatre. The Scottish Arts Council's policy of subsidising "artist based" work seems to be the current talk of the theatre world. Various folk have various kinds of problems with this policy, perhaps surprisingly, across the full gamut of the profession.
The practical, earthy kind of theatre practitioner seems to feel that this is a policy that excludes audiences from the equation to such a degree that they may as well not attend subsidised theatre. This is no doubt something of an exaggerated fear, yet it contains more than a grain of truth. It's important to instil a sense that process should always be significant in the creation of art, and that failure in any artistic endeavour needs to be a starting point for the next experiment, rather than the abandonment of a sense of adventure. But the idea that process is all, and there virtually needn't be an end product of any significance is surely a dangerous idea for artists and audiences alike.
Even the ‘artier’ end of the profession seems a little uneasy with this remit. Does ‘artist based’ work mean the freedom to explore, or the enshrinement of forms of elitism? Is it possible that theatre could end up like the world of visual arts, where, at the extreme end, artists retreat into high subjectivity, or only wish to converse with other artists? One hopes not - time will tell.
Meanwhile, certain off the record noises were made by the Scottish Parliament toward the end of the festival that the smoking ban on stages would be relaxed, at least to the extent of allowing certain substitutes to be used. Once however, the press stopped writing about this piece of daft Philistinism our parliament went all quiet. Was it all just glad handing to defer a threatened petition? Will we see a softened bill along the lines of the English legislation? Whispers would like to know.