Sheena McDonald considers the status quo of that blessing and blight. the Box.
to lose it'. as the bawdy refrain warns us. ‘usc it.‘ loo late. I lost mine — oddly enough. ov er ('hristmas. 'l'his is surprising. 'l’rzulitionally. the Christmas break was w hen you used it a lot. But not this year. Perhaps it w as becausel was working over('hristmas. ()r becatisc it‘s not really part ofour fatnin tradition. The fact remains —I didn't use it once.
I ran into it again while I was groping my w ay through fathoms of pine-needles in search ofthc other lost items: sota. piano. lodger. My hand touched something strangely familiar hard. smooth. with those little kilobbly bitsat the bottom . ..
l smiled How could I forget'.’ ‘l’he television. i
And then it slipped from my grasp. and I haven‘t seen it since. as the pine-needles gave way to a second seasonal tidal wave of bills. belated ('liristmas cards and begging letters. ('Dear Poll-tax Payer —- :\.s an ex-ratcpayer with untold excess squillions to spare. may we interest you in a Private l lealth Plan . . .1")
And I realise. with a little surprise that ldon‘t miss it.
Well why surprisc'.’ lair enough ~- the days are long gone when the entire neighlmurhood would rush into the street alter Panorama to exchange Hits and told-you-sos. In the day of the \‘( 'R. few hosts plan their fomlue-parties around the scheduling of'l‘he Rainbow or 'l‘hirty-Something.
But time was when the little screen at least provided innocuous nocturnal tranquility for the insomniac and the stressed. With alcliohol and nicotine now banned (if you want to make forty-five . . .
What do you mean. you DON'T want to make forty-tive'.’ You
will. . .). telcvalium was the addled brain’s answer to safe sex. Sure. the basic organs are engaged — eye (rolling). ear(humming). mouth (slack-jawed and open) — but notliing‘s actually happening in there. as Daddy Donahue pranees
i around his Manhattan harem.
; (speaking ofsex. who would have
2 The List 13 — 26 January
thought there were so many ways ot talking about it‘.’). or tiny Donald ’l‘relford talks macho from a chair that was clearly built for The Incredible Shrinking Man.
(Thanged days. .\'ot only is it now possible to spend happy weeks in conversation with friends new and old without being obliged to admit that you didn‘t actually see Roger Rabbit's crucial interview on Lawley or Diamond or Freud or whoever is currently walking down staircases in sequins (still Aspel. eh‘.’ I should have stuck with the newsreading). it is not unknown to find people actually getting rid of their television. Seriously.
This is uncertain news for those of us who turn an honest bob or two in the wonderful world of Reith. It suggests a healthy return to - what was it called'.’ - making your own
entertainment‘.’ — that is. simply getting on with living in this tiny span of just 25 .500 days we're offered (think about it ~ that's another one down today — what happened'.’). It also suggests a healthy scepticism in the British human. who is no longer convinced by the Reithian principles that the source ofeducation. entertainment and information is the television set. as opposed to the book. the public meeting. the cinema. theatre and pub. or the mind-stretching blow along the beach with the borrowed dog or child.
Both good things — no doubt about it. But what if it also suggests that the method of crust-earning must be re-evaluated‘.’ (‘hanges must be made‘.’ The crisis looms“?
Perhaps I'm scaremongcring here. Perhaps I‘m in the minority. After all. when I read the list of lowest-rating network programmes of 1988— the Bottom Forty. as it were — I realised that I‘d actually seen most ofthem. A Michael Nyman opera. a Boulez video. several episodes of Union World (honestly. . .l) Perhaps it’sjust my kind of television that people aren't watching. The kind that nobody watches. And the kind that nobody will therefore make after the satellite revolution. Broadcasting is dead — long live deregulation. eh'.’ Pass the dog-collar and Dickens!
‘Last time I did it in Brighton was during the Tory Party Conterence.‘ says James Poulterol his one man show. ‘The police came and checked us all out—they said we were a security risk.‘
It is scarcely surprising that otticialdom became a little nervous about Poulter's show. Called ‘Poll-Axed — the Peasants Revolt‘ it focuses on what happened last time the government introduced a poll tax. That was 1381 and the peasants revolted. The show will. at course. havea ratherditterent ironic context when it arrives in Edinburgh.
Poulter. however. who lives in Brighton. began work on this show belore
the poll tax became news. and has been performing it. oil and on. tor over a year. ‘I iustthought it was avery interesting part at history that I didn’t know. Whenl tirst learned about it Iwas staggered lhatthere had been a revolution in Britain that I had never been taught about'
He dug around torlacts. ‘Books by right-wing historians made outthat these were bad people. They weren‘t. they were normal people who couldn‘t attord to pay the tax. It was only a shilling — buttor some people that was an absolute tortune. just like now. in tact. So they got togetherand walked to London. It‘s lascinating because it was really a revoltagainst centralised power.‘
In all there seem to have been 20.000 people on the move. though. as Poulter points out. ‘everyone hadto walk everywhere inthose days so by the time people gotdown from the North it was nearly over. . .‘
So does Poulterplay all 20.000 marchers? ‘Well. I have a go.‘ he says. laughing. As a stand-up comic. his experience has mostly been on the cabaret
circuit and he is keento point out that his play is not po-taced: ‘It‘s not like an old lashioned history play. It's basically a comedy. I came up through cabaret and I just wanted to do something a bitmore substantial. But my instincts are to take the piss out at people in charge— that's what I did in cabaret and I can‘t resist it inthe play.’
He points out. too. that in many ways his show is as much about now as itis about medieval times. and that he is constantly updating it — both as he discovers more aboutthe 14th century poll tax and as history develops around us. He also stresses that there is a basic optimistic streak running through the show that could be valuablelor today. ‘People really did have a go. and l thinkit‘s
good to remember thatno matter how
badthingsget. have got hallthe
them. There's detinitelya
the only reason we rights that we have
in it. I mean. all I'm doingis a play. it‘s not goingto change the world — but at least it might open upsome discussion.‘ (Sarah Hemming).
Poll-Axed! —The Peasants Revolt runs atthe Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh lrom 24—29 Jan. See Theatre Listings.
Whateverhappensto all those amazing young geniuses who win on 8803 Young Musician ot the Year programme? One who-like Scottish pianists David Horne and Stephen Osborne last year— caused quite a stiratthe time although not walking oil with thetop award. was Edinburgh born guitarist Paul Galbraith (see photo). string tinalist in 1982. Since then. most at his work has been abroad. with appearances in Italy. Germany. Holland. Spain. Brazil. Greece. India and Iceland. so his returnto Scotland on Saturday Him a recital at Edinburgh‘s Oueen's Hall is both overdue and welcome. One otthe most intriguing aspects ot his playing is his extraordinary pertormance
technique. positioning his guitarlike a ‘cello. sothat the instrument is upright. rather than the more convenbonal near horizontal placing. Described by Segovia as 'magniticent— he will be a greatartist'. Paul Galbraith's absence lrom his home country has not gone unnoticed. Roger Spence. better known tor promoting jazz. has taken on Galbraith's recital to open his new series. First Choice. teaturing outstanding young Scottish musicians who. as Spence says ‘in spite at international reputations have never given recitals on majorstages in Scotland.’