National Theatre Foyer

I spotted an interesting gig on the listing next to the bandstand in the National Theatre Foyer (above).
Check out a fabulous quartet coming up there. Martin Speake on alto, Barry Green on piano, Dave Green on bass and Jeff Williams on drums. 27th May. 5.45 pm. Free.

I had popped there yesterday to catch the Basil Hodge Trio with Larry Bartley on bass and Winston Clifford on drums.This is a curious venue. Some people use it – and its chairs and the very low green and orange Modus sofas and pouffes- as places to hear the music from. Yes, there IS a listening audience. The acoustics are far from ideal but the NT make a really good effort with the sound.

But others treat the venue simply as a meeting place to chat. And one chap walked between the seating and the band oblivious that there was any sort of performance going on. Bar and cafeteria staff (I counted eleven from that particular branch of the acting profession on duty last night) carrying trays scurry through the crowd in search of empties.

So regular music happens at the National Theatre Foyer, but I’d be curious to know if the accountants consider it part of the performance budget, or sink the cost as a footfall builder for the bar. At the moment it’s both and neither.

I caught a piece lauding the theatre output of the National Theatre by its Director Nicholas Hytner(£48m annual budget of which £18m in ACE grant, staff of 925) on the op.ed. page of the Evening Standard.

“There is , and always has been, a large audience for theatre that looks beyond the simple certainties of popular entertainment. As the mass media turn their back on complexity, the theatre audience craves it.”

For the theatre audience read the music audience. Which is why jazz is growing.

Winston Clifford was laying down some fascinating time variants. Larry Bartley has an awesomely complete physical balance and poise on the bass, which gives him the freedom to express all sorts of complex bass lines. Basil Hodge is a gentle guy who was gradually coming out of his shell..

But is this an arts venue or an airport lounge? Can’t the theatre rope off an audience area to do justice to the performers???? As ever Tony Dudley-Evans with his Friday events in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall seems to get it right….See Peter Bacon’s description

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