Anthony Field explores the changing style of theatres including interior design, exterior design, ticket and seat prices, and levels of service, while questionning whether the theatre still exists as a place of entertainment for regular theatre-goers or has become merely a tourist venture. He talks of “the death of the theatre and theatre-going” in the new millennium, laments the loss of good actors, and studies the changing nature of the Arts Council in a Britain which has lost its ‘theatre-going’ culture.
The book extends from examining the system of playwriting to theatre management to investigating the economic, political and financial aspects of the theatre which make it what it is today and not what it used to be.
Paul Webb provides commentaries on each of the articles, adding his own insight into the topics.
Anthony Field is a columnist for The Stage. This book contains forty articles (including single entries from Education Business Monthly, The Times of Malta, and The Guardian), published between 1985 and as recently as April 2004. The articles are arranged chrono-logically within sections on playwriting, theatre management, performing arts schools, theatre catering, theatre promotion, audience reaction, Broadway, the regions, musicals and the Arts Council of Great Britain, which he joined in 1957, and where he was finance director from 1960 to 1985. His experience as a producer and his subsequent career with Theatre Projects Consultants give his references to theatre buildings an added authority. The playwright Paul Webb, who is informally credited as editor of the book in the author's acknowledgements, introduces most sections. Readers will probably already be familiar with Field's Stage articles from 1980. His output must, by 2004, have exceeded three hundred articles, and per-haps as many published letters to editors. Even so, although it is good to have these specimens on record - especially those on theatre design, commercial theatre, orchestra economics and levels of service - it seems unfortunate in the digital age that this newspaper has still not created a searchable online archive. even for recent issues.
Unfortunately, the requisite columnist writing style of a 'tabloid' such as The Stage ceases to have an organisational rationale in book form: often the articles transferred from narrow columns look short, bitty and fragmented. They do not work at all 'Nell with larger pages. Perhaps this is why Paul Webb's expositions often seem more interesting.
The collection is markedly better in Chapter Nine, where the author's more scholarly works are reprinted from the Journal of Arts Policy & Management. These are 'Commitment and responsibility’, the 5th Alport Lecture at the City University, London (1983), and 'Assets and Achievement', a perspicuous research paper on capital funding and housing the arts (1984). Field had been an instigator of arts administration training and education, helping to set up the fIrst formal courses at the Polytechnic of Central London m 197 1. These began after an Arts Council enquiry (whose secretary was Peter Longman). It is a shame that this book docs not reproduce Field's excellent syllabus (1967) that was published as its appendix. This would still be valuable to the 39 higher and further education academies that now offer a bewildering 64 qualifications in the discipline, preparing students for the explosion of job oppor-tunities that Field unknowingly helped to establish as visiting professor at City University. Ironically, the growth of these courses contributed to what he now calls the 'death of the theatre and theatregoing' making the new 'business culture' a focus of the entire subsidised performing arts that he bewails in several of his Stage articles.
Theatre's Trust Newsletter
No edition of The Stage seems to be complete without an Anthony Field article or letter to the editor. To compile them in a book shows us just how prodigious he is. We may not always agree with what he says but his knowledge of the theatre scene is exhaustive and a veritable who's who of the industry. He namedrops without affectation because this is his genre. A glance at the Dramatis Personae at the front and back of his book Pages From Stages only' confirms the breadth of his scholarship.
This volume is classified as part of a reference series covering the entertainment technology sector. Trying to slot Field's all-encompassing knowledge into specific areas - such as theatre roles and lectures - does not seem to give Field credit for his impressive expertise -and somewhat dilutes the point of the anthology.
The cover, which should be very much part of the attraction of making a purchase, consists of the outside of the National Theatre and the inside of the Old Vic Theatre, while the background is a box office return for the Beggars Opera 1787. Unfortunately, it detracts from the excitement to be found inside. However, Field's articles make fun reading. He has a nice sense of humour that complements the erudition of someone who has worked in the theatre for more than 50 years and patently still revels in it.
I enjoyed this book and recognised a lot of the scenes that Field describes.
The book is rather like a delicious meal disguised by packaging that is less appetising.
These engagingly written articles first appeared in the Stage, the theatre industry's weekly paper, where Anthony field, equally knowledgable about theatre and finance, is a regular columnist. The subjects covered include theatre catering, audience reaction ("to boo or not to boo?"), ticket prices, theatre size, musicals, performing arts schools, and of course the Arts Council, where Field worked for more than 25 years, controlling a budget of more than £100 million as Finance Director.
Pages from Stages is a collection of articles, lectures and papers by former Arts Council Financial Director, Anthony Field. The title acknowledges his contribution as a regular columnist for 'The Stage' newspaper, with articles included here dating from 1988 to 2004, and covering such diverse topics as Becoming a Playwright, Theatre Catering, The Economics of the Orchestra and Subsidy and the Commercial Theatre. The book also contains a selection of lectures and papers given by Field over the years to various institutions and conferences, both in his role as Financial Director of the Arts Council, and as Visiting Professor in Arts Administration at City University.
Field's articles, brought together in this way, read as an interesting memoir. The influences of his early theatre experiences are very apparent, and he often gives the impression of looking back on the 1940s as a golden age of theatre. Field gives his views on an eclectic mix of topics; the most interesting for me being the articles and lectures that give the reader an insight into the workings of the Arts Council. Having also been, in his time, a theatre producer, and a theatre consultant, advising on new theatre spaces, he has a knowledge base which makes his views on Subsidy and the Commercial Theatre and Matching Musicals to Theatres particularly informative.
Paul Webb's editorial has a tendency to explain at length what Field is about to say in the next section. where an aid to interpretation is not really necessary. I would have preferred short introductions to each section, placing Field's articles in a wider context, and, particularly with reference to the early articles, commenting on whether things have changed, or his argument is still topical. As a text for Arts Administrators I would say that this book makes for interesting reading as a piece of social history, and is very accessible. It is one you would dip into for an opinion or a bit of insight from time to time rather than a 'must have'.
Review by Maria Baxter. Licensing Administrator Arts Professional magazine