The Times, addicted to lists as it is such as with their most famous annual publication of the country’s richest, today publishes a supplement, The Arts Power 100. Quite apart from raising questions about who exactly compiles the list, it’s also questionable exactly what criteria they use to position people by: with money, it’s easy – though difficult to know how exactly they know what each person is truly worth – to put people in order of how much they supposedly have, but measuring influence and power in the arts is a far more subjective call.
But however it was reached, it’s interesting to note that amongst the top ten only two are from the world of theatre: at number 7, NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner (“the current leader of British theatre”, The Times states categorically, though the current season is hardly the NT’s strongest) and chasing his heels at number 8, Jude Kelly (who chased after the NT directorship after she left Leeds, and is now on the list for becoming “the cultural brains behind the London Olympic bid” and her appointment as artistic director of the South Bank Centre – “two enormously high-profile portfolios that have put her at the forefront of our arts scene”. But there’s no recognition of the fact that there have been no achievements yet in either post to back it up).
Commercial theatre gets its first entry at Number 11, with West End and regional theatre owner and impresario Howard Panter named, even though Andrew Lloyd Webber (bizarrely, relegated to 47th on the list) owns more theatres in London and is still an artistic force in his own composing right, not to mention Cameron Mackintosh (at 29th) who is fast chasing RUT in theatrical owning terms and is still a massive influence on the producing scene.
Sally Greene, chief exec of the Old Vic and the production company that bears its name, enters the list at 38, with her Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey, named at 82nd position. The only other theatre producer/owner named is Nica Burns, who is listed 40th, and cited for her directorship of the annual Perrier Award, now in its 25th year, that “has shaped the international comedy landscape”, and suggests, too, that “in October, Burns will also become arguably the most powerful woman in the West End when her company Nimax takes over four theatres from Andrew Lloyd Webber.” Don’t tell Sally Greene, or for that matter Judy Craymer (not on the list at all, but producer of Mamma Mia!, currently the most successful global musical), Rosemary Squire (also not on the list, but Panter’s wife and now chair of SOLT or the ubiquitous Sonia Friedman (again absent the list).
The theatre directors who make the list are pretty conventional: Michael Boyd (12th), artistic director of the RSC; Trevor Nunn (31st, former artistic director of the RSC and National); Peter Hall (44th, ditto, but now preparing to run the Rose of Kingston, if and when it is completed); Sam Mendes (55th, who hasn’t worked in the theatre here since he left the Donmar two years ago), Richard Eyre (62nd); Michael Grandage (69th, who took over from Mendes at the Donmar but has also directed the Donmar’s West End version of Guys and Dolls and next year will stage a revival of Evita); Complicite’s Simon McBurney (83rd) and Stephen Daldry (84th).
Ditto the playwrights: there’s David Hare (42nd); Tom Stoppard (67th); and Martin McDonagh (87th); but no mention for Britain’s most prolific playwright Alan Ayckbourn or Alan Bennett, author of the most acclaimed play of last year, The History Boys (being revived for a regional tour this autumn and returning to the National before it heads to Broadway).
Only a couple of stage actors evidently make the grade: the inevitable Jud iDench (22nd) and Ian McKellen (52nd). There are more arts patrons than actors, including Dame Vivien Duffield (9th, whose foundation recently ave £5million towards the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall), Donald Gordon (retired property developer who donated £20m to be shared between Covent Garden and the Wales Millennium Centre, at 17th), Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover (a chief benefactor of the Royal Opera House, at 48th), Lloyd Dorfman (chief exec of Travelex, who funded the National and Covent Garden’s Travelex £10 seasons, at 73rd), Lord Browne (chief exec of BP, who sponsor the National amongst others, at 75th), and Martin Smitha (chairman of the ENO board, who raised £8million for the restoration of their home the London Coliseum, including £1million from Smith himself).
Also on the list are ACE chairman Christopher Frayling (27th), classical producer Raymond Gubbay (35th), choreographer Matthew Bourne (37th), comedy producer Jon Thoday (59th), Royal Ballet director Monica Mason (65th), Dance Umbrella founder Val Bourne (88th), but as with any such compilation, it’s probably best not to take these things too seriously.