…ecome a metaphor for the political prisons of the Georgian Sturua's native land, because it imprisoned Rickman within too confining a concept for this most universal of plays. Billington liked Rickman's 'voice, presence and air of ironic melancholy . . . what I miss is any internal tension'.

Likewise, Jack Tinker in the Daily Mail was impressed by Rickmaan but not the rest of the production. 'He seeks refuge in the laconic insolence of a superior intellect ... the verse superbly spoken with the most extraordinary ability to spring surprises from the most familiar passages . . . However . . . here we must lament a Prince with hardly a hint of Denmark.'

'Rickman's Hamlet is not really Shakespearian. He is too utterly pole-axed by grief,' wrote John Peter in the Sunday Times. 'He haunts the stage like the undead . . . Elsinore does not feel like a court , but more like a derelict, urban underpass.' He clearly feels that Rickman's Hamlet is too much of a victim, as opposed to a tragic hero with choices to make and the power to make them. The fashionable phrase would be a disempowered Hamlet, and the Hungarian-born Peter saw his own East European background in the political metaphor about an oppressive state.

Rickman, generous to a fault, will not upstage anyone within an ensemble piece. There seemed an almost inverted snobbery at work here; Hamlet is supposed to be the star of the damn thing, after all. I found Packman's introspective gloom mesmerising, but there were clearly others who wanted more fireworks ... or perhaps the Sheriff of Nottingham. Indeed, one critic cruelly remarked that Alan was a natural Claudius.

Still, Rickman should care: the production was critic-proof, selling out for the entire run. Everyone from Rickman to the wardrobe assistant was paid a flat rate of Ј200 a week as they toured to unusual venues in Bradford, Nottingham, Liverpool and Barrow-in-Fumess. It was the old idea of bringing theatre to the people in an unpatronising way.

Barrow's 'stage' was a giant haulage warehouse normally used for storing piles of loo-paper, opposite slag heaps that were known as the Alps of Barrow.

Just as with Ralph Fiennes' glamorous Hamlet at the Hackney Empire in February 1995, the AA signs were out to show theatre-goers the way - such was the attraction of Alan Rickman's name on the billboards.

He evinced a certain pride in taking a low wage with the rest of them. 'Little? Compared to whom?' he haughtily asked Catherine O'Brien in the Daily Mirror, challenging her assumptions. 'Com­pared to Bruce Willis, yes. But compared to people in Barrow who have no job, it's not a pittance. It is pointless comparing it with

what I could earn in a film. It is also tasteless. Most actors are subsidising British theatre most of the time. Unless you are working in the West End, the money just isn't there.

'But there is a lot of fun, and that is what counts. I am always wary of actors talking about how difficult their job is. It is mostly a great deal of fun.'

He was thinking of his own father at that point and his mother who had slaved away in the Post Office to bring up four children on her own. Although he can sometimes sound pompous, at least Rickman avoids luvvie-like preciousness. It helps to have a working-class background. Later, after the director Jude Kelly gushed that he was the best Hamlet she had ever seen, he was to admit that he was 'just relieved to get from one end of the play to another. It is ludicrous in having four soliloquies coming one after another.'

He was talking to the Press in Barrow in order to put the place on the map: with the end of Trident nuclear submarines in sight, thousands of jobs would go with very little local industry to replace them.

Rickman, a past contributor to CND, added: 'I can't say anything but good riddance to Trident. What there must be is fresh investment to stop the community from dying. My political views are pretty well known. We are living in a rotting society, just like Hamlet was 400 years ago.

'Anyone who attempts to play Hamlet has to be a lunatic. I'm too old for it, I've found it completely impossible and it has driven me barmy.' What kept him going was the thought that people who had never seen Shakespeare before might become converts; certainly there were long queues for autographs at every venue. That's what it's all about. And it is why I will be back.' In the end Rickman et al emerged smelling of roses from the Andrex factory, with people marvelling as they left that such 'great actors' could come to windy Barrow. The cultural epicentre of the Fumess peninsula', as Sue Crewe affectionately called its transformation in a Times piece on 14 November.

Rickman explained to Michael Owen in the London Evening Standard on 22 October 1993: 'By the time we finished, that show had grown into a very different animal and we became an immensely close company. There were problems. We were work­ing with a director who was used to four or five months of rehearsals and we had five weeks.'

Alan found himself having to crack the whip a bit: 'At the end of the first week, we were still on Act 1 Scene 1. That's when I had to say we have to go a bit faster or we'll never finish.'

They took theatre to the people, but it was obvious by now that the people would always take themselves to see Rickman. Thanks to his film profile, he had become a major box-office draw, so much so that in 1993 he was asked to supply the voice-over that introduces all the individual instruments on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells II. Which was why, when Thelma Holt began thinking of Riverside Studios as a permanent home for her international theatre shows, Alan was an obvious ally in her bid to run it.

West London's Riverside Studios arts centre in Crisp Road, Hammersmith, had just removed its Artistic Director and was advertising in June 1993 for a replacement. The deficit stood at Ј250,000 and its future was uncertain. This large but tatty white studio space, with its brown-rice food bar, had played host to all kinds of acts from rock bands to theatre groups. It was full of potential ... as everyone kept saying. Once the dead hippies were scraped off the floor, of course.

Thelma, the ageless godmother of British theatre, saw it as the Roundhouse revisited. Kenneth Branagh had launched his Renais­sance Theatre Company at Riverside with his masterly Victorian production of Twelfth Night, in which Richard Briers' latent neurosis produced the best, most painfully funny/sad Malvolio seen in years. There was a creative buzz about Riverside once again.

If one felt facetious, one could emblazon 'Ich bin ein West Londoner' upon the Rickman coat of arms. Alan has always felt umbilically tied to the area, despite his' peripatetic lifestyle as a movie actor. Thelma lives a few streets away from him in Westboume Grove, with her loyal right-hand woman Sweetpea nearby. Thelma, whose international productions are backed by some of the biggest names in British theatre, is a vocation and a noble cause for many people. Even the massive black winter cloak she winds round her was a gift from a top Japanese designer. The scene would be a lot less colourful without this influential figure. Small, sandy-haired and forthright, she knows everyone and has a fund of outrageous stories. There was the time when a well-known lesbian tried to seduce her . . . Nothing shocks Thelma.

She and Alan are like-minded free spirits in socialism, as it were. Thelma Mary Bemadette Holt CBE trained at RADA as an actress

before founding the Open Space Theatre with Charles Marowitz and playing Shakespearian heroines in the nude. (This was particularly heroic, given the dodgy heating situation.) From 1977 to 1983 she became the Artistic Director of the Roundhouse in North London's Chalk Farm, inheriting that fork-tongued old fraud, Robert Maxwell, as the treasurer.

The circular nineteenth-century engine shed had been convened into a theatre in 1968, becoming associated with such experimental names as the director Peter Brook. Kenneth Tynan's nude revue Oh! Calcutta! was staged there. By the late 70s, the unconventional space made a wonderfully atmospheric rock venue, the equivalent of Amsterdam's Milky Way. The Doors made their only British appearance there, with my friend Bob hitching all the way from Wigan to see Jim Morrison before The Lizard King died of an overdose in a Paris bath.

Under Thelma, the Roundhouse really got its theatrical act together for a few brief shining years with such legendary performances as Vanessa Redgrave's Lady From The Sea and Helen Mirren's Duchess Of Malfi. Reconstructed in 1979, the Roundhouse was forced to call in the receivers four years later. Yet, somehow it staggers on with a mythic reputation and a wonderfully cavernous space that began playing host to the RSC from 2002, when the latter gave up its London home at the Barbican in what many saw as an act of artistic hara-kiri.

Thelma went on to the National Theatre and then became an independent producer. Decorated for her ambassadorial services to theatre, she became a canny chair of the Arts Council's drama panel for several years before resigning on an important point of principle. But there's nothing like your own theatre to immortalise yourself. Like Shakespeare's Cleopatra, Alan and Thelma had immortal longings . .. And the idea of running Riverside vastly appealed to someone as fiendishly organised as he was, even though he intended to be only a creative - as opposed to administrative - force.

He insisted to Michael Owen in the London Evening Standard that he had never been the languid dilettante of legend. 'I've always got stuck in. It begins the first time you set foot on a stage and have to start making choices. A lot of other actors are out there doing the same.'

Yet he added revealingly: '1 never saw myself running the place, spending 52 weeks a year there. I thought of it more as a

Steppenwolf operation, like the theatre in Chicago where people come and go.' Which sounded suspiciously like wash-'n'-go theatre. But they were on their way.


10. THAT SINKING FEELING                                                                                                      173


Jules Wright has a fistful of arty platinum knuckleduster rings and looks you straight in the eye. An Australian boiler-maker's daughter, she was, like Rickman, a late starter in the theatre. They have humour, directness and a working-class background in common. But she freely admits: 1 did have a fiery relationship with Alan when I worked with him/

It was to get even fierier with the Riverside fiasco. Jules remains convinced that all along Alan Rickman never really intended to get closely involved with running Riverside: his was the name on the marquee, and he caught all the flak. The publicity has plagued him ever since,' says Jules, who welcomed the chance to put her side of the Riverside story on record once and for all. Legal constraints prevented her from stating the facts at the time; when I approached her in 1995 for the first edition of this book, it was the first time she had been persuaded to speak.

Her conviction about Alan's true intentions stems from an incautious outburst he made during their 'blazing row' in the Royal Court foyer on 28 November 1993.

'Alan has always been an honourable man, so he would never say something he didn't mean - even in anger,' Jules told me. 'I swear to this day,' she continues with a husky laugh, 'that someone set us up to sit next to each other in the Dress Circle in a packed theatre at Max Stafford-Clark's farewell at the Court.' (This the Court flatly denies, saying that the box office would have processed hundreds of names for a very packed seating plan. But Jules said, 'Thanks a bunch', so Max Stafford-Clark sent her a postcard that thanked her for her support over the years and then added wryly, Sony about the seating arrangements'.)

'I was sitting in my place and Alan came into the Dress Circle. He saw that he would be next to me, so he turned round and walked out. Then he must have had second thoughts, because he turned round and came back in again. I quickly swapped seats with my husband, who sat between us in the end.

'I suppose Alan was expecting us to have a row after Riverside, because I felt incredibly attacked by all the bad publicity. We then

had a very, very loud argument later in the foyer afterwards; all the onlookers were extremely entertained. It was a fairly monumental row which ended up as a rather long conversation, as these things tend to do when you both calm down.

"We had spent an hour or so avoiding each other, and then I went up to him and said, "What the hell were you playing at with all the Press coverage? Why the hell didn't you ring me up to get the facts?" I think Rima said something angry at that point and then Alan snapped, "I didn't speak to the Press." I really felt like replying, "But you were spotted handing out photocopies of the critics" letter of support.'

'He also said, "It's about time directors had problems. Actors are always getting stick." But what was curious in the middle of all this was a remark he made when he said: "I'll never lend my name to anything again."

'I can only take his word for it: that he was only lending his name to the project,' concluded Jules.

A close examination of the Rickman camp's proposals for the New Riverside Studios shows just what kind of role Alan envisaged for himself: giving tone to the pkce as a visiting star with creative input. Thelma would have been the real powerhouse.

'Riverside should not be a platform for an individual ego,' stated the first page of the New Riverside policy document, drafted by the triumvirate of Alan, Thelma and Alan's old RADA contemporary Catherine Bailey. 'Rather, it should seek to embrace the community it stands in whilst sending out beacons to London, Europe and beyond.

'For a long time now Riverside has held a significant place in the loyalties of a very particular group of actors, directors and designers who cannot always exercise their ideas within the national companies,' it commented . . . perhaps carrying what might be taken as a faint whiff of paranoia.

Thelma and Alan are mavericks - always have been, always will be. Widely respected for their innovations, but far too individualistic to fit into a big organisation. This was their bid for a rival to the Royal National Theatre on whose stages, incidentally, Rickman had never performed in a National production (his original debut there in Peter Barnes's reworking of The Devil Is An Ass had been a transfer).

(Not that there was a sinister reason behind that curious omission. 'I've often considered Alan for roles here, but for a

variety of reasons we've never managed to find the right part at the right time. I think he is a wonderfully original actor,' was the view of the National's then Artistic Director Richard Eyre when I contacted him for a comment in 1995. It was to be Trevor Nunn, under whose RSC stewardship Rickman had made his great breakthrough in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, who would give him that opportunity in 1998, an opportunity that turned out to be something of a poisoned chalice.)

Their ideas for a genuine mingling of different art forms under one roof make a nonsense of William Hunter's pompous letter in the London Evening Standard on 10 August 1993. Hunter, Chair of the Riverside Trust, wrote: 'Most importantly, Riverside Studios is an arts centre, not a theatre. We present a very wide range of an forms. This has been overlooked during the controversy over the [Rickman] consortium's proposal.'

To imply that Rickman and Co. were a narrow-minded bunch of luvvies with only theatre in mind is highly misleading. Their policy document makes it clear that they wanted to create a market place for all kinds of artistic ideas at Riverside ... 'an all-day space, a magnetic place where you can look at a painting or buy and read a book over lunch, have a drink before an evening performance and then supper afterwards'. In other words, a West London alternative to the South Bank arts complex and die Royal National Theatre in particular.

It was always planned as a Steppenwolf operation. 'Actors there have an itinerant but umbilical connection to the company ... We want to actively encourage its use by those performers who do not fit into the mainstream of artistic endeavours.' In other words, a home for talented outsiders.

All very laudable but fatally vague to the dozen trustees on the Board of the Riverside Trust, which included three councillors. The first thing that strikes you on reading the Rickman consortium's New Riverside proposals is that there's no mention whatsoever of their source of finance: i.e. a list of sponsors and their donations. Money makes the bid go around, the bid go around ... It was a glaring omission.

Jules Wright's bid for the Women's Playhouse Trust (WPT) also carried its fair share of stirring rhetoric, but she provided the names of 21 WPT benefactors in her statement such as Coca-Cola, NatWest Bank and Reuters.

Hard-pressed borough councillors are constantly trying to balance the books and figures inevitably speak more loudly than words. The rest is just promises. Or, as Hammersmith & Fulham Council Leader, Iain Coleman, succinctly put it in a letter to me about the Riverside affair: 'a wish-list'.

In times of belt-tightening and general restraint, the average councillor also tends to cut back on syllables as well as money. An encounter with 'palliatives' on page two of the Rickman document might have wasted valuable debating time as they thumbed through the dictionary to see if it had any relevance to more meaningful concepts, such as money, sponsorship and start-up capital. Not that councillors are stupid; but they have to be immensely practical. As for bandying about such expressions as 'community', council­lors use the term themselves with so much gay abandon that they're hardly likely to be impressed by the C-word from other people.

And as for the notion of an all-day space, just what does a drop-in centre of artistic excellence do when Johnny Fortycoats or Wandering Mary with her push-pram lurch onto the premises? The streets around Riverside in Crisp Road form a very mixed, partly industrial area, pitted with urban poverty. Most councils would see such a venue as the ideal place for an old folks' day centre or a youth club with table-tennis to prise the disaffected Yoof of Hammersmith off the streets. Those are the tram-lines along which they tend to think.

Catherine Bailey was designated Executive Director of New Riverside, co-ordinating artistic policy and the smooth running of the studios. The artistic policy itself would be led' by Alan Rickman (i.e. presumably starring in it), and Thelma Holt was to be the director of it. The proposal promised that these three people would be the key to its success.

Again and again the document invoked the National Theatre plus the RSC's Barbican Theatre, pointing out that Riverside was not far off their scale.

A panel of Associate Artists, of which Rickman was one, would be consulted about programming. The heavyweight names pro­posed included director Deborah Warner, designers Hildegard Bechtler and Bob Crowley, playwright Christopher Hampton, the actors Fiona Shaw, Mark Rylance, Juliet Stevenson and Richard Wilson, BBCl Controller Alan Yentob and Dance Umbrella Artistic Director Val Bourne.

Thelma and Catherine's business expertise was obvious in the staffing proposals, which carefully costed everyone down to the part-time cleaners (£10,000 per annum). Ideas for opening the smaller of the two studio spaces to television companies were mooted, with a possible BBC link.

Projects in the pipeline were productions of Twelfth Night, directed by Deborah Warner; The Way Of The World with Fiona Shaw and Geraldine McEwan, directed by Alan Rickman; Sharman Macdonald's new play The Winter Guest; and Deborah Warner's production of Miss Julie, with the French film star Isabelle Huppen in the title role alongside Rickman.

Geraldine McEwan did eventually star in a revival of The Way Of The World, but at the National Theatre instead in the winter of 1995 (she won Best Actress at the London Evening Standard Drama Awards for it). The Winter Guest was directed by Rickman to great acclaim at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and London's Almeida Theatre early in 1995. As for Isabelle Huppert, she did indeed come over to London in the spring of 1996 to star in Mary Stuart at the National Theatre.

Alongside the glamour projects in the New Riverside manifesto were also laudable ideas for community education and youth theatre, unemployment and summer projects. The potential weekly box-office income and annual budget for both studio theatres were carefully costed. The architect, Sir Richard Rogers, already respon­sible for the Thames Reach complex next door to Riverside in the Crabtree Estate area of Hammersmith, was approached to redesign the interior; and there were even plans to reopen the bookshop and create a recording studio. But all these good intentions mean nothing without the guarantee of start-up cash.

Confucius say: lack of S-word (sponsorship) lead to F-word. Or some such ancient Chinese proverb.

Grants were envisaged by Rickman's consortium as the core funding for running the building, with starry productions plus the hiring-out of space as the income-generators that would subsidise other activities. All this was placing an immense responsibility on the shoulders of a floating population of stars to pull in the crowds; even Corin and Vanessa Redgrave's Moving Theatre could not work a box-office miracle in a 1995 season at Riverside.

Catherine Bailey's draft concluded on an inspirational note, proposing an arts complex the like of which had never been seen

before in this country. There was a clear promise that they would put Riverside once and for all upon the international map.

'At first I thought it was a lunatic plan to get involved in bricks and mortar in these economic times, but when you see the abilities of the group behind it, you know it would work. With the pulling power of the actors in the company, the place would be packed. With names like the ones we have, the money will follow,' enthused Thelma to Michael Owen in the Evening Standard on 20 July 1993 well timed to influence the Board.

So what went wrong? The capital's listings magazine, Time Out, was the first to break the news that the high-profile Rickman bid had been rejected.

According to Time Out, Jules Wright of WPT looked the likely new Artistic Director despite a track record which, according to TO, did not begin to compare with Alan and Thelma's starry panel.

The Evening Standard picked the story up and made much of the fact that Jules had been on the Board of the Riverside Trust until shortly before her appointment. It even alleged that she had drawn up a job description for the new Artistic Directorship.

Even more ominously, the intermediary to whom Rickman and Co. had submitted their proposal was deemed by Time Out and the Standard to have delayed handing in their bid until too late for the crucial Riverside Board meeting on 15 July. So why use a go-between? Because a team rather than an individual was applying for the job of Artistic Director, they felt their unorthodox approach needed explanation.

Smoke began to issue from various heads. They smelled conspiracy, or at least incompetence. Six leading theatre critics -the Guardian's Michael Billington, the Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh, The Times' Benedict Nightingale, the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer, the Independent's Paul Taylor and Time Out's James Christopher - felt sufficiently strongly to write a letter of protest to the Evening Standard about the conduct of the Riverside Board in selecting Jules Wright as its director-designate.

This thunderous missive, published on 6 August 1993, blamed then councillor and Riverside Board member Jane Hackworth-Young for failing to pass on the Rickman submission to the selection panel until after shortlisted applicants had been interviewed.

The board's choice as the next director of Riverside was herself on the board of directors until just before the deadline for

applications,' they fulminated. 'Miss Wright, Riverside Studios has admitted, helped draw up the job description for the new director. We believe it may be a conflict of interest . . .' They urged the Riverside Board to revoke its decision.

William Hunter, chair of the Riverside Trust, wrote a languid reply to the Standard on 10 August: 'It was the Alan Rickman et al consortium's own fault that the application arrived so late -not only after the closing date but after the interviewing panel had completed interviews. The commonsense thing to do would have been to send the proposal straight to Riverside, not use an intermediary. This is what everybody else did.'

Further foot-stamping was to come: The reason we did not interview the consortium was that its application was unconvincing administratively, artistically and financially.' Very damaging, if you take William Hunter's artistic credentials seriously (he's a barrister).

Hunter has since refused to talk further about the entire episode, saying pompously: 'It's ancient history.' But Rickman and Co. took their rejection as a Philistine slap in the face for some of London's best-known actors.

Indeed, Nicholas de Jongh wrote in the Standard on 12 August: 'Perhaps one should conclude that the Riverside Board has a phobia about stars.'

Catherine Bailey later became convinced that it was a simple case of the turkeys not voting for Christmas. The Board interfered all the time: had we got in, the first thing we would have done was to dismiss the Board. It's weak. They knew that, that's why they refused us. The Board is full of councillors wanting to hang on to their honorary positions.

The idea was to generate our own income from high-profile productions, plus companies and well-known directors from abroad such as Peter Brook and Peter Stein. They were too small-minded to see our vision. Thelma is the only true impresario of our time, a new Lilian Baylis. Thelma and Alan are both such larger-than-life characters. Alan has put a lot back into the business, and people really rate him.'

But such a mythology has grown around 'Rivergate' that someone from outside the Rickman camp even gave me the initial impression that Jane Hackworih-Young was a Tory councillor, as iа the scuppering of Rickman's bid was a wicked Conservative plot Nothing could be further from the truth.

Enter the first Rivergate scapegoat: a neat figure with cropped grey hair and a rather pukka accent. She apologised for that plus the double-barrelled name; people were always leaping to the wrong conclusions about Jane, the Labour councillor for Addison Ward in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. She also had a useful background in theatre: 'I worked with Donald Albery, then I was the director of the British Theatre Association for ten years. And 1 was on the Board of Riverside at the time the bids were invited.

'It happened like this. Jacqueline Abbott, our Mayor, was the original contact for Catherine Bailey. They couldn't get hold of her, so they contacted me instead. 1 had met Alan originally at the BTA; I liked him enormously. He has a nice sense of humour.'

So far as her left-wing credentials are concerned, she was an impeccably correct contact for the Rickman consortium. A member of Hammersmith and Fulham Miners' Support Group, she had joined protest marches by the Women Against Pit Closures. Jane's family comes from Sedgefield, a former mining community. 'I'm left of centre. I'm not a Blairite.' Until she talked exclusively to me for this book, she had stayed silent on Rivergate, taking the rap at the time because there was grave doubt about whether the council could continue to cough up cash for both Riverside and the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.

For this small London borough is unique in having three high-profile theatre venues - the third being the small but innovative Bush Theatre - within a square mile of each other. Keeping them all afloat is a nightmare for any council.

But it seemed there were grounds for paranoia over the decision on who ran Riverside. The reason why Alan Rickman's consortium chose, unlike any of the other bidders, to use a go-between was because, according to Jane Hackworth-Young, they were absolutely convinced that Jules Wright was the favourite for the job of Artistic Director. So they felt they needed, to put it bluntly, some special pleading on their behalf in order to get a fair hearing.

They thought their bid might not be taken seriously for several reasons,' claims Jane. The proposal from a consortium would not answer Riverside's specific job specification. Jules Wright was on the Board, and they believed that the Chair William Hunter supported her very much. Indeed, I had that impression too, and perhaps at the cost of other bids - although I had no objection to

Jules. And Riverside had a deficit of £250,000, a debt they didn't want to take on. So they felt they needed an intermediary to smooth the way and put their case.'

Jane met Alan and Catherine over lunch in a French restaurant in Kensington Park Road on 10 June 1993.

They showed me their draft. They said they would tidy it up a bit; I made a few suggestions, such as extra figures here and there. It was not absolutely clear at that time that Thelma Holt was committed to the project.

Time was already very short, because I understood that the shortlist was to be drawn up on 15 July. I said I would take their bid to lain Coleman, the Leader of the Council, to canvass him on the monetary situation and also because he was quite close to the Chair of the Riverside Trust, William Hunter. That was how it was left.'

What Alan and Co. did not understand were the manifold pressures on councillors with so many causes clamouring for cash. Given that Alan's partner Rima had been a councillor in the neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea for seven years by then, one would have thought she might have advised them. But anyone with any integrity — and Rima prides herself on that — would take care not to get involved with an issue in which there was a personal interest. So she stayed well clear.

'I didn't get the bid document from the Rickman group until 22 June, because I had been away for a long weekend,' says Jane. 'I arranged to see Iain Coleman on 24 June. The main gist of that meeting was on another subject, but I left him the Rickman submission.

We set up another meeting to discuss the matter on 5 July. To be fair to Iain Coleman, we didn't talk at length about the Rickman bid. I asked him to look at it and hoped that if he considered it worthwhile, he would speak to William Hunter.

'One of my main reasons for seeing him was to sort out whether we were going to be able to fund all three venues for the same year. Both the Lyric and Riverside had a deficit, and we are the smallest London borough after the City.

'I was really deeply concerned that we weren't going to be able to fund both of them. There were rumours every day about what was going to happen. I used my contacts in the theatre to there were other options to fund the two of them. The selection

process was going on for the next elections; I had to go up north; and 1 was also writing a paper on the future of the libraries, because I was anxious that we were going to have to cut them.

'I wrote to Derek Spurr, Director of Hammersmith's Leisure and Recreation, on 28 June. I was still scared that the Lyric would have to go. Catherine and Alan thought I was working against them because I was talking to other organisations, but I was trying to explore all the options for both the Riverside and the Lyric.

'At very short notice, lain cancelled our meeting on 5 July. He's a very busy man. I spoke to his PA because I said all the submissions have to be in and I had to see him.

The earliest we could set a meeting was for Tuesday 13 July at 6 o'clock. I thought to myself, do I approach Hunter directly? I had previously indicated to him that there might be another bid. I was in a quandary. Then during that week I heard there had been a meeting of the leadership of the Council - and it had been decided not to fund either of the two theatres. 1 felt 1 must clarify the situation once and for all with Coleman.

'In the interim Catherine Bailey had confirmed to me that Thelma Holt would be involved, which had not been absolutely certain up to that time. And because of my knowledge of her work, I became even more convinced that the consortium could admin­ister and develop Riverside.

'I saw Iain Coleman on 13 July. He was very candid and confirmed to me that the council could not fund Riverside's deficit. He said "We will definitely be funding only one of the two theatres in the forthcoming year." I pushed him on it and asked if it would be Riverside. He said it would. I tried to ring William Hunter that night, but he wasn't in.'

What appeared odd to Alan Rickman was the legal situation. Jane explains: 'Because both theatres might become insolvent or be liquidated and there were councillors on both boards, there had been concern about councillors renewing their membership of the board. The Council's Legal Services recommended that councillors should resign.

'Subsequently I think that Legal Services rather changed that view, but the important thing about it is that I resigned because the Council suggested I should - not because of any dealings with Alan, Catherine or Thelma.

'Jules Wright was definitely offered the Riverside directorship,' according to Jane Hackworth-Young, 'but my understanding is that

she had decided not to go ahead with the financial risk. What was ironic was that she must have known more about the financial risk than anyone else, because she had been a member of the Riverside Board.

To be fair to William Hunter, he did ask me whether the bid was coming in. He behaved honourably; and when I finally reached him on the morning of the 14th, he agreed that he and members of the Board would meet me before their "shortlisting" meeting the following evening. But I was still aware that he might be biased towards Jules.

The council officer who was dealing with Riverside also spoke to me on the morning of the 14th, as he had been approached by Catherine Bailey who gave him a copy of the bid. I explained to him what had happened - and about my conversation with William Hunter - and we agreed to go down together to see Hunter and members of the Board. The officer's advice to the members of the Board that evening was that they should consider the Rickman bid, and the members agreed to consult with the Board.

We were informed that the Board had agreed to consider the bid over the weekend, yet within hours Jules had been approached about running Riverside.

'Iain Coleman had even said to me that he didn't think the Rickman bid was a particularly good one, though 1 thought it was very businesslike. But I think lain was terribly busy with the decisions on cuts for the forthcoming year.

'1 categorically did not withhold the bid. 1 passed it on. Alan, Catherine and I had agreed I would take it to Iain Coleman, but I hadn't had dialogue with him. It was not a case of withholding the bid, but of not being able to put their case in good time.'

The timing of the actual decision now seems terribly vague.

'Hunter said the Rickman bid was in late; I said "I thought you were looking at all the bids, not making a final decision," ' says Jane. 'I had opened Rickman's bid on 22 June and passed it on. There were other bids from the Royal Opera house, the Old Vic, Carnival Theatre, Jules Wright's WPT and the English Shakespeare Company.

'I was a bit of a scapegoat because I felt that Iain Coleman didn't support me in processing the bid or subsequently when the matter got to the Press.'

When the public storm broke, Jane was frustrated by the tact that she had to stay silent. 'I could not tell the Press that the council

had made a decision to fund only one of the venues. Other funding bodies, such as the Arts Council, would have withdrawn funding from the Lyric, as some funding was dependent on the local authority matching it.

'Ц would have produced a disastrous domino effect. So I couldn't say a thing publicly without endangering the Lyric. Since that time, the Lyric has launched an appeal which has resulted in attracting funding that has wiped out its deficit.

'1 had given the Rickman proposal to Iain immediately I received it. The only reason I had then delayed was because I had understood there would be no funding for theatres at all, which might well not be made public until after people had committed themselves to Riverside.'

In retrospect, Jane could be said to have panicked from the worthiest of intentions. Clearly she didn't wish to lumber Alan's team with a building that carried a deficit of a quarter of a million pounds and had just had its funding withdrawn . . . otherwise she might have been guilty of dropping them in it.

'I think the Rickman application was good; I also think some of the others were good. I didn't think Jules' application was amazing.

'My sadness was that I wasn't able to explain fully to Alan, Thelma and Catherine what had happened. I did try Catherine's phone and left a message; she never rang me back. She was away on and off during that time.

'The decision by Hammersmith and Fulham to continue funding the Lyric from 1994 to 1995 was taken in the autumn/winter of 1993. The lawyers didn't want me to go to the Press at all, and they wanted me to keep my explanatory letter to Thelma very, very short. It was really just an apology.

'Thelma and Alan rushed to the Press. If only they had held for 12 hours, I felt I could have done something. I wish they had talked to me before they went to the papers.

'In retrospect, I don't know what I would do differently. I don't think it would have had a different outcome if they hadn't used an intermediary. There was nothing anti-Alan about the whole affair at all.'

In fact there was a certain coolness between Jane Hackworth-Young and William Hunter that hardly helped to advance the Rickman cause. A one-time political rivalry meant that she was not, perhaps, the best choice of cleft-stick messenger under the circumstances.

'Hunter was Treasurer and I was Vice-Chair of Hammersmith Labour Party. We both stood for the Chair, and I got it over him.

'Alan's consortium just saw the problem as a threefold one: the deficit, the future funding and the fact that Jules had been on the Board. They had deep concerns about being treated fairly because of that.

'And it was also very strange that the Riverside Board didn't go back to the other original bidders after Jules decided not to go ahead. They offered the directorship to William Burdett-Coutts instead.'

Burdett-Coutts himself was equally mystified. 'I went through a rather strange process with this whole thing,' he admits. 'I went for an interview in July, but I thought that Rickman had got it. Then as soon as they approached me, I phoned up Alan. We must have had three or four meetings about ways in which his team could work together with me, but I never really got a final response on that.

Thelma did once request both the main studios gratis while I ran the building; they didn't even offer to pay rent. But I would still happily work with Alan. I'll work with anyone; I'm in the business of survival,' added William, valiantly trying to keep his head above water.

Riverside was forced to close for five months from April 1994 for a face-lift under the directorship of Burdett-Coutts, who had made his name by running the Edinburgh Fringe's Assembly Rooms. He moved the entrance from the side to the front and gave it the look of a trendy art gallery instead of the student hang-out it was before. Fingers, not to mention legs, have been crossed ever since.

'It's all fallen flat,' Catherine Bailey later said to me in 1995 with grim satisfaction. Asked to comment on Jane Hackworth-Young's performance in the great drama, she rolled her eyes, and hummed and hawed.

In 1995, Council Leader Iain Coleman confirmed to me the rockiness of the Riverside funding at the time of the Rickman/Holt/ Bailey bid. 'It has been public knowledge since 1993 that the support we gave to Riverside would have to be curtailed and eventually abolished. We gave the Trustees of Riverside as much notice as possible of our future intention.'

Hammersmith & Fulham Council combines the positions of Chief Executive and Finance Director in one job that carries the

title of Managing Director. There is an odd postscript to the Rivergate story that suggests the Rickman consortium made a second attempt to succeed. On 10 August 1993, the Managing Director of the authority received a letter from Catherine Bailey Limited on behalf of Catherine, Thelma and Alan.

They enclosed a copy of their proposal, which had been rejected by the Riverside Board. In it, they declared that they would only reveal their sources of start-up money - at last, the dreaded S-word - if the Council maintained funding. 'You will note our omission with regard to finance, should the two funding bodies reduce the level of funding, and we wish to state our willingness to reveal our sources of start-up money should the matter proceed.'

In other words, the Rickman consortium appeared to be playing a poker game and keeping their financial cards close to their chest. You show me your willy if I show you mine . . . then we'll see who has the biggest. With cash-strapped councils, however, it doesn't work like that.

'Although we had no direct locus in the matter, the Council's Managing Director did meet with Thelma Holt and Alan Rickman on two occasions,' admits Iain Coleman. This was done to have a fallback position if the Riverside Board had to cease trading, in which eventuality the site reverted to the local authority.'

In other words, the council would have to pick up the bill. 'I am advised,' concludes Coleman, 'that the meetings were inconclusive. The proposals continued to be a wish-list of artistic programmes without any of the financial back-up being substantiated.'

So the sticking-point was money all along. The apparent delay in submitting the application had been a red herring which made people suspect a fishy conspiracy. 'Jane did pass on the bid to Iain Coleman because he and William Hunter had worked together as long­standing members of the local Labour Party. But it wasn't passed on to Iain as a formal submission; just as an informal consultative exercise,' says Peter Savage, who was head of the Council Leader's office.

'But the crux of the problem all along was money. One bid was underfunded; the other wasn't. But it was all taken personally, which was a shame. Thelma, Alan and Catherine were given plenty of time to come forward with information about sponsors.

'And they had just the sort of image that we were looking for; so there was absolutely nothing personal. It was a pity that it was interpreted that way.'



Savage explained to me that it's essential to see the colour of the applicant's money first before other funds are forthcoming; it's a delicate balancing-act.

'For instance, we are supporting William Burdett-Coutts in his Lottery bid. That means we would look at practical ways of supporting Riverside, e.g. giving them the freehold or perhaps cash funding. But all this would only happen if he was given money from the National Heritage fund. We wouldn't be able to fund him if the Lottery bid wasn't successful. Our help can only be part of a package.'

Nevertheless, London's artistic community was fired up on Alan and Thelma's behalf, sensing an outrageous and unforgivable snub by the Riverside Board. Frankly, William Hunter's rather rude letter to the Standard on 10 August had done nothing to correct that impression.

In his feature published on 12 August, the Evening Standard's chief theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh demanded that Riverside's Board must go as a result of the Rivergate fiasco. He compared Alan's bid with that of Jules Wright, calling the Women's Playhouse Trust proposal 'four pages of pipe-dreams, aspirations and vague platitudes'.

A cut-out of Alan's head was thrust like an Aunt Sally above the parapet. So far as the Press and the general public were concerned, his was the best-known face in the consortium despite the fact that he was only one of the trio who drafted the wording of the bid.

And now to the second scapegoat in the affair.

This is where connections become terribly incestuous in the close-knit world of theatre. The President of Jules Wright's WPT was, paradoxically, Alan's old friend and co-star Geraldine McEwan. Even more strangely, Alan Rickman was among the ten actors credited with a close connection to the WPT as one of those who was approached to lead the teachers' workshops. (Unsurpris­ingly, he hasn't yet taken up that option.)

Those who did lead the workshops were Kathryn Pogson, Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Anton Rodgers, Neil Pearson, Fidelis Morgan, Janet Suzman, Gary MacDonald and Celia Imrie. So the Riverside row appeared to have bust up a beautiful and fruitful friendship between Jules and Alan that had brought together some of Britain's best-known, most adventurous thes-pians. No wonder there was a feeling of betrayal and treachery.

Thelma was publicly bitter about Riverside. She told the Hammersmith and Fulham Post on 5 August 1993 that the apologies received from the Board and from Jane Hackworth-Young had been completely unsatisfactory.

'It would be difficult to think how a consortium led by Alan Rickman which put forward such ambitious proposals for the Riverside did not even merit an interview.'

However, Jules Wright says: 'As I understand it, no application from the Rickman consortium was submitted before the closing date, before the interviews or before the Board of Riverside and the representatives of the London Aits Board and Hammersmith & Fulham Council had met to decide how to go forward. I don't understand that."

Alan forced himself to be philosophical to the Press, telling Michael Owen in the Standard on 22 October that year: There's no point conducting an inquest now, it's so depressing. There was a positive result in the amount of discussion it opened up. I felt we'd started a new wind blowing through the London arts scene. But at the end of the day, I do believe a great opportunity has been lost. It comes down to the stifling, grinding mediocrity we have so much of at home.

'No one is prepared to accept the challenge of making a brave decision, to take a risk on something that might come crashing down or really break through to something new.'

Jules Wright saw things very differently. 'Thelma and I have not spoken since, which is very sad. None of them knew that I spent Ј5,000 on lawyers . . . and was unable to pursue it because I couldn't afford it. It was just a waste of money.

'I suspect that Alan's group might have thought there was public money around; but they would never have got involved if they had known the state of Riverside's finances. I'm glad the WPT didn't get involved either, in the end.

'It all began when I was pursued non-stop for eighteen months by the then Artistic Director Jonathan Lamede to join the Board of Riverside. I finally did in November 1992.

'But then Jonathan was removed in an extremely brutal Board meeting after a financial crisis. He was asked to leave the room and then William Hunter, the Chair, said, "I think it's time for Jonathan to go."

'I was very suspicious of the way the Riverside accounts were presented - inaccurately, I suspected. There were terrible problems



with the whole finances. I spoke to the London Arts Board about this.

'WPT has a freehold building in Islington, and we had money in the bank at the time, too. So I thought we could come to some kind of arrangement to solve the Riverside financial crisis.

'I talked to my WPT Board about it and then resigned from the Riverside Board. I wrote a draft proposal in note form for my Board, which was what ended up being published in the Evening Standard.

'I sent the proposal to Riverside; and I and WPT's accountant, Mark Riese of H. W. Fisher & Co, were interviewed by the Riverside Board, the representative from the Hammersmith & Fulham Council and a representative from the London Arts Board. There was no enthusiasm for my proposal in principle from the other side. But by the end of what I thought was a courtesy meeting, we felt they had shifted ground. They subsequently decided to proceed with further discussions between the two charitable trusts.

'I have never understood why the Rickman bid was late. I understood that it was delivered after all the interviews, after the Board meeting at which they had made their decision. Neverthe­less, I understand it was seriously reviewed by the Board.

The next thing I knew was that I got a call from a woman on Time Out who said I had been offered the Riverside directorship. 1 said "Oh no, I haven't." She said "The entire artistic community of London says you have."

There was just this one draft document to our WPT Board. It was faxed to all those members who had a fax, and a letter was sent to one member who was in New York. Then suddenly it appears in the Evening Standard. I still wonder from whom they got it. We can only speculate on this. All I can say is that I know for a fact that none of my Board members or staff was involved.

'In retrospect, I feel I was incredibly attacked in a concerted effort to discredit me; I was Australian and seen as an outsider. On Sunday the Observer followed the Time Out and Standard pieces. The lawyers told me not to talk to anyone. The coverage appeared to imply that I had fixed myself a job. I was never offered a job!' explained Jules. 'It was simply two meetings between two chari­table trusts. Our accountants were instructed to carry out a due diligence examination of the Riverside accounts, which went nowhere. Riverside's finances were in a pretty parlous state.

'I never saw a final job description. And I couldn't believe that William Hunter would write a letter to the Standard without ringing us up and talking about it: it was impossible to pursue discussions properly thereafter.

'I felt abused,' she says. 'I didn't think Alan was doing this . . . but I dithered about phoning him. Then the extraordinary thing was that I got phone calls from seven actors, saying that Alan had been spotted giving out photocopies of the letter from the critics to the Standard in the returns queue at the Almeida Theatre. This was the evening of 6 August; the critics' letter had been published in the Standard that day.

'I still think people thought that Riverside was a passport to public money. In actual fact it was one godalmighty headache; 1 knew it was a financial disaster area because I had been on the Riverside Board.

'So then 1 went to the solicitors and said "1 can't stomach this." Citygate are Press troubleshooters in the City; they came and monitored my calls.

'I have never spoken to William Hunter since. 1 had met him only three times at board meetings. As for his so-called admiration for me, 1 was incisive and thoughtful in those three board meetings - maybe William was impressed by that.

'One thing 1 think the solicitors were right about was that you have got to retain your dignity. 1 think the whole thing did Alan a lot of damage - but not Thelma, funnily enough.

'1 was so wounded by everything. It was reported to me that one theatre director held a dinner party with an exceedingly well-known actor there, and they spent the entire evening slagging me off.

'1 have known this director a long time. You never ever discredit or accuse someone without asking "What is the story?" 1 still can't understand why they didn't contact me directly instead of having all this stuff in the papers. I had launched a rescue bid, not a bid for a job. And 1 resigned from the Riverside Board long before we opened negotiations for an alliance between Riverside and WPT.

'Time Out started it all, and we served legal proceedings on them on 28 September.

'In actual fact,' adds Jules, '1 don't think the Charities Commis­sion would have worn us linking with Riverside. As a registered charity, WPT is not allowed to risk its money.

The Commission would have thought it too big a financial risk: it would have been hell on earth.

'From the moment that Jonathan resigned, there were rumours that Alan and Thelma were planning to put a bid together. My first meeting with Thelma was one of the great theatrical images of my life. It was after the dissolution of the Roundhouse.

Thelma walked across one of the biggest spaces I can ever remember entering, and she looked so devastated and sad. It was the end of her dream after the liquidation. They dispensed the money to other charitable trusts, and we had asked for money for our inaugural production, The Lucky Chance.

'I think the Rickman bid would have been taken very seriously; they would have been a formidable team to interview. Alan and Thelma are very articulate, talented people. But if you feel that passionately about your cause, speak about it yourself. Why use an intermediary?

William Hunter's letter in the Standard about their bid being unconvincing really upset Alan. But he behaved with dignity. I suspect,' concludes Jules, 'that it got out of hand for all of them.

'Nevertheless, I do hope to work with Alan again; I have done availability checks on him from time to time. The reason there is now this silence is that everybody now knows they got it horribly wrong. As far as I'm concerned, the whole thing has been consigned to the dustbin of history.'

Jules felt particularly upset at what she saw as a personal attack by Nicholas de Jongh in the London Evening Standard. She did, however, feel comforted by the support of Ilona Sekacz, the composer of both The Lucky Chance and also Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

"What you must be going through!' wrote Ilona to Jules on 13 August 1993. 'I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you, and ready to lend a hand in whatever way I can. I've written to the Evening Standard to register my protest at the way you're being treated.'

That letter, which was not published by the Standard, read as follows:

'I was distressed to read your theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh's articles about the recent appointment at the Riverside Studios. He places a lot of emphasis on the applications submitted by Alan Rickman's consortium and Jules Wright.

'When a panel meets to consider giving jobs or grants, the first thing it notices is the huge diversity in the manner and content of the written applications. But even the most detailed and beautifully presented papers are not necessarily the best. It is whether an applicant can prove that he or she is capable of fulfilling the brief that counts.

'Jules Wright runs the Women's Playhouse Trust impeccably. She commissions and produces a huge volume of new work on a tight budget, and her past record shows she is capable of turning ,i debt into a profit. She is a tireless and committed worker for women in the theatre, and one of the few people currently fulfilling the taxing dual role of director/manager.

'I know Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and Christopher Hampton, and love and respect their work, but their application to the board of Riverside Studios is not supported by evidence of their managerial skills.

'Jules Wright may be running the WPT single-handed, but this is because the funding the WPT receives is spent on commissions for new work . . . She has always maintained a low profile in the press, preferring to devote her energies to the daily running of a successful company, rather than fighting her battles for funding and recognition in public.

'1 know nothing of the rights and wrongs of the Riverside Board's behaviour, but I think it is wrong of your theatre critic to give a false impression of one of our most charismatic and talented theatre directors.'

Thelma Holt's last words on the subject are these: '1 don't think any blame of any kind should be laid at the door of Jules Wright. who was merely after the building like we were. The position of the others involved, though, was, to say the least, a little quaint. In spite of all the criteria we were given to understand were required of us, we were not even considered. There arc many opinions as to why this was so, but they are all speculations.

'I'm as confused now as 1 was then about the rather cavalier, if not uncivil, manner in which Alan, and indeed Ins colleagues including myself, were treated. Print that if you want to: it is what I feel.'

With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear that Rivergate was a public-relations disaster for the Riverside Trust as well as a major disappointment for the hopes of Alan, Thelma and Catherine. If the

nub of the problem was money, why did the trustees not make that clear?

Instead of which, William Hunter's sneering letter in the… Продолжение »

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