Peter Rhodes on silly subtitles, wartime shame and the size of that bail-out for the arts

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Lewis Hamilton

TV subtitles continue to amuse. Sky News gave us “carry the prime minister's fiancee,” which sounds more like a lifting instruction than an introduction to Carrie.

BBC News subtitles informed us that Wales had a “roll in the butt of the NHS.” Or as the reporter actually said, a role in the birth of the NHS.

In the rush of news reporting, you can understand the subtitle system making mistakes. But why is it tolerated in subtitles for TV dramas when they have months to study the script and get the words right? In the series The Luminaries (BBC1) set in New Zealand “Maori land” was subtitled as “no real land” while a doomed sailing ship apparently “found it” on the rocks.

Lewis Hamilton takes the knee. Some of the F1 star's colleagues join him, others do not. That is how it should be. It's like wearing the red poppy of remembrance. If you choose to do so, fine. But if you'd rather not there should be no witch hunt. There is no virtue in any act performed under duress or out of politeness. Nor, for that matter, is it polite to mention the irony of Hamilton, with his passionate grasp on the history of slavery, making millions out of Mercedes-Benz, a company which has frankly admitted employing slave labourers in the Second World War, supplying fine vehicles to the Third Reich and manufacturing Hitler's favourite car. That's the trouble with history. It's always more complicated than you think.

The revelation that garment factories in Leicester may have hastened the spread of the virus turns out to be not such a revelation, after all. The council knew about alleged overcrowding, illegally low wages, boarded-over windows and zero observance of the Covid-19 regulations. So did local MPs. And journalists. And Health & Safety. And immigration officials. Not to mention, of course, all the poor devils who worked in the sweatshops. But nobody did anything. I dare say the answers, like the dye in a £2 T-shirt, will come out in the wash.

In theatre, the reveal is a dramatic device, a sudden disclosure of an unknown character or hidden twist to the plot which changes everything. I'm expecting a big reveal any day now when the bean-counters of the theatre industry get to see the terms, conditions and small print of the Tory Government's £1.57 billion bail out for Britain's coronavirus-wrecked arts industry. I'd like to be wrong but I suspect the package will be not quite as generous as it now appears. Which is hardly surprising. English theatre is an unlikely target for Tory largesse, being a thoroughly woke hot-bed of lefty-liberal, anti-toff and virulently anti-Tory emotions. And that's only the pantomimes.

Still in theatrical vein, when they come to write the official history of this pandemic, historians will be puzzled why, the moment the pubs re-opened, everybody seemed to assume the contagion was over. To quote from another midsummer night's dream: Lord, what fools these mortals be.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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