Head-spinning few days. In a good way. On Friday I went to a 'Soapbox Debate' at the Menier Chocolate Factory, chaired by the critic Rachel Halliburton. The motion proposed by Phil Wilmott and David Rosenberg, innovative directors both, was that 'West End theatre should be sunk in the Atlantic'. Defending the commercial theatre were two producers, Matthew Gale and a fellow whose name I forget, unfortunately. The sparring quickly became bogged down, after Rosenberg made one or two ad hominem snipes about his opponents' business operations, impuning their motives. Choc Factory boss David Babani was soon forced to ask someone to hold his coat, as Rosenberg lunged at him with the accusation that Sunday In The Park with George was produced with the explicit intention of attracting the eye of the Westenders (the show has indeed transferred). And so it went on. Things threatened to get interesting again when the subject of 'risk-taking' came up. And there was good banter about the state of the fabric of West End theatre, the bricks and mortar - the sites they occupy would apparently all of them be worth ten times more if the theatres were knocked down, but they're all protected buildings, national heritage and all that.
Saturday B and I ventured to town with the boys to see this,
which constitutes, among many other things, yet more mud in the eye for people who claim that living in London is rubbish.
Sunday I wandered over to Highbury, as the last ever game there was being played, and the streets around the stadium were buzzing and crowded with ticketless Gooners come to pay their last respects. As the final whistle went, I had this view of the old place
That date on the board is a bit confusing, I know, but it was May 7th, I promise you.
And if you click on this picture
you should hopefully be able to glean a couple of geezers celebrating in the stands at the end of the game. A 4-2 win, overtaking Spurs at the wire in the race for the lucrative fourth place, and a Thierry Henry hat-trick in (probably) his last game for Arsenal. As all the commentators said, Who writes these scripts?
Then last night, early evening I should say, I went to the Royal Court Theatre, for a lecture about John Osborne, given by David Hare on the stage where 50 years ago to the day Look Back In Anger had its first performance. As DH spoke, the famous ironing board, the mere sight of which is said to have caused the play's first audiences to palpitate, loomed at the back of the stage. One abiding impression is that while DH - or Sir David - expresses himself very well in a style that is at times a little self-consciously baroque, his cadence in delivery puts you in mind of the country vicar with an English degree from Cambridge, and actually the whole thing felt at times like a sermon given in a secular church. The lecture is sprinkled with quotes from Seneca, Flaubert and Noel Coward (though he is one of DH's bugbears). But for all that, it was moving to hear one significant writer give an impassioned panegyric of another. And in doing so, Hare flagged up the other great curmudgeons of that generation, people like Dennis Potter (something of a hero to me) and David Storey.
I sadly couldn't stay for the extracts from Look Back, with David "Who" Tennant heading up a very good cast. I had to head across town to see a radio play...
Writer Samantha Ellis has written a play for Radio 4 called Sugar and Snow, and in advance of the recording this week it was given a staged reading at Hampstead, complete with live sound effects from an Adam Hart-Davis lookalike. Samantha researched the play by going to the coffee bars of Green Lanes and Wood Green and talking to people in the Kurdish community in London. It's an excellent piece, dramatising the ongoing pain of the exile, and she caught very well the predicament of the younger generation, who must choose between a comfortable statelessness and armed struggle in the mountains of Iraq, Turkey, Iran...