The Arts


Are authors allowed to talk about anything other than their creations? JK Rowling was absolutely right to make public her argument that untransitioned males should not have full female rights. In time-honoured fashion she laid out her thoughts clearly, humanely and fairly in an essay which has now made her the target of ill-informed criticism […]

We Need To Talk About Context

The removal of the Fawlty Towers episode ‘The Germans’ for a racial slur was the standard reaction one would expect about now, while the BLM movement gets up to speed, no problem there, although I’m sure a lot of sclerotic shires folk exploded with rage about it. The action provided a talking point. Ultimately Black […]

Let’s Raise A Glass

Lately my pals have been calling to ask how I feel on my Big Rogue Cell Adventure, and I have to admit that the bad days are incredibly bad, but I’m holding out for the good ones when in a few weeks’ time after Lockdown and my BRCA I might feel more like rubber-legged Michael […]

Downbeat Shows For Lockdown

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m a total theatre rat, going at least once a week, travelling miles and taking risks on the unlikeliest productions. The virus has wrecked my playgoing plans for the year, so I’m going back over old albums and recordings. This week the Lockdown showbiz show to beat them […]

The Man Who Drew Attention To Himself

  This is a tragic and largely forgotten story. Your favourite authors are often unknown to others, and the works of the unlucky Mr Rudolf Ditzen were unfamiliar to me; not anymore, for they haunt my sleep. His real life, which involved murder, theft, madness, suicide, alcoholism, drugs and Nazis, is as disturbing as anything […]

Please, Spare Me Your Amateur Theatricals

I have some friends who think they live in the 1930s. They are delightful companions until after a meal, when, suddenly imagining that they reside in Downton Abbey, they arrange impromptu post-dinner performances that suddenly involve a stage, instruments and costumes. To make matters worse they are all talented, having had the right education for […]

Yeah, But Apart From Shakespeare…

Every now and again someone asks, ‘Why is all the attention on Shakespeare?’ And it’s true that the canonical Shakespeare tragedies and comedies are endlessly revived ahead of his contemporaries. The Bard’s pre-eminent glory tends to eclipse the splendour of his fellow dramatists, who don’t get much of a look-in. When you’ve a mountain in […]

Inside Writing 4: You Never Escape Yourself

They say it’s always too late to jump on a bandwagon; by the time you see it coming it has passed. But for the writer, originality comes with its own problems. If your book presents something too fresh it can’t be slotted into a category, nor can it be summed up in a line, so […]

When The Characters Take Charge

It took me years to realise that books are made by characters, not plots. Yet sometimes characters are so overpoweringly real that they go in search of the author – beware of creating fictional figures that might spring to life when you least expect it… In The Land of Laughs Jonathan Carroll’s hero is an […]

Review: The Visit

Olivier, National Theatre, London ‘The Visit, or The Old Lady Comes To Call’ has the feeling of a timeless fable that has always existed. That’s why Swiss-German playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play gets revised and globally performed – adaptors have seen in it a vehicle for different messages. Songwriters Kander & Ebb had the audacity […]