A wise internet expert lawyer friend called Mark Lloyd told me ages ago that having a blog was like owning a dog. You have to walk it otherwise it looks miserable and unwell. What can I say, I’ve been busy getting on with life on my island, hence the lack of blogging exercise. Not that I haven’t been thinking about it. In fact, there’s too much to write about and I could happily tap away every day, but there’s only so much writing self-indulgence one should consume. However, here’s a potted round up of vignettes, or soggy, one-bite blog canapes I’ve ben chewing during the past week or so. Think of this as me putting the unfit blog on a lunge and making it sprint a few laps around the office.
THE RAT TRAP: In need of creative solace for various writing ventures that are still in long-term incubation, I headed alone to the Finborough Theatre in Chelsea to witness some actors putting themselves through the mill at the outer limits of the creative world.
Fringe theatre is a sobering leveller for anyone wanting to create something. This is the reality, the kind of place where stuff really begins, once it has exited the painful solitary place of one’s head. The Finborough is a small room above a pub with the audience so close they can feel your breath and see the quiver of your veins. Actors are peeled back to the bone in such places and you cannot fail to admire the hideous, personal excavation work they do when you see them up close at a mini crucible like the Finborough. I can almost forgive some of those mad-as-hatters actors I have interviewed over the years for their vainglorious verbiage when I see what they go through. Almost.
The Rat Trap was written by Noel Coward when he was 18 – yes, 18 – in 1918 but was only put on for 12 performances in 1926. It has been revived by director Tim Luscombe. It is a moving and powerful play which follows the turbulent marriage of two writers, their love shredded by imbalanced success.
Whether this play could carry itself on a bigger stage, I do not know, but I was riveted by this production and the performances across the cast. Most notably, the leads by Catherine Hamilton as thwarted novelist Sheila and Gregory Finnegan as the feted playwright Keld. They were superb. There were just 21 of us in the audience and such was the intensity of one of their argument scenes I felt physically uncomfortable, to the point where I felt a sudden auto-defence release of adrenalin, as if protecting myself from their venom.
So, if you are ever in need of an ice cold sluice of creative water, go along to your local fringe. Watch the actors unravel, marvel at their dedication. It is wonderful, almost inspiring. And it is not very often you smell freshly toasted tea cakes props from the stage, or see the steam from tea, or have the lead actress look you square in the eye and smile as you enthusiastically applaud.
TV ROUND UP. THE X-FACTOR: As expected, the winner was Simon Cowell. To slag off the X-Factor is pretty pointless. It would be like standing up in assembly at an infant school this week and lecturing against the commercialisation of Christmas. I have watched only a few episodes of this series – maybe five or six. If you have known Louis Walsh like I have and could control him with a remote control, you too would hit the Off button. I’ve known Cowell a bit, too, and he’s great, priceless, so I persevere intermittently just to see him.
The discovery of Leona Lewis is quite something and I think Cowell cannot believe his luck. But, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Now we have a brilliant spin-off reality show: PRODUCER X-FACTOR. Has Cowell really got the talent to make Leona a star?
No excuses now. Even Gary Barlow warned him, so he must be in trouble. Everyone acknowledges that this girl is a supreme singer, but what will Cowell do with her? He has some tough decisions ahead – like what cover versions to give her. Judging by the “original” debut single handed to Leona from the show, I fear the worst. Within one listening I was humming my own chorus:
“Some people watched this show for a lifetime,
For a crap song like this…”
EXTINCT: I felt a shudder of disgust when I saw this show unfold after the X-Factor, not least to discover that Zoe Ball’s TV career was not actually extinct. This was a bad start. Flippancy aside, I felt utter revulsion at the prospect of people voting to keep animals alive. I didn’t get past the first ten minutes – I had endangered species to eat at my local illegal steakhouse – so I am sure it had some worthy intentions. But I can’t help worrying about the message this phone and text voting culture sends out to children. OK, it’s fine for the talent contests, but with wildlife? Surely there is something morally wrong here. I can imagine a scene in 50 years time when the last polar bear is found floating face down in an arctic lagoon as warm as the Caribbean and little Leona from Essex – named after the legendary diva – says: “Well, it ain’t my fault they all died. I voted for them in 2006.”
Over a rare silver back gorilla fillet later that night, I went into a state of reality TV excitement. I suddenly imagined a hybrid show of X-Factor and Extinct. It would be called X-STINKS and you could vote for certain living creatures to be extinct. I’m not a reality show voter by nature but I immediately started multi-texting the word LOUIS.
THE SUFFOLK MURDERS: And I thought the Prime Suspect series had ended recently. I admit, at times, I felt quite ashamed at my acute addiction to News 24 and Sky during the past week. However ghoulish, let’s be honest, it was all so appallingly riveting. Sadly, right now, I don’t have the time to examine the macabre reasoning for that in detail, or indeed all the fascinating aspects of the media coverage that this case has thrown up, especially in light of Tom Stephens’ arrest.
However, I must offer up congratulations to the Sunday Mirror and its editor Tina Weaver for their scoop interview with Stephens. It presents a mouth-watering prospect: Tina going round to Andy Coulson’s office at the News of the World to collect his £250,000 reward.