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All About Trev, Harry & Sherry

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Talk about spilling the beans. As the critics slunk into press previews of Shrek over the weekend, and Mark Rylance and War Horse collected their Tonys on Broadway, the papers suddenly bristled with news about the private lives of three theatrical titans, two dead, one still kicking.

In the Sunday Telegraph, Joan Bakewell revisited in great detail her secret affair with Harold Pinter that lies at the root of Betrayal, opening soon at the Comedy Theatre with Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles.

Sure, Michael Billington revealed the full story in his magnificent biography of Pinter fifteen years ago, with Pinter's and Bakewell's full cooperation and consent. (That didn't stop Pinter exploding with rage when Joan wrote about the affair again in her own 2003 autobiography.)

But it's fascinating to see Bakewell putting it all in the context of today's intrusive, obsessive media interest about celebrities' private lives: "There was something different about life then. People had a sense of the right to privacy that the rise of celebrity seems to have been eroding ever since."

How ironic it is, then, that Trevor Nunn, who never utters a word in public about his or anyone else's private life, should have found himself entangled with the Italian lawyer, Nancy Dell'Olio, who is famous merely for being Nancy Dell'Olio and having an affair with the Swedish manager of the English football team, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

With Sven, she could attend all the top international matches in the greatest stadia in the world. With Trevor, alas, it's all going to be a bit low key and down market in the Championship with Ipswich Town, who haven't been in the Premier League for ten years (though the Portman Road playing surface is still one of the best in the country).

While Trevor was talking shop with Tom Stoppard and Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times yesterday -- Appleyard developed a rather brilliant European Champions League Final conversational metaphor of Trev being Barcelona, keeping the ball for hours on end, and Tom, Manchester United, "all counterattacks and darting runs" -- Nancy was promoting herself big time in both that newspaper's magazine, and the Saturday Times.

You'd think this was tragic overkill, and it was, really. It left you feeling sorry for Trevor who, it is confidently alleged, now dyes his beard as well as his hair, and shares his bed with a woman who sleeps with her make-up on. I wonder who's lumbered with washing their pillow-cases? (Not Nancy, you bet.)

Apart from that, Trev's privacy remained pretty intact, although one trembles a bit at the thought of the demands being made by his fearsome Medusa: "I'm like a mother to my man. I shower him with attention -- physical, material, psychological -- it's the way I love. And I require attention back, because I know how good I am."

She says she's the busiest woman alive, not necessarily with work (no meetings before 11.30 am), but with massages (three times a week), walking to lunch at the Berkeley or Claridges, phone calls in the afternoon, acupuncture, and whirlpool baths with oils and candles.

She adds that Trevor says she is the most intelligent woman he's ever met (take that Dame Janet Suzman -- honoured in the Queen's Birthday list, with CBEs, too, for Michael Grandage and Christopher Morahan; take that, Imogen Stubbs, with your first-class degree at Oxford and brilliant travel writing).

And then, flicking through the red carpet pictures at the Tonys, the penny dropped. Nancy looks just like Patti Lupone, only taller and scarier. And Patti has never forgiven Trev and Andrew Lloyd Webber for replacing her with Glenn Close as Norma Desmond when Sunset Boulevard went to Broadway. So perhaps this affair is a form of retrospective repentance by proxy. One thing's for sure: Trevor won't be telling.

All of this, though, pales a little beside the truly amazing revelations in a new book written by Ruth Leon, But What Comes After?, previewed in an Evening Standard piece on Friday written by Nick Curtis.

Ruth comes clean about everything that was wrong with her husband Sheridan Morley, who died in 2007. He was profligate, gluttonous and unworldly and suffered from depression all his life. His bipolar condition was exacerbated by diabetes. He couldn't stay awake in theatres. So far so sad.

But after his stroke in 2002, Ruth often wrote Sherry's reviews for him (no, you couldn't tell the difference). Once, she says, she even wrote a review for him -- of Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel -- of a show that she hadn't even seen; Sherry had gone along with his housekeeper. Whenever this happened, Ruth tells Curtis (so it happened a lot, then), "it didn't matter that he could no longer articulate his opinions: she 'knew' what they would be."

As Ruth admits, some of us knew this was going on, as well as all the other stuff about trying to steal people's jobs, which was a top Sherry pastime, and writing lunatic and abusive letters to colleagues -- and to poor old Ruth, it transpires -- for years on end.

But to have it all admitted and published is nothing short of sensational. Will those deceived editors of long ago demand their money back? Will the Critics' Circle take retrospective measures of censure, or at least disapproval, against both Sherry and Ruth? Can we now believe anything we read, or who wrote it, in the papers again?


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