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Dominic Posts a Health Warning

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The Globe's artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, has posted a cautionary note by the box office to welcome prospective customers to Chris Hannan's modern morality fable, The God of Soho.

"NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED," it reads before coming clean, sort of: "The God of Soho contains dirty language, filthy content, nudity, violence and scenes of a highly sexual nature."

That's a relief: no strobe lighting, then. But, as if saving the worse news till last, he adds, in a separate paragraph: "There will also be smoking on stage during this production."

That, of course, could be the last straw for lots of Globe-trotting folk. Sex, violence and bad language they can live with, probably do already. But smoking? That really does take the biscuit.

But nobody, as far as I could see, walked out in rage or disgust at last night's opening performance. And nobody fainted, which is surely a first at the Globe. Most performances have people dropping like flies in the pit, but usually on account of the heat, not the onstage shenanigans.

There is quite a lot of bad behaviour in the play, but it's all mostly good clean fun, certainly in the way it's presented. The last ditch effort at sexual gratification by the model and her rock star boy friend is the best bit of all, with the repetitious endeavour enlivened by the picking up of a bed-time book to carry on reading.

Mind you, most of the rumpy pumpy going on at the Globe pales in comparison to the intimate exchanges enacted in Vaclav Havel's hilarious political comedy, The Conspirators, at the Orange Tree.

The show opens officially tonight, so my lips are mostly sealed until I post a review over the weekend. Suffice it to say that, in an immediately post-revolutionary Eastern European country, the stabilising political committee is enslaved by its own female constituent and that, when the chief of police gets involved, things really liven up, with a lot of thrashing about and a lot of, well, just thrashing, with a whip. I'm told this whip is made of kid leather to impart minimal pain and discomfort.

The Orange Tree's Thursday matinee audience is, if anything, even more senior than at the evening shows. Were they shocked or outraged? Were they, hell. One or two of them may have woken up for a few minutes, but otherwise all was still and calm on the sea of grey in the intimate little auditorium.

I've experienced this before. I approached another mid-week matinee at the Salisbury Playhouse some years ago with similar trepidation. I was catching a Paines Plough mixed bill of explicity sexual plays, written by some of the usual suspects, including Mark Ravenhill.

In Salisbury, the audience is even more respectable, and more gentrified, than in Richmond. And they couldn't have been less shocked by it all if they'd really tried.

Which only goes to show that it's only a few censorious newspaper columnists who ever get alarmed by filth on the stage, or who feel the moral fabric of our society is irreparably tattered as a result.

Most people -- certainly the Jacobeans -- expect to see sex and violence in the theatre. That's where it should be, best place for it, and so on. And both The God of Soho and, in a very different manner, The Conspirators, deliver magnificently.

After all, it's always the actors, or their characters, having all the fun, though my friend Linda Marlowe assures me that appearing in the sex revue Oh! Calcutta! was absolutely no fun at all, just "bloody hard work."

Most of us probably side a little with the hotel manager in Ray Cooney's Two Into One who, as the residents rush around in various states of undress and supposed tumescence in the middle of the night, stands on his own staircase and angrily exclaims: "There's far too much sex going on in this hotel, and I'm not having any of it!"


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