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Excitements never ending

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My weekend was packed with theatrical incident and excitement, but nothing onstage or off this year has matched the drama in the climax to the Premier League football season, with Manchester City scoring two goals in the last two minutes of their game against Queens Park Rangers to pip their big city rivals, Manchester United, who had already won their game against Sunderland, to the title.

Both teams finished level on points, but City had the superior goal difference. Had QPR won the game, as seemed likely until that frenzied finale yesterday afternoon, United would have been able to thank one of their former star players, the QPR manager, Mark Hughes, for the favour; and Hughes it was who was sacked by City as their manager to make way for a triumphant successor!

BBC Radio 5 Live's commentary coverage of the afternoon's rollercoaster ride was a masterpiece of broadcasting, the BBC at its very best, switching from one match to the other, as well as to the other grounds around the country where issues of third and fourth place, and relegation, were all being decided simultaneously.

More than once, the BBC's lead commentators Alan Green and Mike Ingham were moved to say that, had the script of what was unravelling been submitted to a film studio, it would have been rejected out of hand as implausible and incredible.

The nation is united these days in the popular drama of the sports field - and will be again during the Olympics. It is hugely ironic, therefore, that so much new "theatrical" drama - plays, comedy series (a new one at the weekend starring Brendan Coyle and Lesley Sharp), Mad Men - goes out on Sky One, or Sky Arts, which hardly anyone watches.

Hardly anyone will watch Babelin Caledonian Park, either, but that's for a very good reason. It's rubbish, and most critics have said so, even leading apologists for this sort of old-hat alternative event theatre, Lyn Gardner and Susannah Clapp.

Nothing daunted, the World Stages London producers have taken a full page ad in today's Guardian quoting rave reviews by ordinary punters: "Powerful, emotive, mystical" says Andrew; "Heart-warming and uplifting" says Tom. "Unbelievable. Very Powerful," adds Kyle.

I'm assuming that these "critics" aren't Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tom Morris or Kyle Soller. How witty if they were, but not as witty as the Broadway producer David Merrick combing the telephone directory and issuing free tickets to New Yorkers with the identical Christian names and surnames as a bunch of disobliging critics who had panned one of his premieres; they duly rolled up and gratefully provided sound-bites of breathless bromide which he plonked on the posters and display ads with full accreditation.

Talking of full page ads, the Guardian has another one today for the RSC's season at the Roundhouse. It's a masterpiece of utter confusion, starting with two competing titles for the three-play season: "What Country Friends Is This?" and "Shakespeare's Shipwreck Trilogy," followed by the information that the shows return to Stratford-upon-Avon in July and are part of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 and also some other illegible festival with the word "London" encased in a meaningless ziggurat - oh, maybe that's the Olympics logo.

Both ads should be passed to the advertising standards committee, if such a thing exists, for scrutiny and comment. Which is what the surprise appointment on Friday of Vicky Featherstone to the top job at the Royal Court is slowly attracting.

My first reaction was, "Oh really?" And my second, "Of course, why didn't I think of that myself." Apart from running a building for the first time, Vicky has very little to prove, having made such an outstanding success first of Paines Plough and second of the homeless National Theatre of Scotland. The only danger is she might have exhausted a) her hunger capacity and b) her initiating drive.  

I bumped into outgoing Court artistic director Dominic Cooke at a party on Saturday night, and he's obviously pleased about the nomination as his successor. Had he had any direct involvement in the selection process? "No, but of course I have put my oar in where I could."

The party was a big birthday bash for casting agent Emma Style in a splendid white-painted Soho studio where actors are sent to audition for movies, television roles and advertising appearances. Emma's guests included many of her colleagues in the casting game, most of whom I know by sight if not name if only because agents are assiduous first-nighters second only to critics.
The unexpected balminess of the evening, after a lovely spring-like day, meant that some of us spilled out onto the pavement, where I found 82-year-old former theatre owner Laurie Marsh and a vibrantly attractive woman he described as his "baby" wife.

Laurie's given up West End theatre going, much preferring the fringe these days, in between managing his large property portfolio and raising money for his local hospital. Any tips, he wanted to know?

I mentioned Charles Dyer's Mother Adam, starring Linda Marlowe and Jasper Britton, at the Jermyn Street Theatre, which I saw on Friday night. The play's about a middle-aged man still bound to his ageing mother, a not uncommon predicament, but written in language of unusual baroque wit and style, and very well played. (It also comes with a fabulous programme note by Paul Taylor.)

"Right, we're going," said the "baby" wife. Once the reviews filter through, I reckon Jermyn Street will have another hit on its hands.


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