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Guy opens a New Chapter

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That wonderful but only fairly well known actor Guy Henry is about to become a national institution: he follows Barbara Windsor and Roberta Taylor into soap stardom this week by joing Holby City as the new joint director of surgery.

Or should that be new surgical director of joints? At his fiftieth birthday party in the Cafe Koha just by Leicester Square on Saturday night, I asked him why his character was called Henrik Hanssen.

"I did such a stiff audition, they probably felt I should have a foreign name," he joked, ever self-deprecating.

Anyway, the first instalment of a programme that should probably be re-titled "Guy's Hospital" goes out tomorrow night, and the dark and dashing actor has signed a one-year contract to make a bit of money and help pay for his ten year-old son's school fees.

Not that he's a total stranger to screens small or large. He was the creepily subversive Corporal-Major Ludovic in the fine television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour, and he was notably amusing in Stephen Fry's movie Bright Young Things

He has sustained a close friendship with Fry, Britain's favourite and most Wildean wag (just edging that dubious distinction from Gyles Brandreth and Simon Cowell), and the two of them greeted party-goers at the downstairs portals of the Koha like giant sentinels at the gates of paradise.

Fry greeted me warmly, which was  a pleasant surprise after the things we've said about each other in print -- all stemming from my lousy review of his appearance in Simon Gray's Cellmates, after which he fled the show and took the ferry to Bruges, a severe case of over-reacting to critical sniper fire.

With so many millions of tweeting followers, Fry has probably gone through the wall of worrying about whom he communicates with anymore; everyone knows almost everything about him. The man's lost his mystery.

You have to hand it to him, though: he really is the life and soul, and Fry sizzled for hours on end as Guy's roster of best chums  -- including Harriet Walter, Abigail McKern, Owen Teale, Sylvestra La Touzel, Ron Cook, Robert Portal and Hugh Bonneville -- snapped and crackled in the cosy Koha basement.

Harriet Walter wanted to know about Kim Cattrall's Cleopatra and was suprised to learn that she did so well in the last act after a jerky start: "I rather thought it would have been the other way round."

She is the most stimulating and provocative company, Harriet, stories and opinions gushing forth in a torrent of beautifully phrased and expressed sentences. She even makes the old lament of no good parts for women of a certain age sound newly pressing and urgent.

I thought of this watching the Sunday matinee of T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. at the Barbican, a brilliant and fascinating stage version of Pasolini's Teorema, with great roles for the women, and a treatment of the tale of seduction in a Milanese businessman's household that continues into an apocalyptic vision of inexpressible theatrical beauty and psychic desolation once the Christ-like stranger has departed.

This was my second exposure within ten days to the best of European movie adaptation, following a trip to Antwerp to see Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Antonioni Project, a similarly sensual and jaw-droppingly theatrical synthesis of the Monica Vitti trilogy -- L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse.

This is work on a whole different level to that of any British company bar Complicite, and it's rippling with fantastic new roles for actresses of all ages. Harriet is a genuine European -- twenty years ago she appeared in Louis Malle's Milou in May -- so perhaps she'll seek out new challenges in Warsaw or Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, Guy is learning the ropes of medical admin and man management, prowling the wards and no doubt setting a few million more hearts a -flutter. From a certain angle he does look a bit like a young-ish Dirk Bogarde, and that peerless actor did, after all, make his name in Doctor in the House.



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