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Tommo Puts Record Straight, Court Sells Out

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West End publicist Peter Thompson rang me from his hospital bed yesterday to confirm that rumours of his impending retirement have been greatly exaggerated and that his office was remaining open for business after all.

Which is very good news, especially for those of us who enjoy a little piquancy and pepper in our dealings with the spokesmen for theatrical managements. The other great thing about Peter, of course, is that he's seen it all, knows everyone, and understands how newspapers and most other media work.

He's had a tough time over the past few months, but has been much buoyed by remaining in constant contact with producers such as Cameron Mackintosh, Michael White, David Pugh and Thelma Holt, and was visited the other morning by Rupert Everett, soon to repeat his engagingly saturnine performance as Professor Higgins in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre.

Those other rumours of Angela Lansbury playing Rupert's mother -- nice idea -- were scotched, apparently, when Lansbury said she'd like to act at the Haymarket, if anywhere, and the nice idea promptly evaporated. Still, Diana Rigg should be able to pass muster as Rupert's mum after a few visits to make-up.

The troops are rallying for this afternoon's Royal Court panel discussion about Ken Campbell, and the theatre is virtually sold out. There are just a few seats left in the balcony, although two dozen of the 63 seats up there are restricted view, I'm intrigued to realise.

Jim Broadbent is coming up from Lincolnshuire, John Sessions is flying in from a film set and Richard Eyre is breaking from Betty Blue Eyes rehearsals to join me on the stage to discuss the old bugger and the portrait I paint of him in my book, Ken Campbell: The Great Caper.

Daisy Campbell, Ken's daughter, will be on the stage, too, and we're hoping that Nina Conti, who's just had a second baby and is flying with her show to Australia first thing tomorrow morning, can make it along, too.  Some extra seats have been added in the stalls, so the capacity has risen to 389.

I visited one of my favourite theatres, the Northampton Royal, two nights ago, to see Terence Rattigan's In Praise of Love, and found myself seated in the middle of a row. Luckily, the back few rows of the stalls were empty, so I could re-seat myself before the curtain went up.

When you're a travelling critic you have all sorts of baggage -- computer, books, papers, sandwiches, oxygen mask -- and you need the space to spread, at the very least, on the end of a row. Amazing how theatres and Press officers never cotton on to this fact, especially out of town.

I rushed out afterwards to find my taxi, booked for 10.15pm to the station. Ten minutes, no taxi. It was almost 10.30pm  and the last train back to London was twenty minutes away. I rang the taxi firm. "Ah, yes, Mr Daventry...we have you down for 10.15 tomorrow morning; do you want to change that?"

"Er, yes please, immediately if you don't mind. I've no overwhelming objection to spending the night in Northampton, but I've forgotten my pyjamas and tooth brush and I'm not sure if there are any spare rooms in the Travelodge.....get a bloody move on!" (Or words to that effect.)

No such hiccups on a visit to Salisbury yesterday for the matinee performance of Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance, in the lively translation Neil Bartlett made for his touring company Gloria (and the National Theatre) in the early 1990s. End row seat. Charming, locally born and on-the-ball PR, Katey Philbrick. Really welcoming theatre.

Earlier this week I went for a long run from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness (and back; well, it's only a few weeks to the Stratford-upon-Avon half marathon) and that was a gorgeous day; yesterday was even better, and there are worse places to be when the sun shines than in Salisbury.

I had time to divert from station to theatre along the canal and through the pleasant parkland that surrounds the cathedral close, then down to the market place and into Waterstone's -- where I found Michael Billington, no less, buying a travel guide to St Petersburg.

"Pourquoi, knight?" I enquired. Because he's off there next week to participate in an international critics' prize ceremony for the great German director Peter Stein (and subsidiary salute to our own Katie Mitchell) along with Ian Shuttleworth, Jane Edwardes, Kate Bassett ands Jeremy Kingston. Having snared his guide, we adjourned to a nearby cafe for a bowl of soup.

The matinee went off without any undue hitch, though there was an interesting selection of sound loop and deaf aid noises emanating from the cluster of wrinklies behind me. The train back to Waterloo was fast, clean and on time: home for dinner on a weekday -- now, there's a turn up for the book. And now I'm bracing myself for the turn out for my book. Hope to see you there! (And Nina Conti's just messaged to say she's definitely coming.)


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