Alice Jones' Arts Diary: In the race to beat the Games, the Royal Court falls at the first hurdle


For most of Theatreland, it's business as usual as the Olympics kick off. Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi has gone dark for the duration, but the majority of stages, used to a summer slump, have not noticed the dreaded Games effect.

“It's not had as much impact as we thought,” a spokesman at the Donmar tells me. Did the lure of Danny Boyle's extravaganza cause carnage at the box office last night, as feared? No. The National Theatre had two shows on and both were “chock-a-block”, I'm told. Why, then, did the Royal Court cancel Birthday? The theatre withdrew its prime Friday evening performance of the play, starring Stephen Mangan, in deference to the stadium shenanigans. “Just told we're not doing a show next Friday 'cos of the Olympics Opening Ceremony,” tweeted Mangan last week. “Night off!” Those who had bought tickets have had them reallocated (the run has been extended by a week). “Sales weren't fantastic and once we took into account the likely problems on the Tube, we thought it would be better to cancel,” my box-office mole says. Whatever happened to the show must go on?

A great pretender – or merely a cheap imitation?

He's often called the comedian's comedian, now Stewart Lee has inspired his very own tribute act – called Stuart Leigh. The character is the creation of the comedy writer Mark Kelly, whose monologue about the man who thinks of himself as “The World's No 1 Stewart Lee Tribute Act”, is set in a 24-hour garage.

Kelly, 57, who is a friend of Lee's, started out on the Mersey Beat scene in the 1960s and then performed in the alternative double act Cheap & Nasty.

His latest work is about “identity and existential crisis”, he told the blogger John Fleming. Lee has been invited to see the show, “but he said he was worried, if he came, that people might be looking at him to see his reaction, rather than looking at the piece.”

Like Lee, an always controversial stand-up, Leigh has drawn mixed reactions. “There are a handful of people who think it's absolutely brilliant. And there are a handful of people who absolutely hate it. I mean really, really dislike it.”

A new artist takes credit for London's newest skyscraper

Who designed the Shard? Renzo Piano? Wrong. It was Iain Sinclair. Or that's what he thinks. Twenty years ago, the writer and psychogeographer was working on a graphic novel set on the River Thames. When he dug his original sketches out recently, to be reprinted in the collection It's Dark in London, Sinclair found an illustration of Southwark, with a shadowy, towering pyramid on the site of The Shard. Its caption, he says, read: “This is a zone of electromagnetic privilege. These buildings generate a paranoia. That is their only purpose.” “I thought that was pretty much on the money,” he adds.

Too old, Woody? Don't get all neurotic about it

Many think Woody Allen's films went downhill when he stopped starring in them. So why doesn't he go back to being the lead? Too old, he says; no-one would believe it if he was romancing some girl 35 years his junior. “You can imagine how frustrating it is when I do these movies with Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Watts and the other guys get them and I am the director,” he grumbled to The Talks website. “I am that old guy over there. I don't like that. I like to be the one that sits opposite them in the restaurant, looks in their eyes and lies to them.” Old charmer.

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