Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture
A STRANGE notice was conspicuous in the foyer of the Palace Theatre, Watford for the premiere of Simon Gray's new play, The Late Middle Classes, on Wednesday. It said: "Because of the delicate atmosphere of this play, the director has suggested that the sale of confectionery being consumed during the performance may cause distraction to the audience." The meaning is left hanging in the air; a hint of menace is implied. The director referred to can be only one person: Harold Pinter.

This week, Pinter has rendered the theatre great service. At his instruction no sweets are being allowed into the auditorium for the run of the production. (Indeed, he hasn't stopped there. Latecomers are being politely but firmly shown up to the gallery until the interval.) But has Pinter, I wonder, set a difficult precedent here? Is confectionery to be banned only in plays with "a delicate atmosphere"? Where it is not banned, should we assume that the play does not have a delicate atmosphere? Perhaps Harold Pinter could help by listing which plays now being performed he believes contain a delicate atmosphere, and which do not.

Meanwhile, all our thanks to Harold for making the premiere of that excellent play almost noise-free. Now, if he could just do something about Watford's whooping cough epidemic...

IN LOOKING at examples of artspeak I have been remiss not to include anything from those measured, temperate, rational beings - the heads of the major record companies. Making amends in spades is Mark Collen, the managing director of EMI Chrysalis, describing the forthcoming single by the ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

Collen, who must surely soon be lured from EMI Chrysalis by Mills & Boon, said of the song: "It comes somewhere between Shirley Bassey, Serge Gainsbourg and images of Tony Curtis driving around the south of France in an open- top Mercedes sports car with Raquel Welch and her scarf blowing in the wind." But can you hum it, Mark?

THE START of the horseracing flat season this week is not normally thought of as having any relation to the arts calendar. But there is an aesthetic dimension to it, according to the new edition of Timeform, the bible of the racing world.

Its researches point out that several horses named after Old Masters have won top races, including Velasquez, Gainsborough, Boucher, Botticelli and Giacometti. But horses named after composers have fared appallingly, with only Monteverdi and, ironically enough, Salieri rising above their peers in the past 20 years.

There's a book in that somewhere; or certainly a bookmaker.