CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
4 ANOTHER big name can be added to the list of People Who Come Out Of The Stephen Fry Affair With Little Credit. It already in- cluded Simon Gray (concerned father-figure turned vindictive burbler) and Michael Coveney (the one critic who dipped his pen in vitriol). Now there is Duncan Weldon, the producer of the show Fry deserted.

Weldon ought to be a sympathetic character: Cell Mates closes this week with losses of some £300,000, and it is he who has to stump up if the insurers don't. But he forfeited that sympathy by pinning the blame squarely on Fry, and even threatening legal action. Doubt-less Fry's flight was unhelpful. But there was, by all accounts, much else wrong with the show. And Weldon is the producer. The buck stops with him. He is being both disingenuous and pusillanimous to suggest otherwise.

Weldon's speciality is getting famous names into the West End; some of them, like Fry, short of stage experience. He can hardly be surprised to find that the policy can backfire. If Weldon does sue, Fry will have little to fear. He has the powerful combination of a doctor's note and a deep pocket. He also has the affection of the public, and would have even more of it if he were pursued through the courts.

The day after Weldon's outburst, there was an article by the Times's medical columnist Dr Thomas Stuttaford, who argued that Fry was suffering from cyclothymia, or exaggerated mood swings. This was a surprising piece of medical ethics - making a diagnosis from a distance and in public - but a convincing piece of journalism. It may even have persuaded Fry, scanning the paper through his dark glasses in a continental caf, that we commentators are not a total waste of paper.

4 ONE final point, for the record. People keep saying that Fry appeared in only three performances of Cell Mates, or four if they remember the matine. This is because they think a play only exists if it takes place in the West End. In fact Fry did 15 performances in Guildford and 16 in Richmond, plus two previews at the Albery, making if not a grand total then a far less paltry one of 37.

4 THE Financial Times has long been adept at advertising itself. It combines a neat, durable slogan with some arresting posters - two athletes, in grainy black-and-white, exchange a baton, in pink, which turns out to be a rolled-up FT. So it was a shock to open Esquire, Tatler and Harpers & Queen and find the FT promoting itself with gratuitous nudity. Out of a copy of Weekend FT looms the profile of a young woman, naked as far as the eye can see, which is down to a breast. Head thrown back, one hand running through her damp mane, she has either just washed her hair, or just had excellent sex. She would not have been out of place in an ad for Badedas in 1975. She clearly has nothing to do with the Weekend FT - a respectable organ, covering property, cars, wine, etc, for people who have plenty of all of them. No FT, no shame?

Jack Hughes

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