CRIES & WHISPERS : ARTS

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The Independent Culture
IT'S A rare event that attracts Norma Major, Zandra Rhodes and Iris Murdoch on a January night, but there they all were at the English Speaking Union in Mayfair celebrating 44 years of The Archers, the world's oldest soap. After a hiccup in which he strayed into Tennyson country and welcomed us to Locks-ley Hall, Michael Green, controller of Radio 4, redeemed himself by showing such arcane knowledge of Ambridge life as to be a genuine addict (though even he couldn't tell us whether or not Robert Snell was daring to be unfaithful to his formidable Lynda). Tower-ing benignly over the rest of the cast, the lady herself was being coy. You don't have to sign the Official Secrets Act to be in the show, but relocation would be the least punishment for revealing the plot, all written months in advance. All she could say - with feeling - was that Robert was a very, very, very nice man.

TO THE King's Head, for another rare pleasure: a popular-music performance by a popular-music critic. When Robert Cushman writes about Cole Porter and co, for us or BBC Radio, his words sing. And so, it turns out, does he. Very well. He sings Porter the way you expect Porter himself to on those oddly disappointing archive recordings: timbre fine, timing finer. The showmanship could do with some work: Cushman's stage presence may be made for radio. But a great time was had by all 25 of us who were there.

THE BBC's trailer department keeps calling the OJ Simpson case "the trial of the century". I know OJ's a big name, but I still think the title belongs, narrowly, to Nuremberg.

REGULAR readers may recall Tring Records being mentioned in dispatches for its RPO Collection - classics by one of our premier orchestras, at the appetising price of £3.99. Last week the North Finchley branch of Our Price was selling them at £4.99 - a gob-smacking 25 per cent over the RRP. An Our Price person said this was a mistake that would be put right immediately. But the Notting Hill branch reckoned Their Price was £2.99. A clear case of Don't charge full price if you can help it.

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