The Diary: Henry Perkins; Sam Mendes; Cristian Solimeno; Hassan Blasim

Bolshoi Billy Elliot breaks the records

Henry Perkins, the 18-year-old ballet prodigy from Hampshire who won a prized place at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, and who has given his life to ballet over the past three years at the academy there, appears to be beating the Russians in their own game. He is not just fluent in Russian, but, earlier in the this summer he was awarded the highest mark among the boys in his group for Russian national dance! The Russian training style has changed his physique for the better, according to his mother, Sue Perkins, especially the strength and appearance of his legs. He has been given a soloist's role by the dance school in Yuri Grigorovich's new 'La Fille Mal Gardée', which will be premiered on the Bolshoi stage in November, and was taken to New York to demonstrate pas de deux on the academy's 2009 summer intensive for American students. Henry will make history next June (2010) when he will be the first ever British ballet dancer to graduate from this prestigious Russian ballet school, contrary to the report in 'The Independent' on Tuesday 25 August, which mistakenly said that no teenager has so far stayed beyond the first year of the Bolshoi Academy's gruelling training regime. It seems like this prodigiously talented British 'Bolshoi boy' is proving us all wrong.

The road to Athens

Sam Mendes has proved that his love of theatre perfectly equals his love of cricket. He travelled to the ancient Epidaurus amphitheatre outside Athens over a weekend in mid-August to see the final two performances of 'The Winter's Tale', part of the Bridge Project (a transatlantic company directed by Mendes) and, after the final show on Saturday night, caught a flight back to London in time to go to that other amphitheatre – the Oval – and watch England regain the Ashes. Nearly 18,000 people travelled to Epidaurus along with Mendes, whose play sold an unprecedented number of tickets over three weeks, resulting in the Saturday performance sell-out of all 9,200 seats – the first time in living memory for a non-Greek production.

Football shorts?

Cristian Solimeno, the actor who played "bad boy" Jason Turner in 'Footballer's Wives', has turned his talents to directing. His short film is to be screened at the Circuito Off Venice International Short Film Festival (part of Venice Film Festival, at San Servolo, a ten-minute waterbus ride from the Lido). Far from footie froth, his 14-minute drama raises serious questions about the ethics of euthanasia and it starts with a husband attempting to end his wife's life. Actors making movies appears to be the in-thing at Venice; the model-turned-actress Anna Mouglalis also has a film, 'Les Filles', in the erotica section, which also showcases a short from the 'Broken English' director, Zoe Cassavetes.

Dark times, dark comedy

The Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim, whose books are so inflammatory that some have not been printed in Arabic, is bringing his latest work of short stories, 'The Madman of Freedom Square', to the Manchester Literature Festival this autumn. This latest, highly contentious fiction will feature hostage video makers in Baghdad, human trafficking in the forests of Serbia and paranoia during the Saddam years. It has been described as an "unflinching comedy of the macabre" by his publishers.

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