The Diary: Jolly jihadi japes; Russell Brand; Rachel Getting Married; C4's new little chef

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The Independent Culture

Jolly jihadi japes!

A sell-out hit in Edinburgh, 'Boys of the Empire' – a comedy about five boarding-school chums who get embroiled in a holy war – is coming to the King's Head Theatre in London in time for Christmas. Glenn Chandler, better known as the creator of the dour telly detective Taggart, was inspired to write his satirical play – tagline, "Jihad is coming... after Latin" – after reading 'The Great War for Civilisation' by Robert Fisk of 'The Independent'. "It fascinated me to learn about the lessons we never seem to learn from history. Robert's book made me want to bring the same message across, in a light-hearted way," Chandler says. A ripping yarn, it features five boys whose fathers are involved in suppressing the insurgency during the British occupation of Iraq after the First World War. "Then a Turkish terrorist arrives to blow up the school and kidnap one of the boys. So the pupils of St Ethelred's start fighting the beastly foreigners. Of course, nearly 100 years on, nobody's learnt anything."

Don't try this Brand routine at home

You'd think that Russell Brand might be keeping his magnificently coiffed head down at the moment. Not so; the comedian is hunting for his "funniest fan" via a competition on his 'Ponderland' website. How might these fans show their humour chops? By imitating Brand's own hilarious routines, of course. But before you go running to your telephones to make obscene calls to your friend's grandfather, Brand has thoughtfully posted some clips from 'Ponderland' he'd like you to copy and upload on to his YouTube channel. And the winner gets... a personal message from Russell Brand! What's second prize? A personal message from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross?

How to wreck the happy couple's day

If the thought of public speaking brings you out in a cold sweat, and you avoid being part of a wedding party like the plague, you might take comfort from 'Rachel Getting Married' (released on 23 January). The film, written by Sidney Lumet's daughter Jenny, contains possibly the most excruciating wedding speech of all time. Kym is released from rehab just in time for her sister's nuptials and chooses the rehearsal dinner to make a toe-curling, lengthy paean not to the happy couple, but to her own progress on the 12-step programme. Anne Hathaway (left) turns in a magnificently unsympathetic performance as Kym, who, having muscled her way into the chief bridesmaid role, goes missing and turns up for the ceremony, late, with a black eye. And that's just the half of it. Is that the buzz of Oscar nominations I hear?

C4's new little chef

Heads may be rolling at its Horseferry Road HQ, but Channel 4 put on a recession-busting spread at its winter launch at the swanky new members club Paramount on the 31st floor of Centrepoint. Highlights include a Yorkshire Ripper drama and the further adventures of Geraldine, Peter Kay's mock talent-show winner. And Heston Blumenthal will join Jamie, Gordon and Hugh in the C4 kitchen. It seems the chef's quest to bring haute cuisine to motorway travellers hit congestion: "I'm not sure people are ready for snail porridge in Little Chef," he's told in one clip. "They weren't really ready for muesli."