The Diary: Radio 4's The Rattigan Versions; Julia Donaldson; Venice Biennale; South Korea's Gwangju Design Biennale; Young Masters Initiative

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The Independent Culture

Rattigan revelations

Intriguing insights on Radio 4's The Rattigan Versions, Mark Lawson's programme about the playwright. In one episode of the five-part series, which began this week, the director Thea Sharrock discusses how the National Theatre's artistic director Nicholas Hytner turned down her multiple-award-winning production of After the Dance on her first offer. "When he took over he did an interview and a journalist brought up After the Dance as a suggestion, 'Will you be doing plays like...' and he said, 'No, I don't think that's the kind of playwright or indeed play that the National Theatre should be doing'", she recalls. "And then he came back and said, 'You know I've read at it again, I think you should do that one'. It came so close to not happening... I was passionate about it, that was the thing that Nick was most interested in." Meanwhile, Lawson asks Rattigan's agent, Michael Imison, about a missing gay version of The Deep Blue Sea. According to the programme's producer, India Rakusen, many contributors said they "didn't think he would have written this alleged version as he wrote wonderfully for women and was too commercially minded". Imison backed this up. "No, I don't think it ever existed," he said. "I've never seen it and I saw most of the Rattigan manuscripts".

Young at heart

The new children's laureate, Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, might not believe in "prescriptive" reading lists ("Recommendations can be useful for children but often they recommend what books to read to each other," she says), but she certainly believes in her favourite children's books. These include, she tells me, Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, Watership Down and Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series. She is also a fan of the Harry Potter books. Well, nobody's perfect.

The incredible journey

To get to the Venice Biennale, many had to brave the packed lines and disproportionately high fares of Ryanair (thanks to penalties of £150 to insert one's first name on to a boarding card). But the travails of flying with Ireland's favourite low-cost airline can't match the lengths taken to transport the contents of the New Zealand pavilion to its base at the Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore, a late Gothic Victorian Palace on the Grand Canal. In the gardens, artist Michael Parekowhai is currently exhibiting an intricately carved red Steinway concert grand piano and two concert grand pianos fabricated in bronze, each of which supports two cast bronze bulls. The two bronze pianos travelled by sea, I'm told, from New Zealand across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal and then on to Italy. It took them nearly two months to travel "around 13,566" miles. Impressive – and they didn't have to pay extra to check in their hand luggage.

Shock and awe

To east London and the launch of South Korea's Gwangju Design Biennale, co-directed by Ai Weiwei and the architect H-Sang Seung. Food designers Blanch & Shock prepared an "experimental banquet" for the event forcing the country's leading critics, curators, architects and designers to feed pork to each other using sticks, inject bread rolls using plastic syringes and drink wine through lengths of tubing. H-Sang Seung proposed a moving toast to the absent Mr Ai, still detained in China, by "welcoming him to the table". Further to that, apologies again to anyone inadvertently sprayed with olive oil.

Into the lion's den

Completing a sculpture of the wife of the most powerful man in contemporary art is akin to venturing into "the lion's den", according to the Eton-educated sculptor Sam Wigan. Wigan, who is overseeing the Young Masters Initiative, a scheme at London's Saatchi Gallery, which uses sculpture to empower young people, was invited into Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi's home in 2009 in order to fashion a bust of the domestic goddess. So what was she like? "Nigella is a strikingly beautiful woman," says Wigan. "One of the things that most strikes you is her gaze: it's a bit like being stared at by a big cat. If you have ever been looked in the eyes by a lion you will know what I mean. It is not predatory, rather it says 'you have my full attention'. I wanted to capture this alongside the warmth, beauty and intelligence".

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