The Diary: The Soho Theatre; Marilyn Monroe; Julie Walters; Salman Rushdie

Out on the cringe

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The Independent Culture

Tired of shouting "he's behind you!"? Fed up with booing Abanazar? The Soho Theatre has a twisted take on the traditional pantomime which may appeal.

This year's festive show is Audience, which caused tears, controversy and walk-outs at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Supremely uncomfortable to watch, the hour-long play makes heavy demands on its audience, turning cameras on them as members of the cast rifle through their handbags, voice their inner monologues and encourage them to dance to sexually violent gangsta rap. In one excruciating scene, a girl is subjected to a leering volley of personal insults and asked to spread her legs. Following uproar in Edinburgh, the Belgian company Ontroerend Goed agreed to use a plant instead. Or did they? The show probes what audiences are willing to sit back and watch in the name of entertainment so perhaps they were there all along. The company is known for its bracing brand of participatory theatre, having previously blindfolded audiences, stuck them in wheelchairs and tickled them (in The Smile Off Your Face) or encouraged them to open their hearts on a speed date with cast members (for Internal). The new face of theatre? Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! etc.

Blonde ambition

Is that the sound of Oscar nominations I hear? My Week with Marilyn has taken the King's Speech approach to winning over juries, and audiences. It's another tale of a quirky unsung hero (for speech therapist, read third assistant director) who changes the life of their glamorous employer (for King George VI, read Marilyn Monroe), performed by a Bafta-bothering cast of Brit-ish actors, orbiting one Hollywood star (for Colin Firth, read Michelle Williams). It even sounds like King's, thanks to its score, partly written by Alexandre Desplat (alongside Conrad Pope) and performed by Lang Lang. Desplat's themes for The King's Speech and The Queen were Oscar-nominated. If it ain't broke...

A Burkey in the hand and two at the Bush

Much to savour in Close-Up Magic: 40 Years at the Bush Theatre, a new book by Neil Burkey featuring reminiscences from actors, playwrights and directors who started their careers at the tiny West London theatre. Among them was Julie Walters (above left), who first met a little-known writer/actress called Victoria Wood when they both appeared in a series of playlets, In at the Death, in 1973. One day, the terrible twosome spotted Harold Pinter standing at the bus-stop and yelled out of the theatre's window, asking him to write a play for them. He turned his back frostily but the japes didn't stop there. "A week or so into the run we thought it a hoot to write 'H. Pinter, 2 seats' on the booking list," recalls Walters. "And laughed our heads off backstage as we watched a very nervous cast crank their performances up a notch or two to impress the eminent playwright, who never of course, turned up."

The art of fiction

From a potato-faced Queen Elizabeth II to cartoon chimps, George Condo's canvasses are rich in associations. So rich that one of them, The Psychoanalytic Puppeteer Losing His Mind, inspired a chapter of Salman Rushdie's 2001 novel Fury. Condo discovered the link when the pair were introduced by the literary agent Andrew Wylie. "I was at Andrew's and Rushdie was having a ping-pong match with Larry Clark. Salman (above centre) was saying, 'I love your paintings'," Condo told The Huffington Post. "Salman said to me 'Oh take a look at my book and read the chapter where I changed the typeset. It's all about that painting.' How cool is that." Now the Hayward is inviting the public to submit 300-word stories based on the works in its Condo show by 18 December. The artist will choose the winner, who will be rewarded with a set of Condo playing cards, a signed catalogue and, of course, the artist's respect.

Ode to Odessa

The Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin is one of the most celebrated and imitated in cinema. Tomorrow afternoon, members of the public can take part in yet another re-enactment of the scene, this time on the Duke of York steps next to the ICA. Artists Jane and Louise Wilson (above right) will film events on their iPhones, and Norman Rosenthal and Lucian Freud's muse Sue Tilley are expected to make cameo appearances as part of a fundraiser for the gallery. As such, participants will have to pay £5 for the privilege of being extras.

a.jones@independent.co.uk

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