Despite all the outward signs of a polished performance of Harold Pinter's 1978 play, Betrayal, which opened last night at the BAC theatre in Battersea, tongues wagged venomously backstage over the terms issued by Pinter's agent, Judy Daish, that all critics, other than one from a London magazine, be banned from the three-week run.

Given Pinter's prolific output as well as his unique reputation - he is the only post-war playwright whose surname has formed a new adjective in English - the decision is viewed by some theatre buffs as quite astounding. 'Initially Ms Daish actually wanted to ban the whole London production,' explains the BAC's artistic director, Paul Blackman. 'It was only when producer Graham Cowley (manager of the Royal Court) talked to Harold himself that it was allowed go on at all.'

However, I understand Ms Daish is concerned that if too much attention is paid to the Battersea production it might prevent proposals for a West End production of the play in the next two years - an argument the BAC team finds hard to swallow since the maximum seating capacity of their studio is only 52.

Ultimately it seems unlikely that Ms Daish's plans will go unimpeded; some performances are free and rumour has it there will be one or two among those audiences quietly taking notes.

The Queen is to be the subject of a controversial petition from the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, requesting the return of the bullet that killed Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, which she keeps in a locket at Windsor Castle and is said to be particularly fond of.

Nelson buffs at the NMR, however, argue that the bullet should be reunited with the Admiral's jacket for a commemorative Nelson exhibition next year. His uniform, which they possess, has a small, round hole in the shoulder where the bullet, fired by a French sniper, sank in. 'It just seems appropriate for the bullet and uniform to be exhibited together,' says a maritime spokesperson, 'especially since the bullet has a small piece of jacket attached.'

Buckingham Palace is refusing to be ruffled on the matter, however. 'I've no idea if she'll lend it,' says a spokeswoman, clearly impressed by her regal environs. 'We'll wait until she's asked.'

A new Soho club is to open above Cafe Boheme in Old Compton Street, rivalling nearby haunts, the Groucho Club and the somewhat less salubrious Blacks - where one must be thankful for the dimly lit environs disguising the quite inedible food. 'The House,' as the new joint is to be called, is a more congenial place - a tastefully renovated Georgian building - but not stuffy for all that. Founding members are being invited to a 'hard hat' party where the cocktails will be mixed in a cement mixer. Indeed the prospect has caused a considerable stir at Westminster, although some MPs are said to be confused by the establishment's name. .they think it is a new division-bell dining club.

Startling allegations of Tory collaboration with the BNP in the ward of Newham South have been sent to the Prime Minister, Sir Norman Fowler and Angela Rumbold by Newham Monitoring Project, a community group set up to aid victims of racial attack.

Last month NMP complained to Central Office that Tory candidates were using the slogan 'Conservatives Against Labour's Unfair Ethnic Policies' which they saw as a direct bid to compete with BNP for votes. Now they say they have photographic evidence of negotiations for collaboration in future elections by Tory and BNP candidates, overheard at last week's local election count. Tory Central Office is remaining stumm as it considers what to do. . . .over to you Sir Norman.

A touching moment at Monday's opening of Fedora at the Royal Opera House, starring Jose Carreras. His rival tenor, Placido Domingo, was backstage rehearsing for last night's Carmen when he realised the time. Not wishing to steal his friend's thunder, he quietly departed out of the back door.

(Photographs omitted)

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