After all, it's not often that the manager of a world-famous pianist approaches you before his client's sold-out concert, to give you a written assurance that said client is "not a performing monkey". But sure enough, before the Royal Festival Hall recital by David Helfgott of Shine fame, Mr Prichard Levy gave journalists a printed statement to "rebut the implication that audiences are now paying to watch a 'performing monkey' or 'freak show' and nothing more".
There had been a "hiccup" at Helfgott's concert in Boston, the manager explained to those of us who were until that moment blissfully unaware of the Boston concert, hiccups and all. "Helfgott's medication interacted abnormally with jet lag," he said, "and the effects of an abrupt climate shift from the height of a scorching Australian summer to the depths of a New England winter..." Say no more, I'm just sorry I missed what sounds like a concert memory to treasure.
Despite his manager's protesting too much, Helfgott's own enthusiasm remains gloriously, perhaps even sadistically, undimmed. One of the promoters told me, with a weary tone to his voice, that if the audience reception is good, as it usually is, Helfgott gets so carried away that he replays the entire concert backstage afterwards.
The teeth grind for two reasons at information sent out by BBC2 about the third series of Room 101 - "in which Nick Hancock invites a celebrity guest to proffer his or her pet hates". First of all, Room 101 in Orwell's 1984 was not the home of your pet hate but of your greatest fear. More pertinently, the list of "celebrities" includes Jeremy Clarkson (television presenter), Ulrika Jonsson (television presenter), Chris Tarrant (radio presenter) and, as a variation on the theme, Terry Wogan (television and radio presenter). The BBC's redefinition of celebrity to mean fellow broadcasters, most of whom have coffee in the same canteen as the show's presenter, is my choice for Room 101, be it the room for pet hates, greatest fears or just plain boredom.
On Monday, the Royal Shakespeare Company will launch its new season. So I took the opportunity to ask RSC artistic director Adrian Noble if it might by any remote chance contain Othello, a once highly regarded piece by William Shakespeare, though now decidedly out of fashion. The RSC has not performed it for eight years.
Unsurprisingly, it will not feature in the company's new season, though Noble did say he thought "the time might be near" when the RSC could put it on again.
The RSC has run scared of staging the play because it has not had a black actor it deemed suitable for the role, and it will not countenance the supposed political incorrectness of a white actor blacking up.
That Noble says the time is near when this can once again happen - and he was referring to a white actor playing the part - demonstrates a significant shift in thinking.
Curiously, the sensitivities over blacking up never extended from the theatre to the opera house. Placido Domingo provokes no complaints when he puts on make-up to sing Verdi's Otello. In the meantime, in what I suspect is a misplaced fear of a backlash over a 400-year-old theatrical convention, we continue with the absurd anomaly of the RSC failing to stage one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies.
I'm told that Noble, who is dying to direct Othello for the first time, tried to woo film star Morgan Freeman over to play the part, but convincing Hollywood agents that playing the same part for two years for little money was good for the soul proved an uphill struggle.Reuse content