The Diary: When stars collide in old New York

I AM IN New York for a couple of weeks, picked up like a scrap of paper and blown here by the great wind which is called The Blue Room. We open to the press on 13 December, and then we can all enjoy Christmas. A couple of American critics had dared to hope that Kidmania was a purely British phenomenon, kindly attributing it to our notorious sexual infantilism. But, thank God, it turns out the infection is transatlantic. There are big crush barriers and police horses skewed across the pavements outside the Cort Theatre. On an average night, 300 or 400 people who have no interest in the show wait patiently for a glimpse either of a film star going into the theatre, or of an actor coming out. When they make a sighting, they tremble, like dogs at a hunt.

The hysteria passes me by. Five times a day I am asked if I feel hurt by having written something which is supposedly being buried under all this brouhaha. I usually make some facile reply. It was sex which stopped some British playgoers noticing the themes of the evening. Here, it may be fame. Just how much can you be enjoying a play when you are hanging over the balcony to see whether Tom Hanks is enjoying it too?

But, mercifully, as soon as I slip into my seat at the first preview, my old conviction returns that the Broadway audience is one of the most discriminating in the world. Moving a play from a studio into a 1,000- seat theatre is, for me, a wonderful discipline. The proscenium arch confronts you shockingly with your own shortcomings. As soon as the audience realise they are not going to see a sassy kind of sex revue, they settle into that profound and serious silence which prevails when intelligent people try to absorb something they are not expecting.

If anything, the Americans seem more shocked than the British were, particularly by Schnitzler's underlying idea that we all use our romantic feelings as instruments of manipulation. Because of the extremes of their avant- garde and the violence of their film industry, you sometimes forget that Americans are culturally more conservative than we are. In his TV series American Visions Robert Hughes contends that the centre of resistance to modernism was not in Europe, but in the US. Picasso was nowhere more strongly attacked than in New York. But American caution is also evidence of American seriousness. They take art at face value, as if it means what it says. And, best of all, they really listen.

Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen shine, as usual. Everyone remarks how modern their acting is. It is a strange thing about theatre history that every few years an actor comes along who makes the rhetorical conventions of the day look silly. Presently, it's Nicole. But mixed up in my flush of pleasure is the odd bracing moment of professional disgrace. Some lines of dialogue, fine at the easygoing Donmar Warehouse, now feel slack. Next day, I'm happy as Larry, re-writing.

I'M STAYING at the Algonquin, the famous writers' hotel which they claim has been renovated by the Japanese for some implausible sum like $20m. It looks exactly the same as when they used to lose my messages almost 20 years ago. Yesterday I ran into a couple of British journalists who are here for a convocation of international right-wing bores. Apparently, the dispossessed meet all over the world to lament their functional impotence. What is the collective noun? A "rage" of ex-world leaders? They are headed, naturally, by Henry Kissinger, and our own state-subsidised Margaret Thatcher. It is amusing to think of these discredited politicians permanently circling the earth, like metal junk abandoned in space.

Last week, in the unseasonable warmth of Manhattan, I walked down the street proud to be British. By chance, before the Law Lords even delivered their judgement on Pinochet, I had given Wallace Shawn, my closest friend here, an ennobling lecture, insisting that these men were no longer the reactionary old codgers of legend, but people of exceptional acumen and sagacity. I did it with my heart in my mouth, in the way you do when you tell foreigners that British architecture or cooking are now so much better than they used to be. It was all the more moving to witness the clear- headedness with which America cheered the exhilarating judgement to the roof. By contrast, every time Thatcher opened her mouth to defend mass murderers, she looked stupider and more out of touch. Has any reputation ever plummeted at the speed of Thatcher's?

OCCASIONALLY I get an hour or two off to watch the American cinema go the same way. The season's most jaw-dropping spectacle is Meet Joe Black, a sort of follow-up to the already moronic City of Angels. This time it's Death who revisits the earth and falls horribly in love with Anthony Hopkins's daughter. They keep telling us that, as the millennium approaches, we are all thinking about transcendence. But in the movies at least, it's the Transcendants who seem to be queuing up to come back. Hopkins plays the most outrageous fiction: a benign media mogul. Not even a great film actor can kick this three-hour, $90m clinker into life. The direction proceeds at a pace that makes early Antonioni look like MTV. The scene where the leading lady has to take Death's shirt off as a sensual prelude to yielding him her body - did I mention that Death takes the form of Brad Pitt? - seems to last longer than childbirth.

Significantly, the best film in town is a hand-held Danish cracker called The Celebration. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes. It's an hilarious account of a bourgeois family reunion for the father's 60th birthday. Director Thomas Vinterberg's frantic cameraman pushes his exposures to levels the emulsion can barely tolerate. It reminds you of Fassbinder who decided years ago that cinema can only be revitalised when we agree to dump all its corrupted conventions and just start again, from the ground up.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Sam Allardyce
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?