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Indy Lifestyle Online
David Mamet, the maestro of sex, violence and bad language on stage, is shocking London all over again by appearing to have gone soft. Ignoring the old adage 'never work with children or animals', he's put a 12-year-old at the centre of his most recent play, The Cryptogram, which opens tonight.

There are eminent precedents. Shakespeare relied entirely on pre-pubescent boys to play his heroines, and the major plays of Ben Jonson, Chapman, Middleton and their contemporaries were first performed by the fted chorister boys of St Paul's, and their sometime rivals, the children of the Chapel Royal.

But up until now the contemporary London stage has shied away from putting the under-15s on stage unless it is unavoidable. Debra Gillet is currently to be seen in tweed knickerbockers playing the spirit of Elgar's childhood in Elgar's Rondo at the Pit, Robin Lindsay Wilson's Peripheral Violence at the Cockpit used young-looking adults to convey its child's eye view of murder, while Dennis Potter's much revived Blue Remembered Hills was only ever intended for adults playing children.

Hollywood, however, has not been slow to realise the box-office potential of the cutely precocious little blue-eyed boy/girl, and being a Hollywood brat is a big-bucks business. Even a film about the life and teachings of the Buddha has to have a little blond American kid in it. And now we have Mamet bringing something of that ethos to London. The lucky boys whose careers are being launched are 11-year-old Danny Worters and 13-year-old Richard Claxton. They represent Mamet's recently discovered child within.

Some child that must be.

The Cryptogram, Ambassadors, WC2 (071-836 1171)

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