Diary

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The Independent Online
I'm starting this diary with trepidation, knowing that at some stage I'm going to have to fax it in. The Evening Standard's little mix- up - where they were so desperate to believe Bryan Gould had joined the attack on cult idol Tony Blur that they took the opening sentence "I was three and a half during the Winter of Discontent" to be a mere stylistic device - shows again the potential for chaos that lurks behind communication by machines; the innate capriciousness of the inanimate object, indeed. These mistakes can happen: working on a series at the BBC five years ago we became concerned at the non-appearance of a promised script, until we discovered it had been faxed to the Ealing branch of Tie Rack. It reminds me of the judge who left a vital document at his country cottage and felt unable to continue the trial without it. "Fax it up, m'lud," offered the clerk helpfully. "Yes," replied the judge, "it does rather, doesn't it?"

I'm not entirely sure what Michael Barrymore is up to, but I do know that it is the very outrageousness of his behaviour that makes him such a good entertainer. He takes risks; cannot see a red light without wanting to go through it. His VE Day routine, where he complained that Vera Lynn was trouble backstage and had got into a big strop about the musical arrangement for "White Cliffs of Dover" (I'm doing it in G, OK?) was breathtakingly funny, given the context. He may well be confused; but he can't help joking about it, flirting with it, driving his tank over the thin ice. The press are being driven mad (Is he gay? Isn't he?), but they must also be extremely grateful that he's given them such a lot to write about.

The news that hundreds of churchgoers may need long-term psychotherapy after falling victim to a personality cult in Sheffield worries me. At the centre of the controversy is an event called the Nine O'Clock Service, where a priest regularly exercised huge personal power over hundreds of impressionable young parishioners, using innovative techniques with banks of video screens and light and sound technologies to spread the Good News.

This sounds suspiciously like another service, held an hour later and called News at Ten. Think about it: the television screens; the personality cult; the emotional manipulation; the power over women; it all points to Trevor McDonald. This quasi-mystical figure has attracted millions to share in a bizarre nightly ceremony involving a Smile, a Sympathetic Sigh and The Main Points Again.

As thousands of weeping viewers are led into long-term therapy (is there such a thing as short-term therapy?) don't forget: you read it here first. For Trevor and Ever, Amen.

As more England fingers crumble, Ray Illingworth may be interested to know that my injury has healed sufficiently for me to play cricket again, making me available as a last-minute selection for the Oval. Alas, I'm afraid I'll just have to stick to charity games, at Scarborough today and Kew on Monday. I often feel the proper cricketers are at a disadvantage at these pro-celebrity games. People Off the Telly love to go back and boast that they got Robin Smith out, but it can't be much fun it you're Robin Smith and you get the one good ball bowled by Harry Corbett and Sooty all season, or you have to live with a scorebook entry that reads R Smith caught Bob Holness bowler Fat Git from EastEnders.

This week I got a fair measure of my present standing when my friend Bill rang to say Christopher Biggins couldn't make it and could I stand in and host a charity evening at his restaurant. When you're asked to deputise for Christopher Biggins you make two phone calls; one to your agent, the other to the Samaritans.

As it was, it turned out to be quite a jolly affair, with the cast of various West End musicals, including Miss Saigon, taking part. Miss Saigon, a musical set in the Vietnam war, is apparently so authentic that five of the original cast are still missing. Life must have been hard for some theatres this summer, when the main quality that people were looking for in a production was good air-conditioning.

I'm always amazed theatres don't cut down to a skeleton staff, with shows like Two Guys Named Moe and One Gentleman of Verona - not to mention shortening productions, so that the second act of Phantom of the Opera is reduced from 50 minutes to "Who was that Masked Man?"

Unperturbed by that bad review from the Scotsman's Harris Tweed correspondent, I'm back off to Edinburgh this weekend, where a combination of recidivism and enthusiasm encourages thousands of performers to return every year, eager to perform and be spotted - especially this weekend, when the television executives are in town trawling fringe venues like a Japanese whaling fleet looking for new talent. I moved from Edinburgh nearly 20 years ago, partly because a lot of the good people of Morningside have dogs named Rory and it became impossible to walk the streets of an evening without being called, whistled at or generally bothered. I miss it.

Living in Edinburgh made our house a prime source of props, and I remember a student production of Simon Gray's Otherwise Engaged where my mother nearly ran on to the stage to wrench back one of her cushions which was being systematically plucked by an actress in full emotional flow, and our cleaning lady interrupted a dramatic silence by proudly - and indeed loudly - whispering to her neighbour: "That's my sherry bottle on the sideboard."

Performers should remember the old adage: if at first you don't succeed, try playing the Assembly Rooms.

Rory Bremner's diary will return in the autumn.

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