More drama for Prezza as theatre group moves in

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The Independent Online

Going by the revelations of recent months, one might assume that staff in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister need little assistance to spice up their interpersonal relations.

The department - described by civil servants as a "pantomime horse" - was used by John Prescott to conduct an affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple.

Interesting, then, to note that a theatre company was drafted in to offer Prescott's personnel role-play workshops tackling bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Before you start imagining Whitehall officials standing in a circle waving their arms, pretending to be trees to get in touch with their inner chi, this is a serious business: 10 per cent of ODPM staff complained of being bullied last year.

AKT Productions, a respected theatre company that has worked for British Airways, BT and the Home Office, turned up to give "behaviour training". "It is widely agreed that in some situations role play and the use of actors makes the training effective," a Government spokesman explains.

I understand that Mr Prescott, left, did not attend the acting workshops, nor did staff use the cowboy outfit he was gifted by the billionaire casino bidder Philip Anschutz as a prop.

"Of course it is vital to make sure that people are comfortable in the workplace," comments Tory MP Eric Pickles, shadow minister for local government. "But you would have thought that they've had enough drama down there this year."

Fatty on the menu for slimline Depp

News of Johnny Depp's latest project comes not from Pandora's Hollywood pool party correspondent, but through the surprising conduit of BBC Radio London DJ Jono Coleman.

The presenter let slip to listeners that Depp has bought the rights to make a film about Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the subject of Hollywood's first sex scandal.

Arbuckle, a star of the silent screen, was tried for the horrific rape and murder of starlet Virginia Rappe in 1921. Although acquitted, his career never recovered.

"Johnny recommended I read I, Fatty, Arbuckle's fictional memoirs by Jerry Stahl," reports Coleman from his whale-watching holiday in South Africa. "He told me he had bought the rights and I got the feeling he'd like to play the title role.

"But he hasn't got the figure," adds the stocky DJ. "It is more likely to be me or Johnny Vegas."

Lee rattled by Cage remake

Christopher Lee is the latest British cinematic legend to deride the state of our sagging film industry.

"It is in self-destruct mode at the moment," the 84-year-old villain of Bond, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings tells me, at the book launch of Cowboys for Christ.

"There is so much unemployment. I reckon 80-85 per cent of British actors would say yes to any part."

Nor did Lee have many kind words for Nicolas Cage's forthcoming Hollywood remake of the cult 70s pagan flick The Wicker Man - in which the octogenarian originally starred.

"Desperate," he mutters. "I would not embark on this when it was so successful the first time."

Holiday hell

As politicians pack their buckets and spades to embark on a 10-week holiday (sorry, "recess") from Parliament, there is one travel offer even the most freebie-hungry among their ranks have spurned.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union - usually a splendid provider of travel jollies for MPs and peers - still seeks a Labour member to fill a plane seat for a six-day trip to ... North Korea!

A message seeking volunteers, willing or otherwise, was sent to MPs last week to fill the vacancy before September's grand departure.

"The Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, doesn't have the pull of his late father, The Great Leader," explains one disinterested recipient.

Thank you for not bending

Ever since Uri Geller's unfortunate spoon-bending frenzy at a bar mitzvah five years ago, when the banqueting manager at Claridges demanded payment for 30 pieces of ruined cutlery, the "paranormalist" has been eyed nervously by party hosts.

So it proved at the recent garden party of Princess Michael of Kent. There Geller was, wandering towards the royal kitchens with a bit of innocent tampering in mind, when he spotted movement in the topiary shadows. "Princess Michael had appointed a minder to make sure I didn't bend any of the good silver," he explains on his website. "She really hasn't forgiven me for my last visit. I had to make do with a stainless steel ladle."

An over-friendly rapprochement was definitely off the cards, he adds. "The last time I flung an arm around her, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees and the Princess hissed: 'No Touching!'"

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