Pandora: 'Oliver' children are not living on gruel

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The Independent Online

Cameron Mackintosh has hit back at claims that some of the actors in his production of Oliver! are being treated unfairly.

The renowned producer came in for criticism last week when it was revealed that children cast in the Theatre Royal production were being paid as little as £20 per night – even though box-office sales have broken all records.

Naturally some suggested that, since the youngsters are such a large part of the show, they should be entitled to a larger portion of its profits.

But, says Mackintosh, right, that isn't the way theatreland works: "The children in Oliver are actually being paid, which they aren't in a lot of other shows," he explains. "I'm not going to talk about other people's shows, but the fact is it cost a fortune to have children. They're the most expensive element of the show, because you have chaperones, and parents are coming, and travelling and you have to put them up in hotels." Also up for defence was Jodie Prenger, who was chosen as Nancy after winning the BBC's I'll Do Anything competition. Kevin Spacey took a memorable pop at such casting methods last year when he described them as "a 13-week promotion".

But Mackintosh was having none of it: "Nancy is about the girl for the people, many of the best have come from the street," he says. "She is being reviewed as part of the show."

Readying Kate's frock for Oscars

With Kate Winslet odds-on to pick up best actress at the Oscars, designers will be falling over themselves to dress her for the event. But it seems the honour may already have gone to an old friend of the star: London-based designer Ben de Lisi. He's the talented chap who provided Winslet with her memorable 2002 gown – a red asymmetric number – and sounds ready for a repeat performance. "If Kate gets a nomination I have the sketches ready," he told Pandora. "It would be very understated, very clean, quite chic. I always emphasise her gorgeous curves."

Princess Bea on the big screen

Princess Beatrice makes her big-screen debut alongside Emily Blunt in the upcoming flick The Young Victoria. The carrot-topped royal appears in the first few minutes of the film, hovering in the crowd at the formidable monarch's coronation. Early reports suggest Bea may be best sticking with her day job (a student at Goldsmiths in London). "She seemed rather self-conscious," says my mole. "Like someone who knows they're on camera and can't stop smiling."

*Interesting to hear of Harry and Chelsy's break up over the weekend. When I called on Thursday, Clarence House were adamant the couple were as happy as ever. Things must have gone down hill rapidly!

Tom says no to film with Mick

Tom Stoppard has finally put paid to rumours that he will be working with Mick Jagger on a film adaptation of his acclaimed play, Rock 'n' Roll.

The pair are old friends, and it had been reported that the unusual collaboration was to go ahead after Jagger's production team, Jagged Films, expressed an interest in the idea.

But, pressed on the matter during a recent party, Stoppard insisted that the claims couldn't be further from the truth.

It's a shame, since the play's final scene is set at a Rolling Stones concert – which would have provided Mick with a delightful cameo.

Peaches and tea for free

Good news for those seeking an entrée into the elusive world of hipster journalism: Disappear Here – the new magazine from Peaches Geldof – is accepting applications from candidates seeking work experience.

Those concerned that they may be older that the glossy rag's famous editor-at-large needn't worry; you'll soon be cut down to size by your paycheck. The position of DH's official tea-maker is, I'm reliably informed, unpaid.