Arts and Entertainment

Gary Barlow has expressed his bewilderment after another of his acts was axed from The X Factor last night.

Show People: Discovered once again: Alan Cumming

ALAN CUMMING is just finishing a run at the Donmar Warehouse in the English Touring Company's chamber Hamlet. In many eyes, his was indisputably the greatest Dane since . . . since the last one. Comparisons are odious, but this was a compelling performance full of chirpy zest, butterfly wit and spindly gymnasticism. A waif in black cycling shorts, Cumming's was a 'yoof' Hamlet that sacrificed nothing in intelligence - lovable but not luvvie. Something like the man, in fact. One entertains the thought that Cumming might pick up his third Olivier nomination for best comic performance. 'That would be very amusing,' he says.

THEATRE / California screamin'

AT THE Almeida a great set (by Julian McGowan) meets the eye: three pale, asymmetrical panels surmounted by a dead sun and imprinted with a collage of mutating cars. It could be a scorched negative or an involuntary post-nuclear mural: the mangled image of a civilisation stamped on its own ruins at the moment of extinction, and now illuminated by tacky pink strip- lighting. The location is California, but the effect is as if someone had set up a girlie-bar on the ashes of Pompeii.

THEATRE / The story of a crazy mixed up kid: Paul Taylor reviews English Touring Theatre's Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse

But I have that within which passes show,' claims Hamlet, and the best Hamlets manage, through one of the paradoxes of acting, to show that this is true - no matter how outre or frenetic they make the character's antic disposition. Mark Rylance, the outstanding Hamlet of our times, kept veering into behaviour that was ostentatiously barking, yet convinced you that his pyjama-clad lunacies were somehow seamlessly consistent with an injured spirituality. Alan Cumming, who assumes the role now in Stephen Unwin's English Touring Theatre production, is a dazzling performer who excels in showy, limelight-hogging parts like his madman with the calculated identity crisis in Accidental Death of an Anarchist or Valere, the self-infatuated playwright who gambolled about David Hirson's La Bete, making your average Restoration fop look like a tongue-tied shrinking violet.

THEATRE / N B: Alan Cumming, actor

ALAN CUMMING, actor

TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Life is the name of the game . . .

Rik Mayall used to be a standard- bearer for alternative comedy, challenging the complacent comic establishment of panto, time-share endorsements and double-glazing ads. On The Young Ones, he appeared in a send-up of pro-celebrity golf. In a neat inversion, he now plays MICKY LOVE (9pm ITV), an old-fashioned, middle-aged gameshow host keen on golf whose primetime slot is threatened by a young 'raw, out-there, happening, in-your-face' comedian (Alan Cumming). In the first of Granada's trilogy Rik Mayall Presents, Love foresees a terrifying vista of afternoons presenting celebrity noughts and crosses and gardening quizzes. Peter Morgan's smart script picks up on the minutiae of life in the media. A drama producer in the executive dining-room complains in passing: 'Morse, Morse, Morse, that's all I ever hear. Can you make it more like Morse?' In period clips, Love is seen swigging Jack Daniels with a dolly bird on each arm and urging the Sex Pistols to say something outrageous. He talks to his wife in gameshow host catch- phrases. The only quibble might be the similarity between Love's network and Network.
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