Arts and Entertainment From left to right: Felicity Denham (last seen by Covers shivering in the freezing cold press tent at the Hay Literary Festival), Becky Short, Daniel Freeman, Tory Lyne-Pirkis (who knows the rules of polo and makes a freakishly good Queen), Steven Williams (CEO), Fiona Marsh and Tony Mulliken (chairman, aka the Prince of Wales)

What's really going on in the world of books


The actress Geraldine James, 47, began her career with five years in repertory theatre and went on to take many leading roles in the West End, but she reached her biggest audiences on TV, in series such as 'Blott on the Landscape' and 'The Jewel in the Crown'. She is married to the actor Jo Blatchley, and lives in Sussex and London with their daughter. James has just finished working on a new TV drama, 'Seesaw', with David Suchet, 52. Suchet, an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has made numerous stage, screen and TV appearances, but he is probably best known for his portrayal of Hercule Poirot. He and his wife Sheila Ferris live with their two children in north London


Skywalking stars

The Belgian who lost the limelight

It was a bitter-sweet day for David Suchet yesterday, when he won a prestigious best-actor award, but revealed that his much-loved characterisation of Hercule Poirot had been given the chop.

The books you listen to

Soul food for Christmas. Godly and ungodly alike will enjoy David Suchet's calm, inspirational reading of The Gospel According to St Luke (Penguin, 3hrs, pounds 8.99). Unabridged from the King James version, itself meant, of course, to be read aloud, it has more familiar quotes per minute than Hamlet.

A government divorced from reality

The sound of a herd of moralisers bellowing family values through the Palace of Westminster continues, day after day. When it reached a climax during the debate on the new divorce law the Government promised to Do Something. Last week, finally, it Did. But after all that hurrumphing and trumpeting, it was a pathetic Something, because in the end, locking people into marriage is not something governments can do.

Theatre: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Almeida, London

One would rather be, ooh, back in the middle of Finals than be a guest at Beverley's gruesome little "do" in Abigail's Party. But one would rather be in intensive care than go anywhere near George and Martha's after-hours drinking session in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. At this sozzled, Strindbergian bitch-fest, it's venom on the rocks and guts out on the table. The obligatory games include Get the Guest, Hump the Hostess and playing puzzled pawn in a marital war conducted as vindictive vaudeville. Emigration would be preferable to participation, but, as Howard Davies's wonderful Almeida revival confirms, to be a fly on the wall at this event is one of the most exhilarating and cathartic experiences the post-war theatre has to offer.


Stereotypes are a terrible burden for the traveller, and no country seems to generate more preconceptions than Belgium. Its chief industries, it seems, are beer, chocolate and bureaucrats, and the most notable natives are fictitious - Hercule Poirot and Tintin. Were Brussels a thousand miles further from Paris and Amsterdam, it might attract more tourists. But the city has the most unfortunate location in Europe, making it an apparent thorn caught between two roses. As a result, many people overlook the considerable charms of the capital.

The labours of Hercule

David Suchet, sans moustache, talks sleuthing with James Rampton

restaurants: Three's a crowd

Dining in the smallest restaurant in Great Gonerby; Harry's Place is not the egg 'n' chips caff it may sound, but a well-rehearsed and choreographed operation

Dyke confirmed as chairman of Pearson TV

Greg Dyke was confirmed as chairman and chief executive of Pearson Television last night.

ARTS / The afterlife of a critic

A NAME TO DROP MORE than any other modern critic, with the possible exception of Pauline Kael, who wrote about film for the New Yorker, Kenneth Tynan gets quoted by other critics. A computer search in the Independent on Sunday library revealed that his name has cropped up in national newspapers 11 times this month alone. This is partly because James Kelman won the Booker prize with a novel full of profanities and, as everyone knows, Tynan was the first person to say f--- on television. But Tynan is frequently quoted on all sorts of non- profane matters too.

THEATRE / Stand-up clowns have Field day

ROB WILTON, the only old- time comedian I ever met, was clear on the subject of theatrical immortality. 'My stuff,' he said, 'wouldn't be worth tuppence to anyone else.' He was speaking for his fellow clowns as well. When they go, they take it with them: which has not deterred surviving fans from hauling them back for a posthumous giggle. Last week, Frank Randle in Get off My Foot] at the Nottingham Playhouse. This week, Sid Field, in the person of David Suchet in William Humble's What a Performance.

THEATRE / Replaying the field: What A Performance, The Queen's Theatre

There seems to be a lively trade in exhuming dead English comics at the moment. In the same week that Nottingham Playhouse has unveiled Get Off My Foot], a homage of sorts to the northern comedian Frank Randle (1901-57), the West End sees the premiere of What a Performance, a recreation of the life, times and humour of Sid Field (1904-50), the Birmingham- born comic who found himself an overnight smash after some 26 years of touring provincial venues and whose period as an acclaimed genius in London and the US was cut short by stress-and-drink-related heart disease.

Show People: Buttoned-up no longer: David Suchet

THERE is an hour to go until curtain-up, and the star of the show has sweaty palms. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. Except that this is not the West End, it's the relatively modest Richmond Theatre in Surrey, and the star in question is David Suchet, one of the most accomplished, experienced, and, above all, best-prepared actors in the business.

THEATRE / Previews & First Nights

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