Arts and Entertainment

A definitive compendium on the revered institution that is the National Theatre

BOOK REVIEW / Dexter, not sinister: 'The Honourable Beast: A Posthumous Autobiography' - John Dexter: Nick Hern Books, 25 pounds

THE LAST TIME I saw John Dexter was at Colin Blakely's memorial service in Covent Garden. Eyes blazing and jaw tightly set, he homed in on me in the doorway of the church.

How We Met: Harriet Walter and Patsy Rodenburg

Patsy Rodenburg trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, spent nine years at the RSC, and has been Head of Voice at the National Theatre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since October 1990. She has written two books on voice and speech. Harriet Walter trained at LAMDA, is a member of the RSC, and won a the 1988 Laurence Olivier Award in 1988. She has recently accepted a position as an artistic director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and is currently appearing as Lady Croom in Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia' at the National Theatre.

Snooker: Taylor cut out to be the marathon man: Griffiths ground down in Crucible

ON the basis that if you do something long enough you will eventually become good at it, the Dennis Taylor versus Terry Griffiths match in the Embassy World Championship took on a grisly fascination. No one had anticipated a quick contest when they were paired together in the second round; few had expected it would drag on to nearly 2am yesterday.

Cashing in on the Golden Age of Filth

'YOU KNOW about her, don't you?'

Celebrity chest burster to kill for

IN THESE times of moral panic and negative equity, I like to roam the streets in search of a grotesque chest burster. At noon on Thursday I tracked one down in Chelsea, at Bonhams the auctioneers. The burster, lot 174, was the thing that sprang from John Hurt's stomach in Alien and went on to wreak madness through two sequels. It was being offered without arms, at an estimate of pounds 150- pounds 250. Naturally, I was interested.

Jim White on Friday: A man with 300 magnificent obsessions: When lucky MGs get very old, they do not go to heaven; they go to Peter Ratcliffe's workshop, an altogether better place

DR PETER RATCLIFFE picked up an ancient wooden car dash- board, pock-marked with worm holes, and surveyed it lovingly. 'This is history in your hands,' he said. 'Just think, it was fashioned by somebody listening on the radio to news about Hitler invading Czechoslovakia.

QUIZ / There are more questions than answers: Nick Lezard watches members of the RSC take on the National in their annual contest of theatrical knowledge

On the set of Carousel at the National's Lyttelton Theatre, two teams of actors are preparing to fight over a crutch. Not just any old crutch, mind. This is Antony Sher's black crutch from his production of Richard III - a big draw in contemporary theatrical iconography, the ultimate prop-up prop.

BOOK REVIEWS / Paperbacks, Non-fiction

Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession by Greil Marcus, Penguin pounds 9.99. Since Elvis's death at the age of 42, Presleymania has taken on all the trappings of a religion. Following the King- cult through the American psyche, Marcus's book is a gallery of bizarre posthumous phenomena, images, sightings - and, above all, merchandising.

Lord Olivier of Paddington: By day it's a west London coffee shop; by night it's tablecloths off for Iranian fringe theatre, courtesy of Iraj Emami, cafe owner, producer, actor extraordinaire

IT IS NOT what you expect of a coffee shop in Paddington, west London. By day, the La Strada looks much like any other cafe; a couple of students spending an hour over a shared espresso, a man in a pinstripe suit loudly conducting business over a portable phone. But for the last three weeks, if you had dropped in during the evening, you would have thought you had been teleported to downtown Tehran.

BOOK REVIEW / What Larry was like as a dad: My father Laurence Olivier - Tarquin Olivier: Headline, pounds 16.99

THIS is a curiosity: a Life by a son who barely saw his father but who adored him from afar and treasured every scrap of conversation, every fragment of correspondence. The prevailing note is almost unbearable pathos.

Obituary: Reginald Beck

Reginald Beck, film editor, born St Petersburg Russia 1902, died 12 July 1992.

Garrick chaps stand by to repel women: Zoe Heller infiltrates a bastion of male exclusiveness in its most divided hour

'FEELINGS are running very high about this. I heard a chap in the corridor the other day, shouting at the top of his voice about it. 'It's an outrage,' he was saying. 'The club will be ruined. It has to be stopped.' I . . .'
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game