Arts and Entertainment

Julian Fellowes, DVD

Arts: Tom and Peter meet their match

'Oh God, what a great idea!' In 30 years, only one play has aroused Tom Stoppard's envy: Peter Shaffer's 'Black Comedy'. Now it's being paired with 'The Real Inspector Hound'. The playwrights talk it over

Choice: Opera

Il Trittico, The Coliseum, London WC2 (0171-632 8300) 7pm

Choice: Comedy: Think No Evil of Us - My Life With Kenneth Williams

Think No Evil of Us - My Life With Kenneth Williams, Vaudeville Theatre, London WC2 (0171-836 9987)

The Critics: A different voice

Bring warm clothing, the leaflet said. Looking at the musty brick outside the Wilton Theatre - which hasn't seen a live performance since the 1880s - it might have said, bring a hard hat. Inside, we sat in pews. This was halfway between the recherche and the reverential. Once Fiona Shaw (above) entered, she blasted away misgivings with 37 minutes of sheer vitality and intelligence. Dressed casually, and with only two chairs, a few bare bulbs and a follow-spot that threw up startling shadows (lighting by Jean Kalman), Shaw gave a riveting reading of TS Eliots's The Waste Land - a poem which now seems to have as many familiar lines as Hamlet. There was a sepulchral aptness in performing it late-afternoon in a music hall near the Thames. Naturally dramatic, Eliot's working title was "He Do the Police in Different Voices": directed by Deborah Warner, Shaw fleetingly conjured them up. A lock of dark hair bounced across her forehead, her Irish lilt found a rhyme between "room" and "gramophone", and a touch of Maggie Smith peeked through. In the Stygian gloom, Eliot's voices crowded round like hauntingly immediate ghosts. Terrific.

Bennett goes straight to tape

THE playwright Alan Bennett, the cherished family favourite who brought the plaintive voice of Eeyore to your car stereo, may one day also be remembered as the pioneer of a new art form.

Buyer snaps up whole village

A buyer has bought an whole village in a move that has angered locals. The unidentified person is believed to have paid pounds 1m for Upton Cheyney, a hamlet of 12 cottages set in a 160-acre estate near Bath.

MAYBE SHE CAN ACT, AFTER ALL

A decade of playing costume-drama ingenues against a backdrop of exquisite Tuscan landscapes turned Helena Bonham Carter into a cinematic cliche. But should we now be taking her more seriously?

The prime of prizewinner Muriel Spark

David Lister

Get a life, Harriet

The media love to put Harriet Walter into a box marked melancholy. OK, she's a workaholic and loves nothing more than to take on serious roles, but in reality she's anything but po-faced, as David Benedict discovers

Theatre Curtain Calls: Talking Heads

Last weeks for a double-bill of Alan Bennett monologues, with Margaret Tyzack and Maggie Smith, who reprises her TV role in "A Bed Among the Lentils", a tragicomic performance described by our very own Paul Taylor as "brilliant beyond belief".

THEATRE Shakespeare For My Father Theatre Royal, Haymarket

They fuck you up, your mum and dad - or, rather, some mums, some dads do some children that service. For, as Alan Bennett has commented, if you want to be an artist, and your parents don't fuck you up, then they fuck you up good and proper. So, while Lynn Redgrave's one-woman show, Shakespeare For My Father , puts on public display the psychic wounds caused by being the least favoured child of the great actor, Sir Michael Redgrave, it is also - quite rightly - a celebration of him and an acknowledgement that it was a privilege to have been even that close.

Well, hell... nobody's perfect

'Who are you calling a female impersonator? I'm a gay man in a frock!' Paul Taylor meets Bette Bourne, drag queen, as he prepares to reprise his signature role, the castrato-diva star of Gloria's 'Sarrasine'

The housewife heroine

With two productions on the go and more to come, Hedda Gabler is the woman to watch. But why? Here, David Benedict assesses Heddas past while, below, the current stars talk us through the female Hamlet

Frankie goes to Pinewood

That voice, that face, that sitcom. As she takes centre stage in Dennis Potter's 'Cold Lazarus', Frances de la Tour explains why recognition has been so long in coming. And why she's not bitter.
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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'