Arts and Entertainment

Raised in rural County Clare and educated in a convent, Edna O'Brien fled to swinging London to become a novelist. Her frank, autobiographical debut, The Country Girls (1960), caused outrage back in Ireland, but O'Brien considered it a necessary step in her “daring emancipation”.

Leading Article: The battle for Free Britain

A victory for freedom! (And after a week of tongue-lashing from the Minister without Portfolio, we needed one.) Second World War fighter pilots and other veterans, who once daily risked death in pursuit of it, have chalked up another triumph under the leadership, now as then, of Major John Howard. He was the hero of the attempt to seize Pegasus Bridge during the D-Day invasion (younger readers can search out a video of the Hollywood film based on this glorious episode in British military history - The Longest Day). Word had come from local council officials that eggs not cooked to at least 75C (hard therefore) should not be served at the veterans' Surrey retirement home. The lily-livered administrators of the home caved in. But not the veterans. Major Howard, holder of the DSO and Croix de Guerre avec Palme, is now 88 and would "under no circumstances" (his words) eat hard-boiled eggs. Well, maybe in salad or fish pie, he added to one newspaper. The council ruling threatened not only the preferred soft-boiled eggs served at breakfast: afternoon tea would also have been out, lamented the Major, with mousse, meringues and pavlovas also verboten. (Goodness, they eat well in this camp.)

Now arriving at gate ...

Elizabeth Taylor once starred in a film about Heathrow VIPs' lounge. The casting was perfect, for her dramatic arrivals and departures, husbands in tow, belong to the movie of her own life.

Gone for a Burton

Guy Masterson knows that he could never emulate uncle Richard, at least not without a bucket on his head. But with nothing more than a bale of hay he can evoke the vibrancy of 'Animal Farm' on stage. By James Rampton

Obituary: Ronald Fraser

The pompous, blustering tones of Ronald Fraser brought to television and films for 40 years an actor invariably cast as an upper-class gent, not of the David Niven variety, but often prone to seediness and self- deprecation.

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.

Marriage is a managed retreat from ideas of pure independence and self-expression

"The casting was ready made," said one critic. "Verdi's perfect couple," read the headline over another paper's notice. The work under discussion was the Royal Opera House's La Traviata, a production which offered feature writers and reviewers an extra frisson besides Verdi's musical climaxes, because Angela Gheorghiu, who sang the role of Violetta, and Roberto Alagna, who took the part of Alfredo, her callow young lover, are married in real life. For several writers this clearly conferred on the performances an extra stamp of authenticity. "He sings radiantly," wrote one critic of Alagna, "finding, understandably enough, a natural bond with Gheorghiu as they express their mutual devotion." Well, you often find what you look for in art, so it's possible that a sentimental glow coloured his vision, a more intellectual version of the involuntary coo old ladies give when they pass a wedding (though it's only fair to point out that his judgement was shared by others). It's also possible that he doesn't actually know what it is like to be married, opera reviewing not being a famously uxorious profession.

A life at the fillums

'I am a Brian de Palma title: Obsession,'r cent of the population aged seven and over went to the movies at least once last year. In this centenary year of the cinema, we celebrate the joys of cinemagoing

Controversy is a trick of the trade

This week it's `Crash', last month it was `Kids', before that it was `Reservoir Dogs'. Cinema seems to be driving further and further off-limits. But, as John Lyttle argues, those who rush to the defence of Western morality are going precisely where the industry wants them

Liz Taylor files for eighth divorce

TIM CORNWELL

Third Division clubs beware: the circus is coming to town

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 125 Mansfield Town

Face to Face returns

TV Review

When Brigham Young met Richard Burton

FIRST ENCOUNTERS SOREL AND SOREL

Ireland send distress call to Elwood

David Hughes talks to a Lansdowne hero whose return will be relished

BOOK REVIEW / Decolonisation and the Swan manoeuvre: The Revised Kama Sutra - Richard Crasta: Fourth Estate, pounds 12.99

A WARNING: The Revised Kama Sutra has no pictures, no miniatures of Indian couples enjoying the Swan manoeuvre or the really impossible one in which the woman spins on her lover's member like a runaway tyre bouncing along the motorway. In fact, there is little actual sex in Richard Crasta's novel, but an enormous amount of sexual frustration. Sometimes it's even funny.

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