City File: Punt on pipes

WHEN a company announces a near-pounds 20m loss on turnover of pounds 100m and the shares barely blink, the market is clearly anticipating a speedy recovery.

TELEVISION / BRIEFING: The mood of the nation

BBC2's offers a profile of the man the BBC corporate puffs are touting as the funniest man on television, RICHARD WILSON - A LIFE BEYOND THE GRAVE (8pm BBC2). His story is now familiar: after a brief career as a lab technician and many years as a respected actor and director, the 56-year-old Scottish son of a factory timekeeper achieved 'overnight' stardom as the pathologically cantankerous Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave. Acres of text have been filled with speculation about how Victor's dissatisfied demeanour captures the mood of the nation; the tabloids have even been running competitions to find the 'Victor Meldrew of your area'.

Brown & Tawse restructuring to cut losses

BROWN & TAWSE, the steel and pipes distributor, is to undergo a radical restructuring in an attempt to stem losses, writes John Murray.

What's Gone Wrong? Interview: Victor, a hero for our time: Richard Wilson: Old misery-guts in the record-breaking sitcom 'One Foot in the Grave' has become the voice of a bewildered society, says Geraldine Bedell

RICHARD WILSON said we could meet either at Le Caprice or The Ivy, ignoring the possibility of other, perhaps humbler, restaurants. When he turned up at The Ivy and I broke it to him that we couldn't take photographs inside, he said 'Quite right, too]', and meekly submitted to being dragged out into the street for 20 minutes.

TELEVISION / A funny situation: Mark Lawson has been watching sitcoms and laughing. Has he gone mad? Or has he been watching One Foot in the Grave, Chef] and The Brittas Empire?

ON Monday, watching government ministers attempting once again to explain that the economy and the pound were essentially in good health, I felt an unusual twinge of sympathy. For I was about to attempt what is, on the surface, an even less plausible piece of evangelism. Abhorrence of the British television situation comedy - or the suggestion that a piece of work in one of the loftier artistic disciplines, like a play or a novel, is of sit-com level - has long been one of the handiest critical brickbats. But my mission today is to suggest that we are currently blessed with a run of unusually intelligent and original sit-coms.

TELEVISION / Home on the rage: James Rampton on Maxwell's missing money, music from the movies, and an angry old man

Not since Basil Fawlty gave his broken-down car a damn good thrashing with a branch has anger been so funny. Victor Meldrew, the central character in One Foot in the Grave (BBC1, Sunday) embodies the sort of rage that makes you think God created the world just to spite you.

THEATRE / New spin for Priestley's old copper: An Inspector Calls - Lyttelton; Gamblers - Tricyle; June Moon - Hampstead; Women Laughing - Royal Court Theatre Upstairs; The Thebans - Barbican

THE STAGE directions of J B Priestley's An Inspector Calls specify that the curtain should rise on the dining-room of a comfortable suburban house. In Stephen Daldry's new production in the Lyttelton the curtain rises on another curtain. A 1940s schoolboy climbs out of a trapdoor and peers under this thick red curtain, which rises to reveal a miniature house marooned in a cobbled wasteland. A dinner party takes place within this house while the less fortunate scurry in the rain outside. If you can't hear every word of this dinner party, you still know what they're saying: just as you know what Daldry is saying.

THEATRE / Women Laughing - Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court London SW1

When a play starts with two middle-class couples meeting for an amicable Sunday lunch in the garden, you anticipate that trouble is not far away. Nothing prepares you, however, for the rapid unravelling of social niceties in Michael Wall's excellent black comedy, Women Laughing (here deservedly revived after its stage premiere at the Manchester Royal Exchange earlier this year). We begin in Ayckbourn territory, as Colin-and-Steph and Tony-and-Maddy demonstrate the most ghastly version of suburban domesticity. While Steph (Maggie O'Neill) and Maddy (Matilda Ziegler) giggle in the kitchen, Colin (Christopher Fulford) and Tony (John Michie) circle each other, swapping office pressure stories and engaging in barbed small talk (written with great relish). But once the reason for the women's laughter is disclosed, the men find themselves united against a common enemy and the play plunges suddenly into much darker territory, culminating in a horrific disclosure from the gentle Tony.
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