Arts and Entertainment

Without question, the book that has most influenced my life has been Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs. I was astonished by the outrageous pot-head humour: crazy ideas taken way beyond their normal limits. The book was a savage indictment of American racism and consumerism, it dealt with the corruption, graft and lies of politicians with Swiftian humour. I had never read anything like, then or since.

Poppy Folly: Your stars - It could happen

People misconstrue the Aries sector. The aggression and energetic imbecility that we associate with the sign mark it out as the natural homeland for fascists. But though Ariens are bullies (Ethel Kennedy, Tamerlane the Great) they generally lack the mental stamina to construct and adhere to an ideological framework. More simply, and less to their credit, they're not obedient enough.

Irritations of Modern Life: 33. Ex-directory phone numbers

THE OTHER day, I lost Zoe Ball's home phone number. Damn! She'd written it on the back of a fag packet and I hadn't got round to transferring it to my address book. Then my wife threw the fag packet away. Maybe deliberately, who knows? So I rang Directory Enquiries. What address was that? Oh, Camden Town, I think. But we're really good friends, honest. "I'm sorry," said BT's robot voice, "that number is not listed."

The Independent Recommends: Theatre

YOU CAN see why Conor Lovett has been compared to the likes of Eddie Izzard and Ardal O'Hanlon, as well as great Samuel Beckett (below) interpreters such as Patrick McGee and Barry McGovern. Lovett delivers extracts from the 1951 novel Molloy with a beautiful haziness which perfectly accommodates the absurd one-liners, the coarse gallows humour and speculative riddling of this lost soul, hobbling his way to his old ma, "whose charity kept me dying".

Hot favourite wins Nobel literary prize

THE NOBEL Prize for Literature was awarded in Stockholm yesterday to the hotly tipped favourite, the Portuguese writer Jose Saramago.

Theatre: The clockwork wordplay whose time has come

Samuel Beckett's bizarre, explicit monologue All Strange Away has been buried for years. But then he never knew what to do with it himself.

From Scrabble to Drabble via Babble

Linguistic Notes

Dance: Lifting the lid on the big top

When I was a child, circuses involved unamusing men with a lipstick problem, elephant dung and Davina Smart hanging from a trapeze upside- down the better to display her orthodontist's expertise. I wanted to go home. The only other memory I have of the entire ghastly exercise is a photograph of a small child in a little tweed coat and an angora bonnet being assaulted by a handful of organ-grinder's monkeys wearing hand-knitted trouser-suits.

Secretarial: My children just don't speak the same language

Nicky Maitlis and her husband want their children to be bilingual. It can be a slog at times, but it's worth it

Theatre: These jokes are old, forsooth

MY GUESS is that when playwright Terry Johnson set about doing a new version of the Restoration farce The London Cuckolds, the author of Dead Funny and Hysteria decided to try and make it dead funny and hysterical. That may have been a mistake. Johnson has taken Edward Ravenscroft's 1681 comedy, which fell out of fashion in Garrick's time, tweaked it and trimmed it, jiggled it and polished it, until it looked as if no rib would be left untickled. In this ambition Terry Johnson, the adaptor, was overtaken by Terry Johnson, the director. His production is an archivist's treasure- chest of gags. Someone slams the door in someone's face, someone stands on someone's foot, someone bumps their head as he crawls under the table, someone who's hiding in a cupboard opens the door and hands out a prop, someone falls from a tree into a pond and appears with a squashed duck. A compendium of comedy from the 1680s to the 1990s, London Cuckolds is so full of other people's jokes, it is not itself terribly funny.

Independent choice

Tales of love and class

Wednesday's ticket

Samuel Beckett's existential wonderings are finding growing favour as the idiom for the new millenium. Leap of Faith has a new production of Beckett's Happy Days at the Battersea Arts Centre in London from Feb 10. Amanda Bellamy will tackle the mystifying role of Winnie as she speaks from within her tower of sand to her similarly constrained husband, making general natterings and fumbling around in her handbag - the simple means through which Beckett brings his positive nihilism to light.

Thursday's ticket

thursday's ticket

Theatre: Samuel Beckett's Meaning of Life

Samuel Beckett didn't like it when people tried to explain his work - asked what he'd meant by a particular work he replied, "I meant what I said." But thinking over Peter Brook's French-language production of Happy Days, Oh les Beaux Jours, which passed through the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith last week, it's hard not to read Winnie's situation - buried in the earth up to her waist and then to her chin - as a simple allegory. This is the position of the critic who has to write about Beckett.

Living it up on the banks of the Liffey

Despite an ill-mannered influx of English lager louts, Beverley D'Silva still found Dublin a fair city. She met someone who knew the producer of 'Father Ted', shopped and clubbed, wore sunglasses the morning after - and waited around for Godot

Theatre Review: It's short, it's bleak, it's Samuel Beckett

An Enormous amount of care and attention goes into picking the right actor. And yet, remarkably, the choices that prevail in finding the right play for the right venue are often haphazard. In this respect, Katie Mitchell, artistic director at the Other Place in Stratford, is a rare exception. For Beckett Shorts, Mitchell has assembled two programmes of three Samuel Beckett plays. At the venue, she guides an audience of 60 through six different spaces (some with seats, some without) that constantly alter our expectation of what we are about to see. If these pieces were on a continuous loop they could be shown at the Tate: they are, in effect, installations. This is the Magical Misery Tour.
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