arts notebook

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I shall have a small wager on Janet McTeer beating her more illustrious rivals, Vanessa Redgrave, Diana Rigg and Eileen Atkins to scoop the Olivier award for best actress next month. Her riveting and revelatory portrayal of Nora in The Doll's House took on an added dimension in the last performances. Struck down by the West End virus that has brought work to so many understudies of late, Ms McTeer gamely refused to give way. In the penultimate performance of the run, which I witnessed last weekend, she ad libbed to apologise to Kristina for her "terrible cold", offered her a glass of water so she could take regular sips herself, and most notably went the entire three hours with a handkerchief clutched in her palm. Somehow the hankie became part of the play, a visible symbol of Nora's growth as, with every tortured self-examination, she squeezed it, toyed with it or just plain blew her nose in it when no words could be found to express her increasing dismay at her husband's insensitivity.

Thank goodness she wasn't playing Desdemona, when the invaluable prop would have had to be dropped. As it was, it became a character- enforcing emblem that Ibsen himself would have applauded.

An arts funder's cultural machismo is clearly no longer measured by the size of the benefactor's cheque book, but the size of his album collection. David Mellor, as Heritage Secretary, boasted of his 3,000 CDs. But this week Lord Gowrie, chairman of the Arts Council, managed to trump that. Addressing the Association of British Orchestras' conference in Manchester, he proved that he was several woofers ahead of Mellor's tweeter.

Describing himself as "a great Poo-Bah of Hi-Fi", Lord Gowrie was able to reel off a CV that included President of the Federation of British Audio and director of Verity Engineering, which makes Quad and Mission "gramophones" (as he endearingly still calls them). Then he played his ace. "I own and regularly sample," he said, "about a thousand CDs and 2,000 LPs, half of them jazz."

Eat your heart out, Mellor. The subtext is plain. Anyone with a bit of dosh can build up a CD collection. But 2,000 LPs! It's the dedication to vinyl that shows the true enthusiast. And this is no simple Blur and Beethoven earl. Note the telling phrase "half of them jazz". It is such painstakingly crafted throwaway lines that make aesthetic reputations.

Chris Evans's departure from Radio 1 might be seen as poetic justice in Scotland. When he broadcast a breakfast show from Inverness, he caused considerable consternation with his repeated calls on air for "tartan totty". While totty is slang down south for an eligible young woman, north of the border it retains its centuries' old meaning of young child.