Budapest to the Black Sea

Budapest to the Black Sea

Monday, 31 March 2008

How to Put on a Musical 3 – The Director

What does a director do? He/She tells the actors where to stand, tells them not to bump into the furniture. Well that at least is the common misconception. A Director does much more than that, a director manages the whole artistic side of the project and it’s best to get a good one.

Directors in my view broadly come in three grades.

The Dictator: Top of the range autocrat who knows what he/she wants and how to get it. They are the true auteur of the production and will mercilessly bulldoze anyone who gets in their way. They don’t give a damn who gets bloodied buttocks from the savage mistress that is Musical Theatre.

The Chairman: A democrat who ‘chairs’ the creative team, often a vegetarian, always happy to listen to reason, sees other peoples point of view, recognises the producer’s anxiety about the budget, understands the leading lady’s unwillingness to wear blue, is concerned about the band’s comfort, and doesn’t sleep with the turns.

The Flounder: A hopeless inadequate, out of his/her depth and the reason for this is that they may never have directed a West End musical before. It’s truly amazing the number of productions that are staged with someone at the helm who really doesn’t have the right experience and when the going gets tough (and the going doesn’t get much tougher than on a West End Musical) they crack. ‘Flounders’ tend to alcohol and drug abuse. They are prone to paranoia and self pity and at the end of the day they cast about for a scapegoat (normally the sound designer) to blame as the production careers downhill towards the cliff edge.

Quotes from the directorial front line:
The delightful George Roman expressed his lack of confidence in the product (in this case the lamentable 1988 Sherlock Holmes - The Musical at the Cambridge) as follows, “Jesus Christ this is shit! Why the fuck are we doing this?” This particular production held my personal ‘Golden Klunker’ award for many years.

Trevor Nunn: after the fire alarm went off twice in ten minutes on the first day of the ‘tech’ of Porgy & Bess at the Savoy, each time requiring a full evacuation of the building: “Ted! call the producers, we’re moving theatres”.

Nicholas Hytner: in the middle of a 1980 tech of Britten’s Turn of the Screw which was overdesigned, understaffed and out of control: “Why does it have to be like this?” A howl of directorial anguish, that sad to say was greeted by insensitive guffaws from backstage.

Anonymous: (for legal reasons but from the director of a musical currently running in the West End): “I don’t know what to do. I really don’t know what to do. I could go to the airport I suppose”. A sentiment shared by all of us at some point our career.

Project Model – Maintenance!
The producers of Maintenance! have offered the director’s position to some of the top names from both the West End and Broadway. All declined possibly put off by the general vacuousness of the concept or by composer Gunther Eisenkopf’s unnerving sense of humour. The final short list has come down to two names, the veteran Ronny Duveteen, whose recent production of Lilac Time at Chichester got reviews like “This is a load of camp old tosh, but I loved it” (Petersfield Evening Argus), and Kevin McHarrowing whose all-black production of Murder at the Vicarage at the Tricycle was well regarded and whose 14 hour production of The Long March, the story of Mao’s creation of the Peoples Republic told in words and music got reviews like “An ideal family show for the festive season” (China Peoples Daily, circulation 1.2 billion). The latter played over 3 nights at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and Ernest Bigelow, the only member of the public who managed to stick it out through all 3 parts, said when interviewed later “Fantastic! An emotional roller-coaster. There were moments when I didn’t know if I was asleep or awake”.
The producers, Alvin Toxteth and Samuel J Bloodlust together with composer Gunther Eisenkopf met Duveteen for lunch and were impressed by his experience and wealth of anecdote. In fact by the time they hit the brandy at about 3.00pm they had only got as far as Duveteen’s early career as a dancer in Binkie Mottram’s Talk of the Town revue Footlight Floozies of 1964. By that point Eisenkopf was looking increasingly irritable and eventually broke into Duveteens’s anecdote stream shouting “If you don’t get your hand off my knee I vill focking kill you”. Toxteth sensing a clash between the German’s Heavy Metal background and Duveteen’s cosier showbiz origins hastily broke the meeting up. The producers’ doubts about his suitability were reinforced on their return to the office where PA Charlotte Gore-Wincanton reported rumours that Duveteen had outstanding legal issues arising from a recent holiday in Thailand.

The following day the group was joined by book writer Dermot O’Dainty for lunch with Kevin McHarrowing. Things went much better apart from Eisenkopf’s failure to understand much of McHarrowing’s heavily accented Glaswegian account of his early struggles to find sense and meaning in his Gorbals childhood. By 3.00pm they had got to the bit where McHarrowing’s Uncles Jimmy and Dougal hold up a Paisley bookies shop in order to raise money to build a set for their favourite nephew’s production of The Good Person of Szechwan at the local church hall. At this point O’Dainty broke in saying, ”Great! Fascinating, but what did you think about the script?” McHarrowing made his pitch. (I won’t bore the reader rendering his words into Glaswegian but just take it from me that like all Glaswegians he sounded uncouth and a little bit whiney).
“Well fellers when I opened the script my first thought, and I guess anybody’s first thought, when they read the script was ‘These people are insane. These people are stark raving mad.’ At first sight the idea that you could base a musical on the Haynes Owners Workshop Manual for the 1989 Skoda Favorit is just plain daft but then as I read on I started to think perhaps these guys are on to something. The Skoda represents that something in our lives that we all strive for but when we achieve it we find that it just doesn’t work for us. Am I right?” At that point Eisenkopf and O’Dainty, who were so drunk when they conceived the piece, that they have no idea what the show is about, nod sagely. “And then I realised all of us in some form or other already own a Skoda and that the Skoda represents in emotional and cultural terms a return to….” McHarrowing continued in similar vein for some time and I won’t reproduce the remainder of his pitch here as it also forms part of his ‘First Day of Rehearsal Speech’ which I am planning to offer as a podcast. At the end of his preamble he produced 6 model Skodas that he had bought at Hamleys that morning, and proceeded to demonstrate to the production team his idea for the “Skoda Fandango Finale”. As he described the final moments he paused and looked round the evidently impressed production team and asked quietly “Guess what my first car was?” “A Skoda” whispered O’Dainty. McHarrowing nodded and this barefaced lie (his first car had been a Cortina that Uncle Dougal gave him once it had been wiped of fingerprints) got him the job.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Spiders in My Shed

A few weeks ago while going on about music downloads I mentioned my shed and I may have given the impression that it is a chilly and unwelcoming place. Not so, my shed is not a garden shed with a flymo, balls of green string and a smell of creosote, my shed is paradise on earth. In my shed is my desk, a drawing board, groundplans of most UK theatres, 50,000 (roughly) postcards, 120 Eisenbahn Journals (a German railway magazine that has glossy pics of Dresden shunting yards and the like), 200 Model Railway Journals (this is as hard core as railway modelling gets), a bronze bust of Marshal Pilsudski, several hundred 54mm scale model soldiers, 2 rather good 19th century watercolours of Napoleonic scenes, and a lot of other stuff.

I also share my shed with a variety of insect species that feel it’s a great place in which to pupate and spiders with extremely long legs called Pholcus phalangioides. The latter presumably eat the unfortunate insects as they emerge from their pupal state making the shed not quite such a great place in which to pupate. On the whole these Daddy Longlegs spiders, as they are commonly known, lurk in the corners making untidy webs which they vibrate at frenzied speed if disturbed, but in the evenings they come out for a stroll. There is one that regularly ambles across the keyboard of my computer with all the casual elegance of an Edwardian toff on the river bank at Henley and as he, or more likely she, passes slowly from ‘Caps Lock’ to ‘Pg Up’ I study her closely, she completely unflustered by my close attention with a magnifying glass. Sometimes the spider will stop at ‘Y’ and turn left ascending the sheer cliff face of my laptop’s screen to disappear without pause over the back. My fascination with these lodgers prompted me to reread the chapter about spiders and their webs in Richard Dawkin’s “Climbing Mount Improbable”. This chapter answers all those questions about spiders and their webs that have been troubling you over the years. For instance, why don’t spiders get stuck in their own webs. Apparently they have the ability to exude different types of silk and they make the radial spokes of the web non-stick, the spiders using these spokes to rush out and disable their prey struggling in the sticky cross threads. The other question that has always bothered me is this, when you walk through a wood you come across a web stretched across the path 6 ft above ground level. Did the spider fix one end of the silk then drop down to the ground cross the path and climb the tree on the other side. No, what they do is make a kite which they float in the air paying out thread until it touches and sticks to the branch opposite. This book is also useful if you get stuck in a lift with religious enthusiast who believes that the world was created after tea on a Tuesday 4357 years ago and who challenges Darwinian theory by asking how the human eye could possibly have evolved. There is a chapter in Dawkin’s book describing exactly how the human eye might have evolved. My desk top may not be the Serengeti but these extraordinary, pale green semi transparent, hunters that live only 2 feet away behind the router box and the envelopes are a lot more interesting than all those dreary elephants, giraffes and rhinos that tramp across our TV screens nightly.

Apart from communing with nature the other great pleasure of shed life is listening to football on ‘BBC 5 Live’ on Saturday afternoons. I often have to invent a pressing professional crisis that demands that I retire to the shed to produce a rush groundplan/budget/schedule to enable me to do this. If you have never shared this pleasure the following will mean nothing to you.

5 Live at the Proms

Announcer: Lets go back to Alan Green and summariser Annex Footballer at the Albert Hall where the second half of tonight’s Prom is just under way.

Alan Green: Did you hear that! The flautist is obviously, and I mean obviously, 2 bars behind the rest of the orchestra and Herr Stickschift our so called conductor has done nothing, absolutely nothing about it. What do you make of that Annex?

Annex Footballer: (with mouth full) Sorry Alan I wasn’t listening. But I tell you something, these pies are excellent. Not as good as the pies at the Wigmore Hall but well up there.

Alan Green: I don’t know! These foreign conductors get paid a fortune and the flautist is getting away with murder! Anyway let’s go over to Cardiff where Mike Ingham has news from Welsh National Opera.

Mike Ingham: Yes Alan we’ve just heard that Peruvian tenor Enrico Singalotto will not be on tonight. Dressing room sources say that he is suffering from ‘an annoying little tickle at the back of the throat’. So at tonight’s performance of Tosca Cavaradossi will be sung by Owen Smallwelshperson, the young utility tenor recently signed from Swansea. Back to you Alan.

Alan Green: Thanks Mike. “An annoying little tickle at the back of the throat” what are today’s young singers like?

Annex Footballer: Couldn’t agree more Alan. In the old days John Vickers with “an annoying little tickle at the back of the throat” would have sung a full Ring Cycle without stopping for a glass of water and then have bitten the head off a whippet for an encore.

Alan Green: Quite right too. OK news from Stuart Hall at the Halle.

Stuart Hall: Ooharghroyalgargleloofahdropbelarusbabypowdermargeandpop-pop-music I know a bank where the wild thyme grows….

Alan Green: OK. Back here at the Albert Hall Maestro Stickschift has finally got the principal flautist under control and we are into the second movement of the concerto. What do you make of it so far Annex?

Annex Footballer: Well it’s a concerto of three movements..

Alan Green: Yes but clich├ęs apart don’t you thick Herr Stickschifts performance has been lamentable?

Annex Footballer: No Alan. Apart from that little contretemps with the flautist I think his tempi have been both sensitive and intriguing. His colouring and lightness of touch have….

Alan Green: And don’t forget Classical 606. You can call me with your comments on tonight’s fixtures. We’d especially like to hear from anyone who was at the Bournemouth Symphony’s concert at the Les Dennis Memorial Hall in Droitwich where their new music director…...

Monday, 17 March 2008

The World’s Best Joke

It has long been agreed in academic circles that the joke about the French Prostitute and the Poltergeist is the best yet conceived. It’s subtle blend of smut, schadenfreude and spoonerism coupled with a punch line that works equally well in French, English or German make it the “The World’s Best Joke”.I won’t waste your valuable reading time retelling the joke as everyone already knows it and you have Dickens, Tolstoy and Proust piling up on the shelves waiting to be read.

The world’s worst joke is much more difficult to nail down but we can be pretty sure that it is German. The worst joke I ever heard was delivered by Barry Humphreys. Right at the start of a show, in his Les Patterson persona, he told a joke that was so disgusting that even I, the most unsqueamish of men, cannot bring myself to repeat it. Suffice it to say that it involved a Christmas turkey and geriatric gynaecology. I was at the back of the house on the first night and as the punch line came across the footlights a ripple of frost ran through the audience, it was as if the Queen of Narnia had popped into the stalls for a few moments. I thought immediately that the joke would get the heave-ho but as I stood in the wings on the second night Barry repeated the joke with even greater relish, the audience squirmed with embarrassment and as I looked closely I saw a gleam of satisfaction in his eye. Mission accomplished as far as Barry was concerned.

My wife has just looked over my shoulder and said that she doesn’t know the joke about the French Prostitute and the Poltergeist and could I include it anyway. Well I would love to but there is a problem. This particular joke is the subject of legal action between Gaspard Batarde, who claims to be the originator and copyright holder of the joke and Duane Heartfelt, a professor of Oral Humour at the University of Uppsala, who wrote his thesis on this particular joke and has subjected it to rigorous analysis running to nearly 300 pages not including footnotes and appendices.
Batarde, a short squat evil smelling Frenchman in his eighties, claims that the publication of this thesis has destroyed his career, the joke having been the centre piece of his act for nearly 60 years. He claims that he created the joke as part of a sketch that he performed with Zaza Mamelles at the Theatre Civique in Biarritz in 1949. Heartfelt has produced volumes of evidence and coach parties of academics and humour professionals to support his counterclaim that this particular joke has been around since the dawn of time. There is evidence that Hannibal told his cavalry commander Maharbal a version of this joke on the eve of the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. The original hearing took place in the Central Court in Leipzig but it was felt that such was the importance of the case for world humour, that, with the agreement of all parties concerned, the case was transferred to the International Tribunal for Comedy & Humour (ITCH) at the Hague. This august body combs out the knots and tangles of international comedy and on occasion repairs its split ends. It has also taken on the task of classifying jokes into classes A B or C. Thus a stand-up comedian can be required by his contract to deliver a certain percentage of Class A jokes so that a promoter can be sure of what he is getting. Obviously the French Prostitute and Poltergeist joke is a Class A, whereas my daughter’s favourite, “Why did the banana go to the doctor? – Because it wasn’t peeling very well,” is undoubtedly a Class C joke. In recent months ITCH have had to deal with a plea from Denmark for a 5 year moratorium on bacon related jokes and a demand from Serbia that any joke that includes a reference to killing Turks should automatically be graded ‘A’ regardless of is it’s comic quality.

So if, dear reader, we were sitting in a pub, or playing Canasta in an old folks home, or in the playground waiting to pick up our children from school, I could tell you this joke, but if I were to write it down in this widely read Blog I could be held to be in contempt of the ITCH.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Basingstoke – Cultural Hub

During the summer of 2007 Basingstoke (Civic motto ”Art for Arts Sake”) fought off spirited challenges from both Andover and Havant to become “Hampshire’s Cultural Glory 2008”. Local Authority Chief Executive Paul Poltroon gave an emotional and highly personal speech at a rally at the Civic Hall attended by close members of his family, the Brighton Hill Brownies and a Mrs Chalker, who had actually come to check out the venue for her daughter’s wedding reception. “My heart is full, “said Poltroon, “my heart overflows with pride on this the day that we bring home the County’s top artistic prize” At this point the Brownies started to become restive but they were quietened by Brown Owl’s cunning promise that they would all be awarded their ‘Listening to Pompous Grown-Ups Badge’ if they sat still and shut up.
“I was brought up”, continued Poltroon, “in a house where only the whippet could read, where music was for foreigners and painting was something that Uncle Leslie did if he was in work and today I stand shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues in Liverpool, Barcelona & Berlin as one of the helmsmen of European culture”.
Observers in the know felt that Basingstoke’s cause was helped by Havant putting up ‘Batik Through the Ages’ as their main event, which was felt by the judges to be too radical. Andover’s clumsy attempt to bribe those same judges with a freebie at the Little Chef (junction of the A303 & B2478) was probably misguided.

Poltroon’s greatest coup in securing the ‘Cultural Glory’ award for the town was the snatching of the flagship exhibition ‘A Hundred years of the Sooty Show’ from under the very nose of Guggenheim Gateshead. The reader may be surprised to learn that Sooty has been around that long. His story starts in the early 1900s in the cottage of a humble Jewish woodman, Mattheus Korbatovich, deep in the gloomy Latvian forests east of Riga, then a part of the Russian Empire. Mattheus invented the character of Sooty, the naughty golden bear, in order to comfort his son Mikhail who had a tree phobia. In those grim years father and son scraped an existence from the forest, living only off moss and vagrants occasionally returning to the family hovel where Mikhail’s mother earned a decent living entertaining passing infantry regiments. Eventually the stories weren’t enough for Mikhail and at his insistence Mattheus made the very first Sooty glove puppet out of a wolf’s bladder and two acorns. Tragically Mattheus died of TB in 1910 and Mikhail and his mother moved to Konigsberg in East Prussia where Mrs Korbatov’s sound business sense and loose morals combined to give them a measure of financial security. As Russian nationals they were briefly interned in 1914 but the German authorities quickly realised that Mrs Korbatov’s talents were vital to their war effort and they were released. In 1920 Mikhail found work in a local coal mine, where he could be sure of not encountering any trees, but he never forgot the early days in the forest and kept his Sooty glove puppet with him at all times. Soon he met and married a local girl, Gudrun, and in 1924 she gave birth to their son Heinrich. Throughout their marriage Mikhail kept his Jewish origins a secret from Gudrun until one day in early 1939 she asked “Mikhail why do you always wear that funny little skull cap?” He was forced to flee with his son to Sweden and there, with only the clothes they stood up in and the Sooty glove puppet, they boarded a ship for New York and a new life. Unfortunately Mikhail made the mistake of ordering the prawns off the Steerage class menu and died of ptomaine poisoning before the ship had reached the North Sea, more unfortunately and unknown to them, the ship was only bound for Harwich.
So the fifteen year old Heinrich Korbatov, rechristened Henry Corbett by a deaf and incompetent immigration officer, found himself alone in Suffolk. He roamed the streets of Harwich for two days looking for the Empire State Building until a kindly policeman put him straight. At this, his lowest ebb, Harry, as he became known, pulled the glove puppet from his pocket and as he did so a group of passing children stopped to watch and in a moment Harry had them entranced. He immediately realised that the bladder and acorn puppet, which had become quite smelly by then, could be his meal ticket. He worked the East coast resorts until his call up in 1943 when he was sent to entertain destroyer crews on the Murmansk run. After the war Harry added Sweep, based on his shrewish first wife Vera, and Soo, based on his mistress Suzy Lamarr, an exotic dancer that he met in Torquay, to the show. In 1952 he appeared on an early BBC talent show and the rest is history. The original puppet (on loan from the Gulbenkian Museum of Glove Puppets in Bratislava) takes pride of place but there are other gems like an almost priceless “Sooty Show Summer Season – Rhyl 1965” poster with Susan Maugham and Norman Vaughan lower down the bill.

Other events that Paul Poltroon has organised for 2008 include the exhibition “Bide Awhile – With Brush & Pen through Basingstoke’s Retail Parks” by the local artist Enid Beesley, a series of Literary Lunches at the Harvester on the Memorial Park roundabout (celebrity guests booked so far include Eric Haynes, publisher of the well known auto maintenance manuals, Joachim Gotzeller, author of “Glove Puppets and Their Influence on the Reformation” and Dermot O’Dainty who will talk about his autobiography “I’m Just Doing My Job!” and his forthcoming musical “Maintenance!”), a talk by Waldemar Januszczak entitled “Basingstoke and it’s Influence on the Bauhaus” and a new production of Hector Berlioz’s titanic opera “The Trojans” at the Brimshott Rd Scout Hut.

Long summer days full of promise lie ahead for all of us in Basingstoke.

Monday, 3 March 2008

How to Put on a Musical - Part 2 ‘The Producer’

‘Producer’ is a bit of a misnomer because these days producers tend to come by the car load or in some cases the minibus load. The names above the title now run to a full paragraph:

Samuel J Bloodlust & Alvin Toxteth in association with Jolly Good Musicals Ltd, Stalag V (Berlin) GmbH, Sketchley Offshore Inc, Schwarzenegger Fine Arts Inc & by arrangement with the Piccadilly Theatre (House of Hits 1999 Ltd) present….

What does a Producer do? Once he or she has a project in mind they have to raise the money. They will be aware of Rule 1, “Never put your own money in the show”, and will set out to find the cash from anywhere other than their own bank account. The simplest way to raise the initial investment is to send a particularly dim PA to Bogota and get her to pick up the two suitcases that you have, unaccountably, left in a locker at the airport and bring them back to London. You then sell the contents to Bobby ‘The Man’ Alfonso and put the proceeds into the production account. However not all producers have the bottle and not all PAs are gullible enough to carry out this straightforward task. So they have to take on the infinitely trickier task of convincing rich people that they could become even richer if they invest money in the production.

Traditionally producers have closely guarded lists of ‘Angels’ that they go to in the first instance. These ’Angels’ may be distant relatives, CEOs of multinationals, professional footballers, little old ladies in Bournemouth or just someone met in the betting shop across the road. Quite often names are acquired corruptly from other producers. I once worked for a producer who bribed a secretary to copy her boss’s address book. “Look!” he said triumphantly in the pub the next day, “I’ve got Jacque Tati’s home number”.

In recent years it has become fashionable to ‘workshop’ new musical projects. This involves setting up a mini-staging of the projected show in a dark theatre or hotel ballroom. Potential investors, publicity moguls, agents etc are invited. In my experience these events are greeted with immense enthusiasm but little money.

In theory the Producer should have all the necessary funds in place before production starts. This is not always the case and on at least two occasions in my capacity as production manager I have got wind of the fact that all is not as it should be. I visited the relevant producers’ offices and like Laurence Olivier in ‘Marathon Man’ I asked “Is it safe”? In both cases the reply was “Er well, not as such but by….” I returned to the fit-up and sent the contractors and crew home until there was some chance of them getting paid.

Once the money is in the account the Producer has lots more to do but we will deal with that later.

Project Model - Maintenance!
The lead producers of ‘Maintenance’ Samuel J Bloodlust and Alvin Toxteth have worked in a loose partnership for nearly 10 years. Bloodlust is New York based and started out as an attorney, during the 1970s and 80s he made a fortune out of pet related libel suits. He became a Broadway producer when his wife Ingrid expressed a desire to play the lead in ‘Martina’, a tennis based musical written by her aroma therapist. The show failed but Bloodlust had got the taste for Showbiz.
Alvin Toxteth was a teenage ventriloquist on Teeside (‘The Little Chappie with the Little Chappie’) until a freak flossing accident forced him to hang up his dummy. He went to work in the office of Harry ‘That’s my dog, that is!’ Ackroyd, comedian and promoter, who ran summer seasons, pantos and tours in the North-east. He used this experience as a springboard into the national touring scene and more recently he has become a major player in the West End. His production of ‘Whoops-a-Daisy’, the musical based on the life of Neville Chamberlain, has been running for 5 years.

‘Maintenance!’ (based on the Haynes Owners Workshop Manual for the 1989 Skoda Favorit) has it’s origin in a chance meeting between Gunther Eisenkopf , the lead guitarist with the East German heavy metal band ‘Kursk Salient’ and Dermot O’Dainty, writer and host of the TV reality show ‘Call the Receptionist’, at Berlin’s Tegel airport. They were both waiting for a snow delayed flight to Chicago. In a six hour creative frenzy in the departure lounge bar they wrote the basis of Act 1. O’Dainty in an interview later said “It was incredible, it was like Romeo and Juliet, Marks and Spencer, Mutt and Jeff. We were kindred spirits and we were shit faced drunk”. When the flight was finally called the pair were refused entry to the aircraft and after a brisk discussion at the gate were placed under arrest. They completed Act 2 over the following 36 hours in the airport holding cells. O’Dainty, who wrote the book for ‘Whoops-a-Daisy’ has been trying to get Alvin Toxteth to produce the show for some years.

Toxteth has finally convinced Samuel J Bloodlust that ‘Maintenance!’ has potential both in the UK and European markets. Gunther Eisenkopf, who, being German, has never heard of Rule 1, and has offered to put up a significant part of the investment from his fortune which has been mainly earned via his royalties from “Santa’s in the Stasi” which is as much a part of a German Christmas as Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ is in the UK. His partner, Max Flossebogen, former manager of ‘Kursk Salient’ has also offered money via his company Stalag V (Berlin) GmbH. Toxteth and Bloodlust hope to make up the balance from US sources on the West Coast. A meeting has been arranged:

The scene: Alvin Toxteth’s office next door to the usherettes’ changing room above a well known Shaftesbury Avenue theatre. Present: Alvin Toxteth, Samuel J Bloodlust and Larry Weinbaum , CEO of Schwarzenegger Fine Arts and a big player ‘on the Coast’. In the reception area Kevin Whimper, Toxteth’s assistant, is in the process of ringing round the ‘angels’, and PA Charlotte Gore-Wincanton is just looking good.

Toxteth: Welcome to London Larry. Flight OK?

Bloodlust: Did you have a chance to read the script yet?

Larry Weinbaum: Not as such but my people tell me it’s a wow! And I’m here to tell you that we are very excited about this.

Kevin Whimper (in the background) :…a will can always be changed Mrs Abercrombie. Have you thought about Power of Attorney?

Weinbaum: We think the time is right for a bitter-sweet musical comedy about divorce…

Toxteth: Er…

Bloodlust: Absolutely!

Weinbaum: Kramer versus Kramer meets My Fair Lady! Fantastic but my marketing people think that ‘Alimony!’ sounds better than ‘Maintenance!’

Toxteth: Er well…

Bloodlust: Absolutely right!

Whimper (in the background) :…and how did the collection go on Sunday Reverend?

Weinbaum: Have you thought of Meryl and Jack for the leads? I hear Meryl can sing and Jack has wanted to do something in London ever since ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’. Is Trevor available to direct? What’s Baz Luhrmann doing? Can we get Norman Foster to design the set? Emma Thompson has a great voice. Can Hugh Grant dance? Britney could be out of rehab any day now. Will there be doughnuts at the first day of rehearsal?

Toxteth: Possibly….

Whimper (in the background) : Charlotte have you ever been to Bogota?

Cycling Down the Danube

Cycling Down the Danube
The Map