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Friday, November 24, 2017

My eyewitness account of nothing happening at Oxford Circus tonight

My wife and I were going into Oxford Circus station at 4:36 tonight. It was beginning to get busy. There was that quickening of the pace you can feel when people are just keen to get through before the crowd arrives. As we were at the top of the escalator a voice on the P.A. said "LT police to Platform One, please" with just enough urgency in the voice to suggest this might not be routine.

At the bottom of the escalator there were some people starting to go against the tide. They were coming through from the tunnel leading to Platform One and they looked spooked by something.  They were talking to other people and telling them to go back. They may well have been visitors from overseas.

We didn't stick around to find out. We just kept heading down the second escalator to the Victoria Line, got on the first train that came and were out of there and at Warren Street before the police were called. On the way home I looked on Twitter and could see the signs of a big story developing. BBC and Sky were all leading with the story. Armed police were swarming all over the place. People were talking about shooters, even knives.

By the time I got home, which was round about 5:36, the story was being carried by the New York Times and the Washington Post. At the same time the Met were saying that as far as they could see nothing had happened. There had been reports of a shooter in Oxford Circus station but they hadn't been able to find any evidence of any such person or incident.

I've worked in the West End on and off for over forty years. In the seventies you could have terrorist incidents in the West End and you wouldn't know about them until you picked up the paper the following morning.

Contrast that with Oxford Circus tonight. In just one hour of nothing happening the news was halfway round the world.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Here's a play for people who don't go to the theatre


Yesterday I went to the theatre on my own.  I've never done that before. I'd been telling myself for a while I had to get round to seeing James Graham's play Ink, with Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch. This week I saw a poster on the tube saying that it closed in early January. I decided I had to get on with it.

Yesterday morning, using the TodayTix app,  I bought a ticket in the Royal Circle of the Duke Of Yorks Theatre for just £23 including agents fees.  The view wasn't brilliant but I've had far worse at rock gigs over the years and it didn't prevent me enjoying it.

Ink is brilliant. Fast, punchy, broad, vulgar and thoughtful, it tells the story of the first year of the Sun newspaper from Murdoch's purchase of the failing title from the complacent Mirror group to the introduction of the first Page Three girl. Its climax is provided by the tragically botched kidnapping of the wife of Murdoch's deputy.

The only thing that could improve it would be to see it with an audience more like the Britain the play describes and less like the self-selecting bunch who go to the theatre.

The latter are overwhelmingly white, senior, middle class and would be the first to tell you they have never read a copy of The Sun in their lives and really couldn't understand what anyone would possibly see in it.

Something like Ink should be seen by the widest audience possible. Not because it would be good for them. But because it would make a great experience even better.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Let's not talk about sex, chaps.

The obit of American writer Nancy Friday in today's Times quotes her on why she started writing about sex:
"Men spend a great deal of their leisure hours in pubs, clubs or washrooms talking about their sexual exploits, but women don't say anything at all. Consequently one woman never knows what another woman thinks about sex."
I don't wish to take issue with the recently-deceased but, setting aside the obvious question, "how would Nancy know what men talk about in men-only situations?", it has not been my experience that men talk to other men about their sexual exploits.

I realised this again recently in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein business when, like everyone else, I've been asking old colleagues whether we ever worked with anyone who showed any of the same tendencies.

We quickly realised that what little we knew on the subject was entirely based on what female colleagues had told us.

Obviously been going in the wrong washrooms.