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Peter Rhodes on posties in shorts, gendering generals and squandering the rudest word of all

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

HAD that Barbour moment yet?

Now it's murder

It's the one, deep into a sweltering heatwave, when you open a wardrobe full of waxed jackets, fleeces and scarves and cannot imagine why you would ever wear such things again. Come February you may experience the exact opposite as you stumble upon your the skimpy-shorts drawer. Wear them again? Never.

OBVIOUSLY, the above does not apply to some posties who seem obliged to wear shorts every working day, right through winter. Is it written into the job description?

DID you spot the urgent, serious tone in the newsreaders' voices this week as they announced that "Wiltshire Police have launched a murder inquiry"? The implication seemed to be that until now Wiltshire's finest had been only half-heartedly digging into the case of novichok poisoning that failed to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia . But now, a British citizen has perished. Everything changes. Will all stops be pulled out, all leave cancelled? Frankly, I doubt if the Dawn Sturgess murder inquiry will be much different from the probe into the Skripal affair. Same fruitless house-to-house inquiries. Same hopeless appeals. Same hours of ploughing through CCTV footage and finding nothing. If we believe the official theory, one or more highly-trained poisoners on orders from Moscow had the know-how and the guile to smear novichok on the Skripals' door handle without being seen - and then chucked away the incriminating bottle, scent spray or syringe in a local park. As you do.

GENDER-correct corner. Later this year the Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage a "gender-balanced" production of Troilus and Cressida. According to Shakespeare only four of the 28-strong cast are female. But at Stratford it will be 50/50. As artistic director Gregory Doran explains: " I want to reflect the nation and its diversity, and clearly gender is going to be a part of that."

OKAY so far. The stage, unlike TV, is a fluid sort of place and we have seen successful female Lears, Hamlets and Prosperos, so why not a few Greek and Trojan lady-warriors? If gender-blind casting is the coming thing and will create new jobs for female actors (just as colour-blind casting has created ethnic-minority stars), bring it on. But let's do it fairly, eh?

FOR example, in the RSC's current production, Miss Littlewood, the theatre legend Joan Littlewood is played by no fewer than seven actors to portray her at various ages in her career. And you can't help noticing that not one of those actors is male. If a woman can play an ancient Trojan general, why can't a man play a 1960s female theatre producer? I declare the silly season officially open.

INCIDENTALLY, Miss Littlewood contains the first use of the C-word that I can recall at Stratford. It's not big and it's not clever. But it is rather short-sighted. For when you've used this word, which used to be the final taboo, what do you do next?

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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