Archie Rice urged his audience not to applaud too loudly: ‘It’s an old house. A very old house.’ This may explain why The Entertainer (Archie in the lead) has not been revived in the West End. Too warm a reception might make the theatre fall down. Now all these fragile old houses have found an unlikely friend in Tessa Jowell, who wants to pull £125 million out of the proceeds of the National Lottery to keep them going. In its earlier days the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is her fiefdom, was known as the Ministry of Free Tickets. Since then it has had a modish makeover and is now the Department of Access and Outreach. Worldly-wise theatre managements will take the hint and trim their acts accordingly, just as worldly-wise museums have gone all relevant and interactive. Their boring old exhibits can be earmarked for de-accessioning — the word, if such it can be called, that museum curators use to mean selling or dumping. To a gathering of conservationists the other day, the minister’s minion put it plainly. Her view, they were told, was that heritage had been done. Soon enough she might turn the tap off for good. It was time to focus on this century’s priorities — health, education, the environment — thus, as she did not need to add, taking the strain off her colleague, the Chancellor. Never mind what the past thought it knew or what the future might want to know — but then, there has always been a touch of the Pol Pot about this government. Everything has to start again from Year Zero, except, by some quirk, some two dozen aging West End theatres. Just don’t call them heritage.
No offence meant
’Tis the season of inoffensive goodwill, so make sure that your office party books its act through Clean Comedians of California.