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In Competition No. 2390 you were invited to produce a poem which incorporates the titles of at least eight current West End theatrical productions.

What with on the town, the anniversary, the birthday party, guys and dolls and blithe spirit, celebration was the keynote. ‘How we laughed to see the woman in white tights/Do cartwheels by the dresser in the hall,’ Tim Raikes recalled. He, Bernadette Evans, G.M. Davis, Shirley Curran and Brian Murdoch all sent in tempting entries, but the winners charmed me with a combination of an easy manner and a choice of the unexpected scene. I have had to take some things on trust, so don’t write to me pointing out that, strictly speaking, the Old Vic is not in the West End. £30 to Gerard Benson and £25 each to the other victors printed below.

I, Citizen, Birthday Boy and Poet, affirm and declare

That all men are blood brothers to me;

And all women, equally, are blood sisters —

The woman in white equally with the woman in black,

The Irish gangster’s moll from Chicago equally with the hungry Italian visitors to Elmina’s kitchen,

Or the Spanish girls who work from the House of

Bernarda Alba.

I accept all. I include all.

At the birthday party I am planning no one will be excluded.

Billy Elliot, the musical and lithe-bodied youth,

Will sit side by side with long-faced Tristan

& Yseult will share secrets with Hedda Gabler.

Nor will they be gloomy, for life is to be celebrated.

I celebrate with the astronaut as with the corner-loafer;

For whose life is it anyway? Ours! To live and celebrate

(I have said this before) from Manhattan to Merthyr Tydfil.

National anthems shall be forgotten. Together we will sing a World Anthem.

Gerard Benson

‘What a glorious evening!’ the woman in white

Remarked as we stood there on Saturday night.

‘Fever throbs in my breast for some verdurous scene,

And I feel we’re blood brothers — or sisters, I mean.

Let us stroll in the forest, to go where the far

Pavilions of pretty rusticity are.’

‘Mamma mia!’ I answered. ‘What can you intend?

I don’t think our temperaments ever would blend.

Your elfin, blithe spirit is quite unlike mine,

And though countryside walks in the moonlight are fine,

I am all for the big life : suppose we go down

For an orgy of alcohol out on the town?’

‘Whose life is it anyway?’ brusquely replied

The glamorous girl, who now sprang from my side.

‘To a chap with romance in his heart I shall flee,

A more sensitive someone who’ll watch over me!’

Godfrey Bullard

The woman in white by the guillotine

Watches it fall, and turns quite green.

‘Les misérables!’ she sighs. ‘Mon Dieu!

Why do that to a king and queen?’

But the woman in black, as each head rolls,

Growls, ‘I agree with the guys and dolls.

He was the dresser; she was a shrew;

Their heads are good for a game of bowls.’

The white one says, ‘She was somebody’s Mum;

He was the Lion King. Now come,

Stop looking like Hecuba sniffing glue!

Why are some girls bad and dumb?’

But the dark one mutters, ‘A load of hooey!

It’s only a matter of losing Louis.’

Paul Griffin

On the town hall steps, the woman in white

Smiles for a photo to go on the dresser.

People sense her blithe spirit and share her delight;

They mirror her smile and murmur, ‘God bless her!’

Next to the woman, in black rented suit

(Its style more Chicago than Purley, in truth),

The bridegroom, all awkward, stands ready to scoot,

With a look in his eyes that says goodbye to youth.

He’s followed the cheese to the mousetrap and — snap! —

Here he is caught in a moment of fame.

A bystander watching, mutters, ‘Cheer up, old chap —

It comes to us all and we all feel the same.’

W.J. Webster

Oh yes, I remember the birthday party

And meeting the woman in white,

The dresser extraordinaire, stylish and arty,

Out on the town for the night.

And oh, mamma mia! Her smile was so sweet

That I felt like the lion king,

Not guessing such smiles could harbour deceit

Or carry so cruel a sting,

The producers of sorrow come promising joy

And posing as every man’s dream,

But dreams can turn sour so beware, man and boy,

Some women are not what they seem!

My faithless blithe spirit brought nothing but tears,

She took, but she gave little back,

I was caught in the mousetrap by one who appears

To me now as the woman in black!

Alan Millard

The cosmonaut’s last message was from hell:

‘The mousetrap’s full, the rat pack’s breeding fast.

I stomp them, but can’t stop them. There’s a smell

Of rotting rodents here. I’ll never last

To land on earth, visit my favourite bars

And meet some girls. I face eternity

Watching the sun dance, viewing the brilliant stars,

Devoid of someone who’ll watch over me.’

The vermin-riddled craft meant hope was zero,

And yet the doomed man never lost his pride.

The whole world felt blood brothers to this hero

And played their national anthems as he died.

Basil Ransome-Davies

No. 2393: Maths lesson

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679

These numbers are the value of ? up to a certain point (they extend to infinity). You are invited to supply a piece of prose in which each word has the number of letters corresponding to the above figures. Zero is to be represented by a ten-letter word. Please check your entries carefully. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2393’ by 19 May.