Terence rattigan

Nothing compares with Chips Channon’s diaries for sheer exuberance

‘Why was he born so beautiful, why was he born at all?’ When ‘Chips’ Channon strolled into the House of Commons tea room in 1951, this was the chant with which encircling drunken Labour MPs mocked him. Politically, he was inessential they thought, and epicene. He admitted to being the best-dressed of MPs, but reckoned the young socialist Anthony Crosland to be the most beautiful. As a historical record keeper, though, he has cut a deeper and more ineffaceable mark than any of his tormentors. Nothing compares with the unexpurgated Channon diaries. They are rich, exuberant, copious and shatteringly honest. For those interested in the parliamentary politics of 20th-century England,

War and plague have menaced theatres before, but rarely on this scale

It seems a long time ago now. I was meeting the artistic director of a pub theatre near Westminster on the afternoon of 16 March. Already it was clear that this was one of the worst days of his professional life. That evening’s performance of a John Osborne play had been cancelled because a cast member had caught a severe cold over the weekend. During the morning, four more shows had withdrawn their productions, and the theatre had nothing to present for the next eight weeks. As we spoke, his phone pinged. Another cancellation. The door swung open and the production manager came in with a look of doom on