The Diary: Patrick Barlow's Star Child; Belarus Free Theatre; Jessica Albarn; Grayson Perry; ENO

By Alice Jones

Conscience clash

London's theatres can draw a glittering crowd of guests when they want to but how deep are their pockets? We'll find out on 5 December when Theatreland hosts not one but two VIP charity galas in a dramatic date clash. In the red corner, the Almeida Theatre will stage Star Child in aid of the Art Room Charity. Catherine Tate, Stephen Mangan and Juliet Stevenson will all star in Patrick Barlow's modern-day nativity while Stephen Fry - who else? - will play a "disgruntled" God. Tickets: ?75 (including post-show champagne). Meanwhile, in the blue (orange?) corner, the Young Vic will host a benefit for the Belarus Free Theatre and Index on Censorship, with tickets priced for the people at ?25-45. Jude Law, Ian McKellen and Sam West are signed up as guest stars for the night, timed to chime with the Belarusian elections on 19 December. Shame they didn't check the theatre calendar too.

Family tree

Jessica Albarn is keeping it in the family for her latest project. The fine artist is currently shooting a short film of her dark fairytale The Boy in the Oak in the New Forest and has signed up her brother Damon to write the soundtrack. The book, published last summer, featuring Albarn's ethereal illustrations, tells the tale of a destructive young boy who is locked in a tree by vengeful faeries as punishment for being cruel to nature. The film is being directed by Luke Losey, best know as the man behind the time-lapse music video for Orbital's "The Box", starring Tilda Swinton. Jude Law is the first cast member to be announced and will provide the narrative voiceover.

Perry's Politician makes the cuts

When Grayson Perry's Print for a Politician was purchased by the House of Commons for their collection in 2006, it was an unlikely dream come true for the subversive artist. "When I was working on it I harboured a fantasy of it hanging in a minister's office helping him to temper any prejudices he may have", he said at the time. The then-Culture Minister Andy Burnham chose the work for his office back in 2008. More recently, and surprisingly, George Osborne hung the ?14,000 print - which features rival modern-day "tribes", including "provincials", "fatties", "homosexuals" and "scientologists" - on his wall. Now an edition of the etching has been acquired by the Art Fund for Manchester Art Gallery, so members of the public will be able to scrutinise the work that is hanging over the Chancellor's bowed head as he chooses which of modern Britain's tribes will bear the brunt of his cuts. Whether it will have Perry's desired effect - "He might look upon it and muse, 'Yes we are all as bad and good as one another'" - remains to be seen.

Tired pipes

Is the ENO working its stars too hard? Following on from a disastrous Pearl Fishers - when an indisposed Alfie Boe was replaced by a poorly understudy, then, one act later, by a member of the chorus singing from the book at the side of the stage, while Hanan Alattar also struggled with a sore throat - more tales of sickness and woe reach me from the Coliseum. At Don Giovanni's press night on 6 November, Rebecca Evans was replaced by her understudy Sarah Redgwick in the role of Elvira. Then last Friday, the curse struck again, this time in La Boheme, where Gwyn Hughes Jones, singing Rodolfo, did his back in and was replaced by Peter Auty, wooing an English Mimi in Italian (the only libretto he knew). Both stand-ins acquitted themselves admirably. Still, might The Diary prescribe Echinacea and a daily dose of vitamins to the sickly company?

Card sharp

Calling in to the wonderful Cezanne's Card Players exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery this week, I was struck by the remarkable similarity of Peasant in a Blue Smock to one of our greatest living stage actors. Pork pie hat, red neckerchief and drooping moustache... he's the spitting image of Johnny "Rooster" Byron as played by Mark Rylance in the West End hit Jerusalem. You'll never look at it in quite the same way again.


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