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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 17th July 2005

My Week


To Nordica, a Scandinavian restaurant in Soho, to have lunch with Mark Shenton, the drama critic of the Sunday Express. I like Mark because when I first started reviewing plays for the Spectator four years ago he was the only one of my fellow critics to talk to me. He's interviewing me for a magazine called What's On In London because a sex farce I've co-written about the Kimberly-Blunkett affair is opening at the King's Head this week. However, within seconds of sitting down Mark completely floors me by apologising for having given my last play a bad review. Not being a regular reader of the Sunday Express, I was completely unaware of this until now. But I decide not to reveal this in case it prejudices him against my latest play


I attend the press night of Aristocrats, a revival of a play by Brian Friel. It's fearfully dull. I'm quite cross, not least because I have two very small children and persuading my wife to allow me to leave the coalface for three hours requires a sack load of very expensive presents. As on so many previous occasions, I leave the theatre thinking, "I bought Caroline a new pair of Manolos for that?


I'm supposed to be writing a book about my adventures in theatreland (among other things) called The Sound of No Hands Clapping, but I keep having to push back the delivery date. My American publisher initially wanted the manuscript by June 1, but after that deadline went whistling past I promised I'd get it to him by July 15. That was revised to July 31 and today I have to email him to say I won't be able to make that deadline either. Rather ominously, he doesn't reply. I have a terrible feeling he's going to ask for the advance back.


Today is the first preview of Who's The Daddy and I take my wife and parents-in-law to dinner beforehand at the Almeida restaurant. To my delight, my co-author Lloyd Evans is having dinner with his wife and father-in-law at the next-door table. The play is extremely close to the knuckle--we've already received a menacing letter from David Blunkett's solicitors--and Lloyd jokes that the only people left in the theatre after the interval will be the lawyers, sent there by their clients to monitor just how libelous it is. But he needn't have worried. The King's Head is packed to the rafters with journalists. (How did they get in? They must have bought tickets.) I hope against hope that the cast aren't aware of this. Hacks are supposed to be banned from the theatre until press night to allow the actors to find their feet. Luckily, they all perform magnificently and by the end of the night even the gentlemen from Sue, Grabbit and Run are roaring with laughter.


I awake to a wonderful surprise in the morning paper. It turns out one of the hacks was sitting in front of Lloyd's father-in-law, a Tory Peer and ex-Bishop, and overheard his reaction to what Lloyd and I refer to as "the blow job scene". "Terrible," he was heard to mutter. "Not at all sharp. Vulgar beyond belief." His companion then turned to him and said, in a soothing voice, "I think the other chap wrote that bit."

Who's The Daddy? Is playing at the King's Head until August 28. For tickets call the box office on 020-7226-1916.

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