Gleaming Spires

Off to Oxford for the Fringe this week. Did a spot of recce-ing (God, is that how you spell that? Doesn’t look like a proper word… Oh dear, feeling too lazy to check) on Tuesday, mislaid my wallet in Oxford somewhere, not an auspicious omen. Tickets are selling well for my performance on the first two nights but not so great for Good Friday and Easter Saturday. I fear that Oxfordites are going away for the break, and will leave me, stranded onstage with the ubiquitous 2 people and a dog in the audience, with God sending a thunderbolt from the heavens straight to the Burton Taylor Studio for my cheek in performing my sacrilegeous smut at this significant time in the Christian calendar. (What a nice Blakean image that is, though). Oxford looked miles more beautiful than I remembered it from brief forays there in the past. I tend to envision it through a pall of mist or pollution, or perhaps that was to do with the psychological states I’ve been in whilst visiting. There’s a posh hotel called The Randolph there that I once stayed in with a character who appears in Lady in Bed. It was one of those deeply ironic occasions where the hotel was lovely, it was a holiday, all should have been well, but I was desperately wishing I was there with someone else, noone specific, just someone else. If you see the play, you may be able to guess the character.
I also used to go to a Rastafarian restaurant in Oxford, years ago, when a friend from university had moved there. This was a great bohemian place where I tasted my first ever Jamaican food and drank wickedly potent rum cocktails, and where the dreadlocked proprietor and his interestingly white, turbanned wife were great hosts. To my horror, I discovered recently that David Cameron used to babysit for their kids, and because of the fondness that the owner had for him, he would definitely be voting Conservative in the upcoming Splatterfest (though the missis, mercifully, is voting Green, unswayed by her chubby babysitter’s previous creche-work). So, though the restaurant may be there still, I will not slug rum and plantain there again…its subversive glow has gone.
I am girding myself for the standing-on-street-corners-handing-out-flyers experience that I may have to do because of Jesus and his meddling. This is potentially a very undignified thing to have to do, and I don’t suppose Helen Mirren or Kate Winslet have to do it much these days, but I will set my jaw to the wind and get stuck in. I have already established where there is a Thorntons and a Cafe Nero for the inevitable frequent refuellings that will be taken. Whilst I’m in the business of namechecking chainstores, I do think it’s good of Waterstones to devote a desk to the Fringe, with brochures and flyers and perhaps even a human being to answer questions. One thing I can’t bear about the chainstorification of the high streets is the reduction of community spirit that usually comes in its wake (try getting your fringe theatre posters up in shop windows these days – they send for a bouncer if you so much as ask) but it’s good that Waterstones is breaking the mould here. The organisers of Oxfringe, Heather and Sarah must have silver tongues. They’ve certainly got some marketing ability: there’s lots of evidence of the Fringe in town in the form of yellow and pink posters and logos. Great! Warms the cockles of my tired and cynical heart. The community (and the tourists) need to know there’s some lovely theatre and music in their midst. Support the Arts! And on that note, read this…, a fantastic letter from Jonathan Holmes about how the arts need to be supported by whoever is the next government.


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