The French are frankly unshockable at the Avignon festival, plus Lynn Barber shorn and Rabbie Burns's local theatre saved
Lingua franca in Avignon
The Diary returns fresh from a weekend at the Avignon festival, France's answer to our own Edinburgh arts extravaganza. As well as acquiring the French for "Excuse me, can you please budge up so I can get to my seat?" ("Excusez-moi, mais je dois vous d�ranger"), the Diary was interested to hear, from festival co-director Vincent Baudriller, that British audiences are generally poorly represented in Avignon. This is a surprise, considering the city lies in the heart of Provence. It's also something that may well change next year, when director Simon McBurney of Britain's own Complicite theatre company guests as artistic associate.
Another British director, Katie Mitchell, has caused a stir this year: her stunning retelling of Strindberg's Miss Julie (the latest in a series of collaborations with film producer Leo Warner), received a standing ovation at its French premiere last weekend. Could the Brits be mounting an invasion?
While in Avignon, the Diary also paused to reflect on the absolute unshockability of French audiences. One show ? Blood and Roses, an intense, multimedia production on Joan of Arc and her unlikely friendship with Gilles de Rais, the soldier turned paedophilic child-killer ? featured a chilling scene in which horrific crimes were described in meticulous detail; nobody batted a Gallic eyelid. It was the same at Romeo Castellucci's On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God, in which an incontinent old man repeatedly soiled himself on stage and had his bottom wiped by his long-suffering son. The only audience member apparently wincing was the (apparently prudish, Anglo-Saxon) Diary.
The Telegraph was yesterday ordered to pay an author �65,000 in damages over a book review written by Lynn Barber, the famously insightful if acid-tongued journalist and interviewer, played by Carey Mulligan in the film adaptation of her memoir, An Education.
A high court judge ruled that Barber's 2008 review of Seven Days in the Art World, a book by Sarah Thornton, was "spiteful" and contained serious factual errors; the paper, which plans to appeal the judgment, has been ordered to pay �50,000 for libel, �15,000 for malicious falsehood, and Thornton's legal fees. Whether or not the Telegraph's appeal is successful, the repercussions of the judgment could prove significant for critics everywhere.
Scotland's auldest theatre saved
Scotland's oldest working theatre, the Theatre Royal in Dumfries, has been saved from closure. Built in 1792, it was once frequented by none other than Robert Burns, who wrote several short pieces to be performed there. According to The Stage, local charity the Holywood Trust has come to the rescue, providing cash for much-needed repairs and an extension. Since 1959 the theatre has been home to one of the most active amateur dramatic companies in the country, the Guild of Players. In a time of endless cutbacks, it's good to see the company's future once again assured.