16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 87

Q. This week I am due to attend a theatrical

performance in a small, semi-private theatre in London's West End. I happen to know that most of the audience will be of a certain social rank: e.g., people who are interested in the conservation of stately homes and who almost certainly attended the Countryside March. I cannot help feeling that the event will present an almost irresistible opportunity to some of

the powers that currently be to emulate the Russian government's move in coping with the recent Chechen rebel-style incursion into a Moscow theatre, and deal with a whole tranche of 'undesirables' at one fell swoop. How can I assuage my almost certainly irrational fears so that I can enjoy the performance?

S. T., Chirton, Wiltshire A. Since many members of the audience at the theatrical performance you refer to will be hailing from stately homes themselves, there is no reason why you should not spread the word that it might be an idea to make a trip into their attic area before visiting the theatre. Most of them will be able to lay their hands on a reasonable supply of first or second world war gas masks kept in storage for one reason or another. By wearing one of these masks throughout the performance, you

and the rest of the audience will be able to set your probably irrational anxiety to rest, and sit back and enjoy it.