23 AUGUST 1975, Page 15



"The argumentative razzle-dazzle, the intellectual pyrotechnics, the verbal acrobatics that caused Tom Stoppard's Travesties to be chosen as the Evening Standard's Best Play of 1974 are Still there to amaze and puzzle audiences in this fresh production at the Albery," wrote Milton Shulman, the Evening Standard's theatre reviewer last week.

What amazes and puzzles Waspe is that Shulman should be under this strange misapprehension. Travesties probably was the best Play of 1974, but the panel that pronounces on that question for the London Evening Standard did not think so. They — and, curiously, they include Shulman — gave the paper's 'Best Play' award to Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, which was a fishy enough business at the time (since the Ayckbourn work is not one play but three) and looks even fishier now.

Tory timidity Our Minister for the Arts, Hugh Jenkins, so Consistently disregards informed opinion in the an world — preferring instead, it might be strongly argued, the dubious counsel of his Party's.extreme left wing — that I am unlikely to be surprised at anything he may do. What does surprise me, however, is the apparent reluctance of the Conservative opposition to attack his attitudes. He has, for example, refused to attend the Select Committee of the House of Commons in the Wealth Tax to explain In Person the new proposals he recently made tø them in a memorandum — but no murmur of criticism of this arrogance has been heard from the opposition benches. So far the only public

rebuke has come from the ever-vigilant Hugh Leggatt, Secretary of 'Heritage in Danger,' who has justifiably accused Jenkins of "cocking a snook at parliamentary democracy."

There to here

Actress Shirley MacLaine is due in Britain again at the end of the month. One place where she is unlikely to be feted is Sir Lew Grade's headquarters at ATV. This is not simply because they have rather unhappy and embarrassed memories of the ill-fated series, Shirley's World — after all, flops can happen to anyone. What bothers them at ATV is that Miss MacLaine insists on talking about it and has furthermore written about it in her book, You Can Get There From Here, which she is coming here to promote.

New image?

Versatile Mr Edward Heath, the well-known sailor and backbencher and erstwhile contributor to The Spectator, is booked for a guest spot on BBC2 in the autumn in his capacity as a musician — but somewhat startingly on a show being hosted by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

New dramatist?

Lady Antonia Fraser's interest in the theatre goes further than has been hinted in the press recently. It is not so long ago, I'm told, that she wrote eplay that she hoped might be done by Nigel Davenport and his wife Maria Aitken (sister of the Frasers' friend, Jonathan). Unfortunately it failed to excite any managerial enthusiasm (indeed, there is some suggestion that the Davenports were too embarrassed actually to show it to any managements), but I daresay Lady Antonia, with better advice at hand, will do better in her next attempt.

Meanwhile, and a bit of a non-sequitur, Vivien Merchant is thinking of appearing in a revival of The Vortex, Noel Coward's early play about dissolute high society in the 'twenties.