August 14, 2008

Julian Hall’s Festival Diary

By Julian Hall

Comedian Shazia Mirza was booked as a guest on MacAulay and Co this week. As the radio show is recorded early in the morning, Mirza (right) assumed it would be herself and Fred MacAulay in the studio. The comic thus opted to go to the Spiegeltent venue in a coat over her pyjama bottoms and vest top. As you might imagine, Mirza was completely unprepared for an audience of 250 people, for whom she had to perform a five-minute set.

John Prescott was in bullish mood for his Book Festival event. The former Deputy PM put his full weight behind Gordon Brown and dismissed the PM's detractors on the issue of his rather fake smile: "When you are on a plane you don't go up to see if the pilot is smiling, do you? You just hope he can fly the plane."

The heckling at Kate Smurthwaite's comedy show, Apes Like Me, has been on a higher level than she expected. The show hit town at the same time as a primatology conference was on at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Several groups from the International Primatological Society attended, interrupting good- naturedly to identify recently discovered subspecies that missed the cut when the show was written.

The saying that "you are what you eat" has a different meaning for Steven Berkoff. Theatre's enfant terrible took his Book Festival audience on a tongue-in-cheek tour of the world of cuisine and pointed out how racial or national characteristics could be traced to the animal people used for food or livestock. The chicken, say, was emblematic of his fellow Jews because of its "shrieking, hysterical and neurotic" tendencies. But the animal closest to representing the English isn't on the menu: "Because of their love of hunting, the English upper classes resemble their dogs; they can't help it, it's in their nature."

[email protected]

(c) 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.