Court of despair and pet topics

The scene was one of utter anguish and desolation. Grown men wailed, big girls screamed.

Yes, it was another first night at the Royal Court, still the Big Daddy of new writing on the British stage.

But these desperate reactions were not caused by Roy Williams’s sparky new boxing play, Sucker Punch, for which the entire stage and auditorium have been converted into a boxing hall.

This outburst of corporate ululation kicked off downstairs in the bar, where Friday night drinkers and Royal Court staff and regulars were going through the agony of watching England play Algeria in a drably tense and jittery 0-0 draw in the World Cup fixture that Prince Harry had predicted would end in a 10-0 victory for our lads.

The sudden influx from upstairs after the Williams play was led by the playwright himself, who was far less interested in gathering compliments for his new work than he was in throwing insult and encouragement at the television screen.

Luckily we only had to endure ten minutes of the game before rushing from the theatre.

In between the rest of the weekend’s much more facinating World Cup fixtures — the heroic performance of New Zealand against current world champions Italy being the undoubted highlight — there loomed the small matter of the stray kitten.

I’m not really a cat person, despite having grown up with them — each cat we had was unimaginatively named Columbus, after my father’s ship in the war — and kept a couple in the house in recent years.

But a tiny ten-week-old tortoiseshell puss with white markings and the eyes of Elizabeth Taylor had crouched in our front garden, obviously abandoned and, as we soon discovered, starving, probably having been outside for of couple of days; she had been spotted dodging cars at the top of the road, too.

We kept her in a cat box while I posted notices on trees in the street and asked around. I contacted a voluntary cat rescue and rang around friends who I thought might be interested, including Michael Billington, who is a serious cat lover. 

The trouble is that people who already have cats are loath to upset the apple cart, as it were, by taking on a new one. You have to find someone who is really just looking out for a kitten; and within twenty-four-hours we had done so.

But for a day and half this cute little missie had the run of our house, sat on my lap in my office, played with bits of ribbon, ate happily — she was completely house-trained — and slept like a little log. 

If she hadn’t been claimed, and we’d kept her another day, I don’t think we could have let her go.

But then I recalled the awkwardness of dealing with cats when you go away, their utter selfishness, and their incontinence in old age. So, good luck, little Flossy (as we called her), but good riddance, too.

As today is the longest day in the year, Midsummer, and the start of the tennis at Wimbledon, let’s hope the sun shines till Christmas.

Already looming next year are two new musicals ominously based on films: Rebecca, translated from the German by Christopher Hampton and directed by Francesca Zambello and Michael Blakemore, which I understand will follow Priscilla into the Palace; and Ghost, directed by Matthew Warchus, slated for the Piccadilly.

And the Simon Gray revival continues with one of his best early plays, Butley, directed by Lindsay Posner (when he’s finished with yet another film adaptation, David Mamet’s House of Cards, at the Almeida) and starring Dominic West. 

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