Peter Rhodes on the return of a banned word

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

DONALD Trump mocks the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man." Pause for thought. If Kim's scientists have already perfected miniature H-bombs, as he claims, why would he need a rocket? A rocket is merely one means of delivery. So is a shipping container or a Ford pick-up. The real nightmare is not Kim threatening to lob nuclear warheads on big rockets but Kim announcing that his warheads have safely arrived in New York. By van.

Dave Willetts as the White Rabbit with Wendi Peters playing the Queen of Hearts. Picture by Paul Coltas

OFF to the theatre, this time the amateur sort. I have never entirely understood am-dram but it allows respectable middle-class people to use the sort of language in public that most of us only ever use in private. Many years ago on my first weekly paper I reviewed lots of am-dram shows. I recall being profoundly shocked at one scene in which a vile, predatory old man salivated with delight as he described the joys of seducing young passengers on trains. It wasn't the words I found horrifying but the fact they were spoken by Bert, the bloke from the electrical shop. From that day forth I could never buy a plug socket from Bert without the mental image of him lasciviously cruising the corridors on the 7.20 from Paddington.

ANYWAY, there is only one golden rule of reviewing am-dram productions when you live and work on the same patch as the actors. The shows are all, without exception, brilliant. If you break this rule and even hint, for example, that Mrs Fothergill (in her 70s) is a bit old to be playing Juliet, you will be buttonholed by aggrieved part-time thesps asking in a pained way: "Don't you realise this is an amateur company?"

BUT every now and then, little theatres produce huge stars. Charlie and Algernon is a beautiful little musical I reviewed more than 30 years ago at a tiny am-dram theatre in Warwickshire. The climax was a song-and-dance act between Charlie and a live white mouse. It was gobsmackingly brilliant and, with rave reviews ringing in his ears, the lead actor decided to turn pro, despite having no formal training. Dave Willetts, since you ask, and the rest is West End history.

Dave Willetts

OUR changing language. It is almost beyond belief, in these enlightened times, that students at Loughborough University wanted to hold a "slave auction" during freshers' week. But no less surprising is what followed. The uni's African-Caribbean Society denounced the event as showing "blatant disregard for coloured people." Coloured people? Seriously?

THE word "coloured" has been regarded with loathing for at least 30 years. These days, it tend to be used only by old folk who still think it is polite and would never dream of using the word "black". In recent years, thanks partly to Lenny Henry, the American term "people of colour" has become fashionable but "coloured" has remained beyond the pale. Now, if the words of black students at Loughborough signify anything, the sands may be shifting again.

INCIDENTALLY, if you're thinking of emailing me about the German motorist who asked you for directions to Luger-Barooga (Loughborough), it is ancient.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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