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Londoner’s Diary: Russian theatre troupe’s despot play is ‘so relevant’

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Russian-speaking London theatre company is using their work to speak out against the invasion of Ukraine.

Xameleon theatre group works with theatre-makers from countries including Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It regularly showcases classic Russian works with English subtitles.

Artistic director Vlada Lemeshevska told The Londoner: “We will try to do what we can through art.” The group are strongly against the invasion, which many in the company have been affected by. “We are not sure when we will be able to see our families again,” she said.

Xameleon are planning a performance of Antigone to comment on Putin’s leadership. The Greek tragedy has a despotic king, who forbids mourning in his kingdom. The show had first been planned as a satire of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko. “It is so relevant that I can’t believe it,” Lemeshevska said. Xameleon plan to perform the play in June in Marylebone, but would like to do it sooner. They had hoped to tour Russia with the show.

Xameleon artistic director Vlada Lemeshevska

/ Anna Tarabrina

Lemeshevska said she expected “there will be difficulties” performing in Russian. “We are prepared that British audiences might have some anti-Russian sentiment,” she said.

Raphael painting remains in Russia

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Art fans were hoping to see Raphael masterpiece The Holy Family in the National Gallery’s upcoming show. But as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, the painting will not be travelling from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. A spokesman for the London gallery told the Art Newspaper it “was a decision we took last week” and is unrelated to the Hermitage’s request for international loans to be returned. The DCMS has been advising art institutions not to work with Russia. The show, delayed since 2020 due to Covid, will still feature 17 works by the artist and starts next month.

Let’s live and let live, says Wilson

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Favourite children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, right, says that coming out in her seventies has been hassle-free. “As far as I’m aware, I’ve had not a single person say anything at all detrimental,” she told Times TV. “Isn’t it wonderful that nowadays it’s not a big deal for people and we’re all slightly more grown-up or kind about letting people be whatever they want to be?” If only all much-loved kids’ writers preached the same message.

Coles: Nosy vicars make good sleuths

Mike Marsland / Getty Images for

BBC presenter Reverend Richard Coles says being a vicar has helped the next stage of his career: writing murder mysteries. The clergy “get used to being part of the community, and reading the community in a particular way, which is why I think vicars make good detectives”, he tells the Bookseller. Coles is quitting his parish this summer to write full time. He added that vicars are naturally “nosy” and “try to match what appears on the surface with what happens underneath”. Careful what you say in church.

Winners mingle at the Bafta bashes

After the Baftas… there’s the after-parties. Bond actress and EE Rising Star winner Lashana Lynch, and supermodel Kate Moss were at a Vogue and Tiffany & Co bash at Annabel’s, which Billie Piper also attended. Lily James and Jenna Coleman went to an equally star-studded Netflix party at Chiltern Firehouse, where Benedict Cumberbatch — who missed out on leading actor — was clutching an award for his film The Power of the Dog.

SW1A

As his Government acts slowly to help Ukrainian refugees, The Londoner is reminded that Boris Johnson claims to be descended from refugees from Russian wars. The PM has said his great-great-grandmother was a Circassian slave. The Circassians came from south-western Russia, and most fled to Turkey after war in the 1800s.

Last week it was announced that No 10 adviser Ed Oldfield, Allegra Stratton’s questioner in the notorious video making light of Downing Street parties, was leaving for the private sector. However, a source tells us Oldfield seems to have been on leave for some time. It’s a good time to bury awkward news.

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