I love my horseracing and have recently been banging in a few juicy priced winners to enhance the fun. No begging letters please, I get enough of those from my wife. But my equine October highlight was meeting one of my heroes in the flesh. That’s him in the picture, the good looking one. Albertas Run. Superstar gelding of Jonjo O’Neill. Winner of 15 races, including a few top ones, and nearly £1,000,000 in prize money. Favourable circumstances conspired to get me a visit to Jackdaws Castle training stables in the Cotswolds on the day before Bertie won the Old Roan Chase at Aintree. I am sure it was the pat on the head I gave him. Either that or my hat. For those interested in such things I went with a close friend who was so taken by it all she promptly purchased one of his unraced companions. Whether it will be an Albertas Run (rated 170) or a Quixall Crossett (google him) only history will tell. Not that it matters. Both of them, and all the other darlings are heroes to someone. That’s why I love horseracing.
I also love theatre or I do when it is good. Among my favourite playwrights is Scarborough superstar Alan Ayckbourn (no raceform rating) and his best plays have a comic cruelty which is exquisite. I prefer his earlier stuff to the later ones and one of the former is the minor masterpiece Absent Friends. Five friends in fragile relationships arrange a tea party for a recently bereaved sixth. A simple premise but Ayckbourn conducts a writing masterclass in wringing every ounce of comedy and pathos from the situation. I love the play so much that I have directed it twice in the last thirty years. My wife, the one who writes the begging letters, is directing a new production of it in Harpenden at the end of the month and giving it an interesting theatrical twist. Aficionados of Ayckbourn in Scarborough will know that all his plays are performed ‘in the round’ but rarely get done like that on local circuits and certainly not in the West End. But this one gets that chairs on the floor treatment. I can’t review it for obvious reasons. But I can give it a preliminary pat on the head. And we all know what that did for Albertas Run. Go see it. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Roy Hall
High Street Players
Absent Friends by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Frances Hall
Wed 23rd – Fri 25th November 2011 8.00pm
High Street Methodist Church, Harpenden
Tickets £8.00 (Tel 01582 763277)