Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Noel Coward’

Can You Ever Forgive Me? *****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 5th February, 2019

MelissaMcCarthyLee Israel was a celebrity biographer who experienced declining sales and increased penury in 1990s New York, falling out with her agent and behind with her rent. Her only solace was her aging cat. Having successfully sold one, genuine autograph letter to a local bookshop she then set about forging 400 others, purporting to come from a whole range of literary and media figures from Noel Coward to Dorothy Parker. She even filched some genuine letters from reference libraries. Inevitably her deception was uncovered — one trigger being that one of her “Coward” letters was just too openly gay — though for a while she was able to prolong her success by using her flamboyantly louche homosexual friend Jack as a surrogate salesman. The FBI was now on to her, though once confronted with this sad and somewhat delusional figure, the justice system was fairly lenient on her — and she had the last laugh by writing up her experiences in a book. Lee Israel and Jack are both dead, but in Marielle Heller’s deliciously constructed Can You Ever Forgive Me?, they are brought vividly back to life by Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant. McCarthy’s performance as the antisocial, often foul-mouthed whiskey-dependent cat lady, is a tour de force. She is the personification of 50-year-old dowdiness, frowning beneath her fringe. She is both pathetic and achingly funny and the audience soon becomes co-conspirators in her criminal activities as she launches into them with ever increasingly gusto. Richard E Grant has great fun — and is great fun — as the camp blagger Jack, living in a world of fantasy and casual pick-ups. They are an odd couple but their tetchy partnership is one of the most delightful things in this perfectly pitched and nuanced film. Truly a gem.

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LGBT History Month

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 2nd February, 2019

Alan TuringFebruary is LGBT History Month in the UK, providing an opportunity to showcase the contribution made to society by LGBT people, ranging from one of the fathers of modern computer technology and artificial intelligence (AI), Alan Turing, to the playwright and wit, Noel Coward. Given my own professional and personal interests I inevitably hold especially dear those who made a big contribution to politics and the Arts, several of whom I shall be celebrating during the course of the month. A great tribute is deserved for Peter Tatchell, who for decades has campaigned tirelessly for human rights and equality, and those who were instrumental in getting Equal Marriage put on the UK statute books by the 2010-2015 Coalition Government, not least Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone. History Month events are already occupying a significant place in my diary. Last night I was at a dinner for the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship and today I’ll be attending a lunch put on by the Oscar Wilde Society.

Noel CowardOscar Wilde has posthumously played an important role in my own writing life, as I have produced three books about the Irish playwright and his circle. I am currently working my way through Matthew Sturgis’s monumental new biography, Oscar, which is full of previously unknown details, including a very detailed account of Wilde’s American lecture tours. It is often overlooked just how important Oscar Wilde was as a social reformer, the grey clouds of his trials and imprisonment obscuring his progressive agenda, expressed directly in a number of essays and indirectly through his plays. For me, he represents the clearest example of living out the life philosophy of discovering who you are and then proudly being that person. That was a very brave position to take in the late Victorian period.

9326E15F-E174-4CA8-A6F2-71AACBE68C7CDuring LGBT History Month we can mark new milestones in the campaign for equality, such as Angola’s recent decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, while also noting with concern backward steps, such as the election of the homophobic Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. LGBT people are still the subject of discrimination and abuse in several parts of the world, one of the most egregious examples being in Chechnya. But the heroes and heroines of the past and the present can perhaps serve as an inspiration and even a consolation to those who still have to attain the full human rights that should be the norm for all people, irrespective of their sexuality.

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Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd August, 2009

Bangkok MetroNoel Coward famously wrote that in Bangkok, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Actually, all the alley mutts I have seen have been well asleep in the shade long before then. But walking back to my hotel at lunchtime today reminded me just how hot and sticky the Thai capital is at this time of the year. It is exactly 40 years since I was last here during August and I can endorse the verdict of many guidebooks on the subject: don’t!  But if you have to — as I do, as I will be working here over the coming week — there is still much to see and enjoy. And at least some of the city is now accessible by either Metro or Skytrain,  both of which are ferociously air-conditioned (eat your hearts out, London commuters).

Disconcerting numbers of Thais are wearing hygeinic facemasks. One might think this is to avoid the traffic fumes — tuk-tuks are particularly polluting — but it appears that a collective mania has seized the place over swine flu. Everyone stared at me when I sneezed on the Metro this morning, but it was only the air-conditioning, honest.

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