The Mysterious Mr Beck

Before the Almeida Theatre was known city wide in its current incarnation it was a lecture hall. This was in the days of The Elephant Man, and when conjoined twins and bearded ladies were removed from the hospital and taken to the roadside freak show. Hand-rubbing gleeful surgeons would listen to professorial speeches about the latest techniques in aneasthesia or eyes widening witness the latest equipment to remove cysts from the digestive tract or lung.

The spectacular was muted by the First World War and the nursing of the trenches. The building lay dormant for some time until the Salvation Army took over using it mostly for storage. Soon the building was left to rats and the winter damp until Mr Beck of Islington saw its potential in the 1960’s and opened Mr Becks Carnival novelties selling and hiring fancy dress attire and circus equipment.

Mr Beck a timid and private transvestite was tragically murdered by his brother in law for bringing shame to the family. And today the emergency signal for a fire at this popular theatre is ‘Mr Beck’ wherever he may be. It is said that his shadowy figure is still seen loitering in the Green Room quietly listening to the interval conversations about make up and drag and the freedom of dressing up.

The World is Full of Letters

The other day the 6 year old Leo came to me with a yellow piece of paper emblazoned with black hieroglyphics. "Look,' he told me proudly " this is Chinese". As I was scrutinising the rice noodle packaging and wondering at the intricacies of these foreign words Leo tugged at my arm and in a stage whisper declared "The World is FULL of letters" before leaving the room to share the good news. I remember when I came to realise, like Leo, that the world was made more magical by alphabets. My mother was an art teacher and apart from my brother and I having a constant source of powder paint from the infamous school stock cupboard the walls in my room were covered with pages torn from an old Letraset catalogue. Seriffed and non-seriffed upper and lower case A's were stuck opposite my bed so I too could see the loveliness of letters.

Years later and my love affair has blossomed to a passion for googled information and a buffet approach to All Things Found There. The simplicity of letters is forgotten and now a word or phrase, from 'weblog' to 'wheat free cuisine' (if indeed there is such a thing) leads me to even more words and statements where the complex is made irresisitable with a single key stroke.