Under the Influence
The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer is always keen to remind us that he used to be rather hip-to-the-beat. But the Omnivore is worried that this ex-bon viveur’s former hedonism is still impacting on his critical faculties. On seeing MACBETH performed by the RSC, he noted “my palms were clammy and my heart was racing“. This could of course have been due to the intensity of the production (indeed Libby Purves was similarly afflicted) but we believe there’s something more to it. Just take a look at his review of DR FAUSTUS, currently on at the Globe:
Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is one of the most disconcerting plays in the English language. I studied it at school and was thrilled by the arrogant hero who makes a pact with the devil to gain forbidden power and knowledge. Later at Oxford, during a deeply misguided ingestion of psychedelic drugs (just say no, kids) I became convinced that I had died and ended up in some diabolical underworld. Mephistopheles’ chilling line in the play “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it” went round and round in my head for hours on end.
The Omnivore archives – namely his review of Laura Wade’s POSH – provide further confirmation of Uncle Charlie’s frazzled synapses:
I suppose I also ought to declare a lack of interest here. Though often drunk and sometimes drugged in my own student days at Oxford, I was never a member of the Bullingdon, though I am listed as such on Wikipedia. Watching this portrait of hoorays turning swinish, I’m cordially glad that I wasn’t.
NB. Before you bother checking, that claim on Wikipedia seems to have been withdrawn.
It seems as if drawing on his experimental past for creative inspiration is actually quite a habit. Spencer has written three crime novels: I Nearly Died (1994), Full Personal Service (1996) and Under the Influence (2000).
But whatever the creative goldmine, kids remember this: when you say no to drugs, you say yes to life.