SO IT would seem that the French have had some difficulty translating their art to these shores. Notre-Dame de Paris, a pounds 4m rock music adaptation of Victor Hugo's story, has bombed badly over here. Best quote so far: the London Evening Standard's "It's a crock, monsieur".
Well, you don't have to go to the South Pole to know it's cold there, and just a look at a production still will confirm your suspicions that it would be best to keep away, although those fanatically entranced by kitsch may want to nip along. There will be no need to queue.
Still, Notre-Dame has reopened one debate that we have not had in this country for, oh, about three weeks now. Here is what Michael White, the show's English producer, had to say after reading the reviews: "It's just part of the same thing that goes right back to Napoleon. Read any war memoir and it's full of stuff about `the bloody French', `bloody de Gaulle causing trouble' and so on."
Well, we must make allowances for him speaking without due preparation, and on a matter that presumably would not be his specialist subject on Mastermind, but every so often we have to ask ourselves, "are we Francophobic"?
The standard response is to say "yes" and then turn over and go back to sleep. But it is a little more complicated than that. I would first like to say - just before I launch into a long denunciation of their morals and manners - that I do not consider myself a Francophobe. I go on holidays there. Their grub is terrific. I let them in the house. Catherine Deneuve is still fanciable. Their literature is fantastic.
We could have done with something like the Code Napoleon. When someone goes to a private school in France, it means they're thick. If I lived in France I'd be an intellectual and Catherine Deneuve would go out with me. Here everyone just takes the wizz out of me for not doing a proper job. The French experiment must work. …