Was Hitler Gay? Revealed (five) - Lord Byron: Exile On Fame Street (BBC1)

AT last the origin of the Nazi salute is explained. The hand stuck defiantly in the air was a result of Adolf Hitler trying to dry his nail polish.

The idea, proposed in the Revealed documentary, sounds ridiculous, but historians will go to any lengths to prove a thesis. It's not just modern day celebrities who find their reputations under attack.

Hot on the heels of Was Hitler Gay? came the story of how Byron put the bi in bisexual. The poet was branded "mad, bad and dangerous to know", which pretty much sums up the Nazi leader too.

Revealed entertainingly switched between writer Lothar Machtan, who claims in his book The Hidden Hitler that Adolf was a homosexual, and various historians poo-pooing the idea, putting it down to a matter of interpretation. Or as author Geoffrey Giles said in most unacademic terms: "He doesn't know his arse from his elbow".

Machtan persisted in tales of homo-erotic life in the First World War trenches, of Hitler's lovers and even the possibility that he was a gay prostitute for a time. By the time he was claiming the Fuhrer's love of opera was a clue to his gayness, I couldn't resist stifling a laugh. Hitler could claim "some of my best friends are gay" but that doesn't exactly prove that he was too.

The Bryon documentary seemed on firmer ground, telling how the ladykiller poet had a passion for adolescent boys and enjoyed an incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta. Perhaps his boast, of having 200 women in as many nights, was a ruse to allay rumours of his bisexuality.

Byron was just 36 when he died in 1836, fighting in the Greek War of Independence, but led a life "packed with scandal and intrigue". One would expect no more of any celebrity. There was obviously more to him than the womaniser in the open-necked shirt that remains the popular perception of him.

He was very different, I suspect, from the Lord Byron we saw portrayed by Keith Barron in clips from an old BBC series and by ex-Dr Kildare Richard Chamberlain in the film Lady Caroline Lamb. Annoyingly, we'll never know the whole truth as his publishers burnt the manuscript of his autobiography after his death.

Travels With My Aunt, Darlington Civic Theatre

THIS unlikely entertainment of four actors performing a multitude of characters from around the globe, using the merest suggestion of set and costume, is a journey into pure joy.

The slick interplay of Gary Wilmot, Clive Francis and Jeffrey Holland allows all three to slide between the roles of our hero Henry Pulling, a retired dahlia-loving bank manager, and his incredible ageing Aunt Augusta.

The two meet at his mother's funeral where she drops huge hints about being his real mother and dangles the intrigue of foreign travel in front of an unmarried early version of Gordon Brown. Adventures with his aunt's lovers, criminal partners and those in pursuit aim to free Henry from his prudent pastimes. Giles Havergal's adaptation of Graham Green's 1969 book - "written for the fun of it" - takes us from provincial England to Paraguay by way of some of the world's most dangerous fleshpots.

The fourth member of this acting feast is Andrew Greenough who comes up with 35 different roles, from a goose-stepping Nazi to an Irish wolfhound. In fact, the Guy Fawkes' Night opening performance has more than enough fireworks to ensure that nobody misses the colourful assault on the skies outside. By strange coincidence, a mortar-sized candle, supposedly containing a gold ingot, was knocked flying by accident long before Francis reached the words "put the candle out".

Even this wasn't a damp squib on a night of genteel Catherine wheels.

Viv Hardwick

Travels With My Aunt runs until Saturday. Evenings at 7.30pm. Tickets: £9-£17. Box Office: (01325) 486 555