Equal opportunities fleecing

This blinkered trade’s endless thwarting of talented homosexuals has gone on too long


This article is taken from the April 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Despite opposition expressed in some quarters, surely the idea for “black-only” audience nights at the Noël Coward Theatre deserved to be applauded? If we’re to truly embrace the spirit of vibrant diversity in 2024, being fleeced by exorbitant West End ticket prices must no longer be the largely exclusive privilege of the white middle-classes.

Whilst the eagerly-offended are quick to seize on supposedly disparaging remarks made about scary Sunderland folk by RADA’s inspirational new vice president Cynthia Erivo, one cannot help thinking there’s been a crossing of wires.

After being shown said footage, it seemed clear enough to me that Ms Erivo was merely pointing out she prefers northern cities to “feel like London”.

Perfectly reasonable!

For the sake of transparency — and after repeated goading from certain rivals — this loyal and longstanding member of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund will indeed confirm he’s “disappointed” not to be named amongst the organisation’s 12 recently-unveiled board members.

Whilst it would be wrong to deny that particularly inflammatory exchanges occurred prior to this bizarre decision at my expense, it’s now one’s stated intention to draw a line under past hostilities for the sake of the ABF moving forward.

Needless to say, this doesn’t apply to one Mr Simon Callow, whose disloyalty in recent weeks has proved unforgivable.

Chasing the dragon

Once simply known as the home of Burton and Hopkins, Port Talbot becomes a hotbed for Welsh revolution thanks to the latest endeavours of third-best famous son, Mr Sheen.

Having already rashly chosen to abandon the Hollywood residence for a life amongst the real people back in his home town, dishevelled Michael’s grim BBC drama had all the hallmarks of a fine actor overly preoccupied with pleasing the local hoi polloi.

Whilst those esteemed Port Talbot predecessors proved so adept at delivering altogether more poetic visions of Wales whilst comfortably residing many, many miles away, dear Michael is coming dangerously close to squandering a fine Welsh tradition.

At the time of writing, I can excitedly confirm yours truly is part of the groundbreaking consortium of seasoned London character actors intent on buying Islington’s long neglected theatrical gem, The Old Red Lion.

Following news the establishment’s up for sale, our blueprint is clear: namely restoring this upstairs fringe venue to former glories, whilst ensuring our own presently “unfashionable” talents are given a new home, for the undoubted benefit of the public at large. Naturally, should up-and-coming types also wish to see their contrasting visions brought to this most intimate of stages, we baby boomers would consider it a moral duty to nurture the younger generation — for the right price.

One’s own emotional attachment to the place was formed back in 1998 during an early performance of my (since occasionally-acclaimed) production, Oliver Cromwell: The Musical. Moved to hear my entrance as Old Ironsides meet with such joyous roars of approval from the select audience present, I tastefully ignored jealous co-stars’ claims it was the sound of Arsenal fans in the boozer below.

Irked to see masterful Irishman Andrew Scott recently denied a BAFTA, Doctor Who boss Russell T Davies complains: “What I think happened there was, when a gay man plays a gay man, he’s not considered to be acting.” We can all agree this blinkered trade’s endless thwarting of talented homosexuals has gone on too long.

Following a typically deflating Monday morning telephone conversation with the misfiring agent, one briefly allowed himself to be overcome by a sense of hopelessness.

Disconsolately heading into the living room, the sight of Nigel Havers dressed as a “cowboy” on daytime television served as a timely reminder that mine isn’t the only career in crisis.

Delighting Celtic comrades with rousing calls to bring down the monarchy, Dundonian show pony Mr Cox bellowed: “The whole bloody shooting match should go!”

Fast forward eighteen months and twinkle-eyed Brian proudly poses next to our new Queen for the cameras, sweetly purring: “Yurr Majesty.”

Unimaginative types shouting “hypocrisy” at the great man’s expense once again fail to grasp the intricacies of socialist showbiz life.

Pull the trigger

Suffice to say, the sight of Ralph Fiennes taking silly “trigger warners” to task on the BBC was cheered to the rafters from this particular living room!

By contrast, one struggled to be so enthused by the dramatic spectacle of Dame Helen Mirren tearing up an AI-generated speech when addressing an American awards ceremony.

Whilst dashing Ralph’s credentials — not least since defending Ms Rowling from the treacherous boy wizard — are firmly established, history indicates our media-savvy Dame’s allegiances must prove more changeable.

When previously “blanked” by former co-star Bob Powell (1977’s Jesus of Nazareth), I politely speculated in this column whether it might be down to forgetfulness, senility or blindness.

Having more recently experienced an even frostier reception from Ol” Blue Eyes during a second, similarly brief North London encounter — despite being at pains to engage civilly! — I’m now forced to acknowledge the pettiest of grudges on Bob’s part.

Reflecting on dodging the perils of social media, Hugh Bonneville endearingly quipped: “Nowadays I just comment on pictures of golden retrievers. It’s about as edgy as I get.”

With Hugh having recently parted from the first Mrs Bonneville, I see an aspiring Mrs Bonneville Mark 2 is already cautiously gracing the public stage. We can rest assured our canny housewives’ favourite will manage sensitive developments with trademark aplomb.

Having chosen to take public aim at surviving Monty Python colleagues — not to mention their young lady manager’s “disastrous” handling of the finances — California-based Mr Idle wishes it to be known the resulting furore is all down to the dastardly English press. Eric announces he’ll be continuing to ignore sensationalist articles written by grubby London journalists, who cynically quote — word for word — what he’s already personally tweeted to over half a million followers.

Rogue male

Ever since my ill-fated attempt to address the nephew/lodger’s underachieving status in life at 34½, the lad’s attitude towards his uncle frankly verges on the chilling.

With this angry young man now intent on blaming all and sundry for his shortcomings, along with those fashionable claims of poor mental health, one’s long-ago decision to make him the main beneficiary of the Coates estate looks increasingly ill-advised.

Evidently sensing his elderly relation’s privately having second thoughts (I see the solicitor next Tuesday), the presently murderous look in the rogue’s eyes suggests he’s ready to resort to just about anything to preserve matters to his advantage.

Should any suddenly fatal misfortune befall this vulnerable septuagenarian in the coming days, I request the authorities be alerted to the above account.

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