Would the Bard be forced to rebrand himself “gender-fluid”?

Romeo Coates on the latest backstage gossip

On the Stage

Famous last words

Two funerals last month, another the month before. is crisis-hit profession of ours continues to lose those who were, for many a year, its very backbone.

How touching to be assured my eulogy in honour of one deceased co-star very much marked the “highlight” of proceedings, after stepping in at the eleventh hour. I only hope one’s increasingly popular services are not required again any time soon. Though all be assured, on such deeply sad occasions, I am always ready to reluctantly “raise the bar”.

Staying on the same theme, was it really wise to ask “Basil Brush” to speak at dear old pal Derek Fowlds’s recent funeral service? While hailed a triumph in some quarters — the pair were a long ago children’s double-act — I was not alone in quietly concluding Basil’s performance lacked anything approaching gravitas.

Much Ado About Nothing

On the infuriating obsession over who “wrote” Shakespeare’s plays — I stand among those who feel the clue is in the name! — politically correct RSC boss Gregory Doran unhelpfully responds: “I don’t care who he, she or they were.”

Doran also wishes it to be known that “regendering is not a policy at the RSC, but it is certainly an opportunity.” Having proved adept at dodging trouble in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, I do wonder whether our ever- resourceful Bard would have been forced to rebrand himself “gender-fluid” to appease the court of King Gregory…

Following repeated quarrels with the new agent, who claimed my old acting headshots by the late, great Gerry Forrester were now “problematic,” I gracefully relented and agreed to meet her photographer of choice.

While based in a less than salubrious part of town and afflicted with twenty- first-century vowels that rendered him largely incoherent to this client’s ears, I initially deemed young “Jack” harmless enough. How wrong was I!

My resulting rage at seeing the sad, wizened creature this disreputable wretch had maliciously seen t to portray through his corrupt lens can barely be put into words. Let us just conclude that the flustered girl who claims to represent me has been instructed such monstrosities shall never see the light of day.

Meanwhile, whippersnapper director Luke Sheppard — I’m advised he should be described as “award-winning” — patiently explains how updating Shakespeare onstage ensures he can “continue to have relevance” in these dreary times. How has this outdated and overrated Midlander managed to survive these past 400 years?

Batty Ex-Bond Girl Britt Ekland’s ungenerous complaint about backstage conditions at Barnstaple’s Queen’s Theatre while touring with “The Cat and the Canary” raises eyebrows among hardier practitioners of the trade. Those loyal to the theatrical delights of Barnstaple conclude this is the price one pays for hiring pampered movie stars of yesteryear to tread the boards…

Which way to Damascus?

How bold of Jeremy Irons to now publicly dismiss everything he’s ever said about anything in order to survive the onslaught of modern-day critics. While past throwaway remarks on same-sex marriage and women’s rights had been deemed beyond the pale by the powers that be, frisky Jeremy, 71, is now placing himself firmly on the side of such “progressives”. A road to Damascus moment no doubt — and most certainly not the cynical, career-preserving piffle contemporaries suspect him of!

News reaches me that Dundee thespian Brian Cox, 73, shamelessly enjoys the attentions of more youthful fans since landing his popular role as Logan Roy in TV’s Succession. An eyewitness reports the old show-off was tickled pink to be surrounded by pretty young things squealing in delight as he eagerly delivered his character’s expletive catchphrase.

As she’s already endured the indignity of being in the disastrous film version of Cats, it would be remiss of me not to report ominous rumblings concerning Dame Judi Dench’s upcoming appearance in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s movie Artemis Fowl. He’s somehow persuaded our most celebrated of living actresses to play a “gender- swapped fairy commander”, with a strange gravelly accent I sensibly hesitate to describe as Irish. Should this at all back re at Judi’s expense, I trust Ken will have the decency to shoulder the blame.

I do hope Noël Coward’s ghost doesn’t feel the need to haunt director Edward Hall following the release of his upcoming film version of “Blithe Spirit”. e great man didn’t care for David Lean’s 1945 screen adaptation of the play, announcing in forthright fashion: “My dear, you’ve just f***** up the best thing I ever wrote.”

Fanboys will be Fanboys

During a recent evening at The Two Brewers, I found myself suddenly approached by two starstruck-looking gentlemen visiting from the provinces.

It soon emerged the said pair had excitedly recognised yours truly from a long ago appearance in TV sci-fi Blake’s 7. While I jovially clari ed there’d been “many other roles over the years!” Chris and Simon — let us say they were over 35 — eagerly assured me this had been “the one”. Merry hours ensued, in which I may have re-enacted my death scene from the show (possibly more than once) in a late-night Moroccan eaterie. As we parted company, with fond plans for a reunion in Cheadle Hulme, I can truly say this old cynic’s faith in human nature was brie y restored.

A day’s tv filming brie y soured when yours truly was ticked o for forgetting himself and innocently referring to his head-strong female co-star as an“actress”. I was most frostily reminded she very much considered herself an “actor”. On subsequently observing the young lady in question display what appeared to be her full dramatic range, I mischievously concluded within earshot of the humourless director: “I stand corrected. No actress she!”

Still very lovely, Joanna Lumley bemoans the ignorance of today’s youth, noting they “don’t even know who Peter O’Toole is.” It brings back fond memories of Ned Sherrin’s one-off charity production of “Cinderella”, when Lumley (Prince Charming) and O’Toole ( The Herald) briefly shared the stage. When asked by a fellow co-star, “Does the Prince approach?’ Peter, not overly-burdened with dialogue to remember on the night, improvised: “F****** if I know.”

[URGENT NOTE TO THE EDITOR!] In the days since writing the above item, I’ve found Chris and Simon’s behaviour to turn both possessive and sinister. Should they be reading this — as I’ll certainly not be returning their calls!— let me clarify once and for all that Cheadle Hulmeis off.

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