Beware of Basil

These enlightened times now ensure Jenny also runs off with the male parts!

On the Stage

This article is taken from the August/September 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

Jealous detractors complaining Jenny Seagrove “bags the plum female roles” in partner Bill Kenwright’s shows, must think again. Cast to play Gayev in Bill’s production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard from this October, these enlightened times now ensure Jenny also runs off with the male parts!

Beware of Basil

A brief warning to the vulnerable, who may find themselves in danger of parting with hefty sums for a “meet and greet” with someone claiming to have been John Cleese. Understood at the time of writing to be intent on lurking around a Manchester “convention”, the angry elderly gentleman in question is likely to insist on talking at length about the greatness of Fawlty Towers, the hopelessness of the modern-day BBC, and why being done over in the divorce courts by the third Mrs Cleese forces him to make such appearances in the first place.

Sympathies to Indiana Jones, now creaking at almost 80. While filming the franchise’s latest instalment in the UK, he was briefly seen to lose all composure … when confronted by the understandably terrifying sight of fans from the North of England.

Returning for a UK theatre tour of The Cat and the Canary, I trust batty ex-Bond girl Britt Ekland will rein in any further diva-ish complaints about “backstage conditions”? I do recall her causing quite the rumpus in Barnstaple just before the plague intervened.

Was I the only one cheering aloud when my old chum Simon Callow quite reasonably suggested on the airwaves that live theatre should be “available on the NHS”? Whenever I mention this elsewhere, I’m swiftly shot down by po-faced types dismissively claiming Simon got “carried away”. One clearly cannot say anything constructive about the NHS these days …

Having feared bridges were burned with the nearby drama school, I was recently heartened to receive a call from the new secretary, politely inquiring whether I was available at short notice to assist in rehearsals. It emerged one was to temporarily take on the role of “intimacy coordinator” — these days apparently deemed essential by students — after the last incumbent was forced to resign in disgrace (they’d discovered she’d “liked” two JK Rowling tweets in 2017).

Judging by the emotion on those young faces, I could sense some sort of very real breakthrough being made

On arrival, I duly set about the task by explaining to those present that I knew all about the difficulty of love scenes, having been unflatteringly compared to Timothy Dalton by a leading lady in 1979. I then playfully suggested that “mental obstacles” surrounding onstage intimacy might be overcome if they followed the excellent example of countless generations of drama students — namely jumping into the sack with one another beforehand.

Judging by the emotion on those young faces as they started frantically typing into their phones, I could sense some sort of very real breakthrough being made … only to be interrupted by an irate member of staff bursting through the door, shrieking that my being there was a “secretarial error”.

How fitting the fate of a man bearing the name Hancock offered us a reminder of sitcom’s golden age. Those of a certain vintage must surely concur our ex-Health Secretary’s performance was worthy of ’Allo ’Allo!’s frisky café owner René Artois, during those memorable backroom trysts with the saucy French maid.

Even dishier Rishi

News that a surprisingly handsome-looking chap has been cast as John Major in the next series of The Crown follows ice maiden Gillian Anderson’s PM performance last year.

An upcoming Sky drama, meanwhile, will not only see sex maniac Hancock portrayed by another TV heartthrob of the moment, but our current Chancellor played by a young gentleman even “dishier” than himself.

For all the hazards of public office, it must surely come as some consolation to our leading politicians to know there’s every chance they’ll end up being represented on screen by someone considerably better looking?

Though all very well for attractive show folk to portray politicians, isn’t it time we learned real life interactions between these two worlds remains ill-advised for all concerned?

I gather poor Miss Izzard is now the biggest political Jonah since Lembit Opik

While Milord Lloyd Webber has of late been bewailing ever associating with Tory types in the House of Lords, recent history is littered with such unsatisfactory associations: from the great Glenda’s dreariest ever role as MP for Hampstead, to Colin Firth getting into a terrible pickle with the Liberals, and preening octogenarian Patrick Stewart offending the thin-skinned scruff who used to lead Labour. What’s more, I gather poor Miss Izzard is now unkindly deemed the biggest political Jonah since Lembit Opik.

Oh no he isn’t …

I’ve been advised to state that, contrary to previous announcements on these pages, I shall not in fact be appearing in panto this December with Ed Balls and Linda Lusardi — having now been informed by the misfiring agent she fell victim to a “hoax”.

Naturally, had my so-called representative spent more time attending to the pressing business of the day, rather than the medical needs of a long dying cat, she’d have taken better care regarding the validity of office emails!

Precisely who the murky ghouls are responsible for this outrage remains unclear — though doubtless they’re the same anonymous perpetrators who lured me to a desolate corner of Berkshire last January, following fabricated promises of an eleventh hour audition for Ken Branagh’s Hercule Poirot …

More than a decade after hailing late Dynasty co-star John Forsythe as “one of the last true gentlemen of the profession” following his demise, Dame Joan Collins courageously embraces the spirit of the times by now instead claiming the Blake Carrington actor was “a misogynistic prick”. Never underestimate canny Joan’s ability to change her tune for the best headline after all these years.

What with “staycations” being all the rage this summer, I’m happy to report I’ve now arrived at the charming coastal holiday home of a rather famous old co-star — who, over several impromptu nightcaps in town the other evening, touchingly assured yours truly I was “welcome any time”.

While his (third) wife seemed distinctly chilly after my apparently “surprise” appearance — not to mention one’s friend now looking somewhat shamefaced — I’ve decided to overcome any awkwardness and thoroughly enjoy their hospitality in these weeks ahead!

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