Cast asunder

No country for old drunk actors?

This article is taken from the July 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Cast asunder

After being accused of “burying my head in the sand” regarding modern-day casting requirements, I had to endure the agent explaining at length why such rules are here to stay.

Following her particularly patronising lecture, I’m now given to understand it’s “only right and proper” a role goes to someone with “real-life experience”, rather than some inappropriately versatile actor merely pretending to be homosexual/disabled/northern etc. This, I’m told, is termed “authentic casting”.

When I inquired where this “authentic” business left yours truly’s career, she cheerfully reassured me I’d be auditioning for another “cantankerous drunkard” the following Tuesday.

Staying with these enlightened times, I read Emma Thompson’s been causing offence by donning a fat suit to play an unpleasant, old, obese woman for a new movie role. Current sensibilities dictate such a part must of course now go to an actual unpleasant, old, obese woman (rightly leaving the field clear for Miriam Margolyes). 

Meanwhile, snooty Mr Letts is accused of “unacceptable” behaviour after his Sunday Times review of Legally Blonde unkindly drew attention to the well-nourished appearance of certain female performers.

Feeling compelled to write a supportive note to the charming young ladies in question, having personally enjoyed the production, I urged them to rise above such childish prejudice and prosper — just as 1980s telly favourites The Roly Polys did all those years ago.

Anxious about simpleton fans turning up to see her West End debut in The Seagull, ex-Game of Thrones sexpot Emilia Clarke resorted to playfully announcing: “Spoiler — I’m not on a dragon at any point during this play!”

Delightful Emilia’s diplomatic attempts to cut adrift these now unwanted oddballs must surely be commended.

Tired of grim puritans holding sway in the playhouses, I’ve been persuaded to throw off the shackles and join an open air production touring up and down the land over the summer months.

I must say one can’t help feeling a strong sense of “connection” with the great travelling players of centuries past when embracing the English outdoors in such a pleasing fashion. Nothing quite beats a stormy field in Northumberland to make an old actor feel so very alive!

Apropos one’s current summer tour, having been accustomed to a world where the “senior company member” regales less experienced fellow actors with instructive and entertaining stories covering his life and times, I was naturally keen to uphold this fine tradition.

After bizarrely learning one’s celebrated recollections concerning Frances Barber and Su Pollard had immediately prompted “three official complaints” to the producer from “distressed” young co-stars, it was agreed that myself and chain-smoking stage manager Ted should socialise apart from the rest of the cast.

While rarely starstruck, I must confess a recent sighting of Bobby Ewing in the Guildford branch of Waitrose (I gather he was forced to tour Blighty by Mr Kenwright) stirred long dormant fanboy emotions. Digging out my “I Shot JR!” badge back home, a subsequent attempt to explain to the nephew just what this handsome fellow meant to us all those years ago met with the kind of blank disinterest one’s come to expect from cold-hearted millennials. 

Irons’ steed

Departing a west end establishment following a particularly sociable evening, I was alarmed to only narrowly miss being mowed down by a passing motorcyclist bearing an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy Irons.

This unhinged dandy is too much to bear

After performing an impressive body swerve to avoid being slain by this mechanical monstrosity, my resulting fall was mercifully cushioned by nearby bin bags. While my insistence on laying blame at Jeremy’s door was dismissed by cynics choosing to highlight my late hour condition, one’s version of events was later verified when ruddy Irons was pictured in the newspapers hurtling through Haymarket on the beastly contraption!

Having had my own professional endeavours adversely affected by starry Jeremy’s on-set whims down the decades, the thought of being robbed of one’s near-prime years by this unhinged dandy is too much to bear.

Hats off to the Reverend Richard Coles, who, since leaving his flock in the East Midlands, has chosen to relentlessly publicise himself across media outlets with renewed gusto.

With a timely anecdote to suit every occasion, not to mention an admirable capacity for celebrity name-dropping, we at last have in Coles a welcome successor to that ageing show-off Gyles Brandreth, whose status as England’s number one self-promoter went unrivalled for too long. 

Ongoing hostilities over at the Actors’ Benevolent Fund led to out of favour thespians recently being barred entry to a meeting, with a doorman reportedly given “photographs” of the old dears to keep them at bay! Credit, surely, to the ancient troupers still managing to vaguely resemble long-ago publicity shots?

After hearing the pesky nephew sabotage his vowels one time too many, I recently snapped, announcing I’d no longer tolerate having a respectable and costly upbringing disguised in such a ludicrous manner.

Should the boy not desist from this faux pronunciation, I’ve warned he risks amounting to nothing more than a BBC One continuity announcer.

Recalling his abrupt departure from Doctor Who after just one series, angry northerner Christopher Eccleston emotionally claims he was “blacklisted” by the programme’s hierarchy, not least current showrunner Russell T Davies.

One can’t help sensing the unnervingly perky Mr Davies is a more formidable foe behind the scenes than those Daleks and Cybermen combined.

“Rotten pigs!”

Revelling in elderly fame, hammy Dundonian Brian Cox was overheard excitedly telling Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson that they could now charge fans to hear them deliver their respective characters’ trademark expletives. After the American politely pointed out such an enterprise would be unseemly, Brian sensibly declined to add that he was already bellowing “fuck off!” to his own fans for a tasteful £579 a time.

Well done to Hugh Bonneville for courageously coming clean in the press and finally admitting Downton Abbey’s past its sell-by date. Further kudos to Hugh for hastily adding a decent payday will see him back as the Earl of Grantham pronto.

Having previously taken time to highlight the folly of still booking Brian Blessed for “quirky” daytime telly slots as he approaches his 90th year, one couldn’t help feeling vindicated following a particularly disastrous appearance by the loony boomer.

Shouting in largely incoherent fashion down a telephone line (I just about made out the oft-repeated fib about Her Majesty being his biggest fan), an attempt by anxious hosts to bring the excruciating episode to a belated close resulted in Brian blurting out: “Rotten pigs!”

A lesson finally learnt?

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