Royal blush

Boycotting the Crown and handbags at dusk

Columns Magazine

This article is taken from the December/January 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

No sooner had Judi Dench courageously joined popular condemnation of The Crown, than grubby journalists were eagerly reporting she’d privately been in “serious talks” to play the Queen Mother in the drama only months before.

So-called “television insiders” even had the temerity to suggest the size of Judi’s fee was among determining factors when it came to her not joining the cast. While the hoi polloi will doubtless imagine some kind of double standard on the great lady’s part, such folk can hardly be expected to grasp the intricacies of high-end show business.

Apropos The Crown, I shall be joining irate royalists officially “boycotting” the Netflix show following the latest unforgivable offering. Naturally, this shouldn’t stop any of us from boycotting it all over again after forcing ourselves to binge-watch the next disgraceful series in 2023.

Congratulations to Gyles Brandreth, who managed to control himself for a whole six weeks after the Queen’s passing before publicising the Christmas release of his “intimate” biography of Her Majesty.

Having shamelessly flogged a rehashed book on the Duke of Edinburgh just days after Philip’s demise, let us not underestimate the levels of self-restraint the beaming vampire must have endured before bursting forth with this latest suspect offering. 

Signed up to front a new telly show on GB News, Mr Cleese’s elderly schedule continues to amaze and concern in equal measure. With that disastrous divorce from American wife number three having already ensured that cash-strapped John’s obliged to spend ten months a year performing overseas until he’s 94, managing relentless professional engagements is no mean feat. Confirmed Cleese highlights for 2023 already include an eagerly anticipated tour of Estonia and Finland.

Now that she’s rightly publicising becoming an award-winning movie writer with her debut effort (a respectful nod to screenwriting “mentor” Ol Parker) I’m sure I speak for Ms Goldsmith when reminding pesky gossip columnists she no longer expects to be lazily labelled “socialite”, “heiress”, or “unlucky in love”! 

Initially uncertain, I’m reassured by media types that we are still required to laugh uproariously whenever Miriam Margolyes turns up to shout expletives on the airwaves. 

Having naively imagined this oft-repeated turn might by now have been rumbled as tiresome and cynical on Miriam’s part, one’s always grateful to know the lie of the land regarding national treasures.

A warm welcome back to perky Time Lord David Tennant, due to briefly reprise the role of Doctor Who in episodes next year, now that trusty old showrunner Russell T Davies has returned to the helm. No sign of a rapprochement with Tennant’s predecessor Mr Eccleston — still muttering in conspiratorial tones about being “blacklisted” by Davies and co, 17 years since his Tardis was repossessed after just one series.

Fighting Talk

Hostilities over at the Actors’ Benevolent Fund have ferociously pitched old co-star against old co-star in a manner one still cannot quite believe. With the considerable matter of controlling over £30 million in fund assets at stake (some of us being more deserving of our share than others!), yours truly has been proud to fly the flag for embattled trustee Dame Penelope Keith ever since civil war commenced.

After recently hearing this fine woman’s name being sullied by an embittered “character actor” of similar vintage to myself during an afternoon’s relaxation in SW5, I demanded this fellow Benevolent Fund member retract his ill-conceived ramblings forthwith. A drunken refusal on the imbecile’s part resulted in us both rising to our feet, displaying respective stage combat skills for a whole half-minute, before some burly young barman saw fit to intervene. As we were guided back, both exhausted, to our refreshments, I for one felt Penelope’s honour had been restored.

The long goodbye

Seven years after “temporarily” moving into the attic, the nephew and part-time servant recently announced at dinner that he was packing his bags to pursue “new and exciting projects”.

Having long graciously tolerated the lad’s misguided schemes, in between his resentful attempts at domestic duties, I formally wished him well in future endeavours.

Sleeping on matters, however, I felt compelled the following morning to reluctantly reveal one’s “health isn’t what it once was”, and that despite great efforts to keep this grim reality from my closest and most beloved relation, he should know that considered medical opinion deemed the “final curtain” fast approaching.

Suggesting it best we now bid adieu for the very last time, rather than have him witness this once vibrant uncle’s sorry decline, I finally reminded him of the greatest tragedy of all: namely an inability to guarantee preservation of a nephew’s rightful inheritance when left to my own devices and with faculties failing me.

Watching the treacherous rogue weigh this up, (knowing full well his “new and exciting projects” involved shacking up with a troublesome minx in Balham), I was confident one’s necessary skulduggery had postponed any talk of departure until at least after Christmas.

 With nerves having finally got the better of him, Derek Jacobi recently announced his “retirement” from the theatre to a national newspaper. 

Just a few weeks later, the old dear was frantically backtracking, insisting: “I went completely over the top … I’ve not given up stage work. In fact, in my line of work you can go on forever.”

I need hardly remind Derek about the indignities of crying wolf in this fashion.

Flash Eddie

Regular readers may recall my previous admiration for stylish Mr Redmayne and his refusal to follow the unfortunate sartorial choices of fellow public schoolboy stars who are anxious to win over the masses by appearing in garish garb worn by Americans.

While Messrs Cumberbatch and Stevens, among others, have well and truly lost their way in middle age, one dared to hope that here remained an English matinee idol capable of celebrating unfashionably refined origins. Alas, more recent sightings of the very same Mr Redmayne — now as gaudily-attired as the rest of them — confirm he’s tragically succumbed.

After generously building bridges with the northern branch of the Coates clan in time for this Christmas — ending a family feud dating back to York, 1995 — an invitation to join them for Boxing Day festivities was initially courteously accepted. Later informed we’d be seeing the “Christopher Biggins panto in Darlington”, I instead concluded a resumption of hostilities was better for all concerned.

Pantomime season remains a merciless indicator of current theatrical standings. Nigel Havers’s annual billing on the London Palladium’s star-studded poster seems to get smaller by the year.


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