Never the twain…


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.

How refreshing to hear the Bafta-winning Mr McGovern announce that his working-class actors are better off sticking to playing their own and us “posh” folk likewise.

Surely this makes sense for all concerned? No longer would we be obliged to endure the rough diamond Glaswegian/Mancunian pretending to join the aristocracy, nor the public school boy affecting affinity with Cockney geezers.

Let the drawbridge go up, new harmony awaits: they keep the bird from Line of Duty, we, the fine fillies from the Home Counties. Apart from occasional encounters at increasingly irrelevant awards ceremonies, I see no reason for our paths to cross again?

Addressing criticism of the mysterious accent she adopted when recently playing Gertrude opposite McKellen’s ancient Hamlet at Windsor, long-serving English rose Jenny Seagrove now complains that nobody realised what she was offering at the time.

Determined to clear up matters, Ms Seagrove wishes it to be known she was actually channelling “soft German” — her own possibly unique dialect, painstakingly researched and rehearsed beforehand.

Let us then be quite clear: any confusion, whether it be on the part of grubby critics or the theatregoing hoi polloi, was most certainly not the fault of Britain’s most versatile and misunderstood actress!

Bright young things over at the charmingly named Shit-Faced Shakespeare promise to shock with “no holds barred” productions across the country, involving one cast member attempting to perform sozzled each night.

One wonders whether these carefree youths appreciate such a tradition was being successfully upheld by many an esteemed trouper decades before any of their number were born, without having to draw such sensationalist attention to matters.

Amid my ongoing efforts to highlight the sinister and frenzied commercial activities of Gyles Brandreth, a recent random sighting of the perky vampire bounding towards Richmond Theatre naturally proved unsettling enough. But it was another “chance” Brandreth encounter, during an ill-fated trip to St Albans just days later, which appears to have finally sent me over the edge. For the sake of context, as well as contending with his relentless presence at actors’ funerals and memorial services, (perfect hunting ground for the Brandreth), I’ve also suffered similarly unexpected Gyles-related occurrences these years past in Shrewsbury, Carlisle and Gillingham. Can it be any wonder I presently find myself reduced to fevered nightly visions of multiple, beaming Brandreths, leaping from town to town, armed with apocryphal tales for gullible public consumption? Is there, dare I ask, any hope?

After gratefully accepting an invitation to a North London dinner party (these days a rare occurrence!), I was intrigued to find myself sat next to one of those professional “intimacy coordinators” now holding sway on TV and movie sets up and down the land.

Sensing soon enough I had little chance of striking up a rapport with the earnest woman in question, I instead focused attention on the awkward body language being displayed by her spouse sitting opposite. As the largely unsatisfactory evening progressed, one couldn’t help concluding that this gloomy fellow’s intimacy had been well and truly coordinated along with the rest of them.

Dear Finty Williams still can’t get her foot in the door over at the RSC in Stratford, despite repeated attempts. Putting on a brave face, she “playfully” suggests mother Judi Dench may have grabbed all the plum Shakespearean roles that might have come her way! Such is the sorry state of the modern-day RSC, even preserving the most basic principles of theatrical nepotism proves beyond them.

Enthusing about his new Doctor Who, showrunner Russell T. Davies delights in recalling how another unnamed hopeful had the life changing role in the bag — before Mr Gatwa grabbed the part at the eleventh hour with his “blazing audition”. We can only imagine the level of comfort this tactless anecdote gives to the unlucky actor in question!

Watching Mr Gove’s impromptu attempts at “comedy voices” to liven up a dreary BBC interview was a reminder of the lost spirit lurking within many a would-be thespian, when fate has decreed his talents must sail elsewhere. It briefly brought back memories, for a select few of us, of fresh-faced Michael’s largely forgotten screen cameo in 1994’s slapstick offering A Feast at Midnight — sadly not troubled by success. Witnessing the ghoul of such thwarted ambition recklessly burst forth all these years later, made for the sort of tragic viewing one really shouldn’t so thoroughly enjoy.

The Abbey habit

Without wishing to inflict any “spoilers” regarding Maggie Smith’s continued association with the Downton Abbey franchise (her character’s finally dead), let’s not forget our beloved Dame’s trademark professionalism during this challenging time.

Having successfully displayed such personal disdain for the drivel she found herself in, while also continuing to pragmatically cash in on its success, the old girl’s canny balancing act proved exemplary.

Belated sympathies to the delightful actress cast as Cinderella in Lloyd Webber’s now closed West End production: the damsel in distress announced she’d been struggling to cope with the Ugly Sisters being mean to her character night after night on stage. Surely only a matter of time before this wholly unnecessary part of the story is consigned to history?

With the public forced to watch little else than that bounder in Number 10 make a pig’s ear of the last couple of years, up pops “unrecognisable!” Ken Branagh, transformed into said bounder for an upcoming TV drama, eager to remind us just how hopeless it’s all been. What a breath of fresh air …

Reduced to going from place to place and accepting whatever comes his way, since the third American wife did him over for millions, I gather cruel financial necessity leaves Mr Cleese playing a “Texan” in an upcoming movie. Naturally, John remains typically bullish about the whole affair — though there are troubling whispers the accent proved “challenging”. We should brace ourselves for another unwelcome addition to a once glorious résumé.

Loyal toasts

Recent Jubilee weekend celebrations were fittingly enjoyed with old co-stars from stage and screen, with many a plentiful toast raised to Her Majesty.

It was agreed from the off that we would put aside reality and briefly forget this precious trade of ours is these days in the grisly clutches of socialist republicans.

Grannies’ favourite Nigel Havers claims to be at peace with his “charmer” persona, lazily bestowed upon him by unimaginative media types. “I suppose being known for being charming isn’t really such a bad rap,” he now chirpily announces.

Having been among the many to witness this convivial mask well and truly slip when Nigel’s safely away from deluded admirers, one looks forward to the day when this ludicrous façade’s finally exposed.

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