While Shakespeare is said to have written some of his finest work during times of plague, what have the great and the good delivered in recent months? In no particular order, I give you Romeo’s 2020 Lockdown Awards …
Dame Emma Thompson — Shortly after becoming an Italian citizen, swiftly flew back and became Scottish instead. ★★
Christopher Biggins — Last seen plying his trade as an online bingo caller. ★
Sir Patrick Stewart — His hasty public commitment to perform daily readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets confirmed that old adage, “less is more.” ★★
Kate Beckinsale — I’m assured regular video appearances by the saucy minx raised morale. ★★★★
Dame Joan Collins — Kindly addressed the masses from her balcony on the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Has displayed exemplary levels of self-promotion throughout. ★★★
Brian Blessed — Rambling and largely incoherent message to fans confirmed the bellowing bedlamite remained safe and well. ★★★
George Lazenby — Strange man. ★
Elizabeth Hurley — Didn’t disappoint. Predictably made regular appearances wearing next to nothing. ★★★
Dame Julie Andrews — Said it was just like the war and cheered us all up no end. ★★★★
Miriam Margolyes — Willed the death of a prime minister and bragged about doing well in the property market. ★
Gyles Brandreth — Surprised all concerned after realising this wasn’t the time for obsessive publicity-seeking — of course he didn’t! [no stars given].
After tentative approaches were recently made regarding my availability to complete filming on a telly drama this autumn — previously abandoned in March — the underperforming agent has been voicing concerns. She sees fit to rather cruelly point out that her client presently appears “considerably fatter,” after several weeks behind closed doors. Cue the needless and patronising lecture on “continuity” issues.
Having mainly tolerated, rather than particularly enjoyed, lockdown-themed broadcasts of The Archers at the time of writing, one remains proud of his own briefly popular — perhaps too popular! — appearance on the show many moons ago. A well-placed source on the programme once informed yours truly that I’d been placed on the infamous “Archers blacklist”, after a crossing of pitchforks with certain small-minded cast members in 1989.
Staying with the wireless, one was naturally delighted to recently learn that I’d made the cut for the Today programme’s The Show Must Go On slot, having offered a rendition from my upcoming planned production, Oliver Cromwell: The Musical. With pal Maurice all set to remotely perform his piano part from the care home, I eagerly looked forward to appearing as “Old Ironsides” on the airwaves. How infuriating to then be cancelled at the eleventh hour, with Radio 4 blaming what they lamely called an “error” their end. Is it any wonder the BBC’s going to the dogs?
A troublesome cast
The kindly nephew — it’s still beyond me what he actually does — recently suggested it was time myself and theatrical contemporaries from The Two Brewers recorded our “memories” in a new, weekly podcast. Knowing I’d previously struggled with the chaos of “Zoom,” he assured me he’d be on hand to remotely host and produce, ensuring all concerned “had their say.” Alas, I felt compelled to withdraw from the project after the very first recording.
Having initially been generous enough to let bygones be bygones when it came to certain individuals invited to participate, one must draw the line at compulsive liars.
Invited to attend a garden party reunion with fellow old co-stars, I cautiously accepted on the proviso that social distancing would be strictly observed throughout. Imagine my outrage when, on arrival, I suddenly found myself smothered with unwanted theatrical affection by one decrepit and notoriously “handsy” ham of yesteryear, who’d forgotten the rules after only one Cinzano and lemonade. I say with no pride that this marked the first occasion I’ve struck a man since a long-ago misunderstanding with a cast member from Hi-de-Hi !
My old pal and big cheese in the celebrity lookalikes business predictably confirms torrid times of late. Plague aside, the sudden and dramatic weight loss displayed by “Adele” — I’m told a young pop performer of note — is another cause for concern. He presently boasts two charming “Adeles” on his books of the well-nourished variety. Anxious that the real star might balloon back into her old self yet, I’m informed one option being delicately mooted is “Big Adele and Little Adele.”
Elderly charmer and former movie star Nigel Havers, now gracing daytime television with an antiques show, says he’s not choosy about the jobs he accepts. Don’t think we haven’t noticed, Nigel!
Regular readers will recall longtime Edinburgh landlady Mrs Archibald, 91, resorted to regrettable allegations concerning one’s “non-payment” of his bill after last year’s festival. I subsequently wrote back in a firm but fair manner, diplomatically suggesting her memory wasn’t what it was. Imagine my surprise to receive a heavy knock on the door some days later from a sizeable gentleman called “Angus”, identifying himself as Mrs Archibald’s “great-grandson.”
After Angus — presently London-based — explained in forthright fashion he’d been alerted to events north of the border, we quickly agreed a cheque on my part would suffice. What a relief that the intervention of this charming young man has ended a most unfortunate misunderstanding on all our parts!
Any donor will do?
With the royal Shakespeare Company facing hazardous times, bosses Gregory Doran and Catherine Mallyon make a blunt appeal for financial support, warning: “Our reserves won’t last indefinitely.”
I’m reminded it was only a few months ago that the duo had to very publicly turn their backs on barrels of cash from an oil giant, after the howling mob took against such associations.
Should any murderous, polluting, morally bankrupt type now fancy replenishing the RSC coffers, presumably discreet arrangements can be made?
Forty years after Peter Sellers’s demise, personal memories of the late Pink Panther star are somewhat overshadowed by alarming events during the making of his panned 1980 swansong, The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu.
Having secured a small but pleasing role, imagine one’s distress to learn the increasingly unhinged Peter was intent on “injecting” cast members with an unspecified substance in order to “up the energy” on-set. Suffice it to say, this fresh-faced actor was a nervous wreck, terrified the lunatic was going to leap out at any moment, needle in hand.
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