“Between you and me…”

On the Stage

What’s in a name?

Appearing in father Sir Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt at Wyndham’s Theatre, amiable young chap Ed Stoppard is at pains to remind us that pesky surname is quite the “albatross”. While all too easy for some to be green-eyed about such offspring, perceived to have enjoyed a “leg up” up in the trade at others’ expense, let us not forget these genetic experiments can sometimes misfire. I never forget hearing one late British character actor, an unlikely favourite with nubile blondes in his day, discreetly lamenting that his would-be actress daughter had regrettably “inherited his looks and her mother’s talent”.


Dundee thespian and Golden Globe winner Brian Cox has been making it clear he’d flatly refuse a knighthood and “regrets” his previous acceptance of a CBE in 2003. Let us not forget he’s these days collaborating with Scottish nationalist types. But is such a stance truly heartfelt? I’m reminded there was a time when Brian talked of “graciously” accepting a knighthood after the CBE was in the bag . . .


Voice of experience

I note RSC boss Gregory Doran is concerned many young actors don’t cut the mustard when it comes to understanding the Bard’s works. Many of us have been saying this for years, of course. Might I suggest Gregory avoids further difficulty by instead placing faith in those more mature Shakespearean performers he’s seen fit to neglect in recent years?


Defending the indefensible — namely his never-ending stage tours — I hear troublesome self-publicist Gyles Brandreth has resorted to blaming adult offspring, insisting they still expect him to fill the family coffers. Have these people no shame about what they inflict on the nation?


Following challenging financial developments, I temporarily find myself renting a small but characterful room at the residence of a veteran producer and entrepreneur whose resourcefulness knows no bounds.

Deemed persona non grata by ungenerous types now holding sway over the country’s playhouses, my old pal’s considerable energies are these days focused on the “celebrity lookalikes” corporate business. While we’re yet to settle on a role for yours truly — my impression of Basil Rathbone was courteously deemed “uncommercial” — a get-together with some of his clients initially proved a welcome tonic after recent trying events.

Conversation with “Angelina Jolie” and “Renée Zellweger” (both from Blackburn) was particularly rewarding, only for a charming evening to be eventually steered downmarket by the ego-crazed antics of “Jack Nicholson” from Swansea.


Unforgiving types dredging up old stories about Jeremy Irons’s unfashionable enthusiasm for touching the female derrière should be reminded that Jeremy has long maintained he was “of course misquoted” in the tiresome press at the time. Let us ignore the claims of some upstart at the Radio Times, who pettily announced that his recording of the offending interview quoted fun-loving Jeremy verbatim.


Lost Opportunity

Surely it cannot be 35 years since Sir Michael Redgrave left us? I for one shall never forget his generous interest during a long ago chance encounter with myself and rowdy young chums in a Victoria watering hole.

While telling Michael at length about my own career plans, one felt the most magical of doors gently opening to all manner of professional possibilities as I held that powerful gaze.

Who knows where it would have taken me had I not, in a moment of heightened enthusiasm and over-refreshment, chosen to then lavish compliments on his “remarkable” mastery of the northern accent in Hobson’s Choice at the Old Vic?

Unaware in foolish youth just what a sore point this had been for the great man, I watched him elegantly depart into the night, door firmly closed.


How on earth can my recent appearance at a minor drama school have resulted in complaints of “inappropriate and unprofessional” behaviour? Tried and tested — and dare I say acclaimed — anecdotes concerning a weekend’s break from filming in Devon with Oliver Reed, are apparently now deemed beyond the pale by the thought police!


Having long preferred Malibu to the Old Vic, reformed hell-raiser Sir Anthony Hopkins still goes on about “never fitting in” with British theatre types. While in the employ of mentor Sir Laurence Olivier, I’m reminded young Tony took particular delight from a brief meeting between Larry and his father Richard, a Port Talbot baker. Accustomed to being held in rather more reverence, Olivier was instead bluntly asked by the less than starstruck Welshman: “How old are you?” On learning Larry had been born in 1907, a delighted Hopkins senior — much to the apparent alarm of Mrs Hopkins — loudly enthused: “Same age as me! We’re both going down the hill now, aren’t we?”


After what had appeared a promising start, relations with the new agent have regrettably reached an impasse following a prickly exchange over my CV. The young lady in question sees fit to cast doubt on tastefully describing one’s playing age as “over 45”.


Free Love

Amid the many recent tributes to dear old Nicholas Parsons, might one of his proudest accomplishments have been overlooked?

When highlighting youthful adventures with the fairer sex, not least around the fleshpots of Soho, I recall Nicholas being at pains to stress his considerable charms ensured he’d “got what he wanted without ever having to pay for it.”


Venerable English rose Dame Diana Rigg nostalgically recounts the days of the trusty “actors’ code” when staying at digs — a visitors’ book entry stating “charged for cut flowers” indicated sexual advances were afoot.

Who can forget the disreputable actors’ lodgings run by that brassy middle-aged proprietress in Leicester? After a Cinzano or three, the lady in question would insist on reeling off a long list of conquests, including “Hamlet, Bolingbroke and Henry V”.


Sands of time

Sir Ian McKellen is anxious to reduce appearances on the chat show circuit, fearing he could go the same way as Peter O’Toole and be regarded an “oddball” in old age.

It reminds me of the time one member of the public innocently mistook Sir Ian for the Lawrence of Arabia star many moons ago, when the latter had already seen considerably better days. It prompted McKellen to respond grandly: “I’m what Peter O’Toole used to look like.”


Bellowing bedlamite Brian Blessed publicises the fact it’s 40 years since he exclaimed his oft-repeated and long tiresome movie line: “Gordon’s alive?!” I gather the erstwhile Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen is planning a “tour” to celebrate. Batten down the hatches …

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