Queen of Hearts

Perturbed to find Diana has a starring role in Celebrity Help! My House is Haunted

This article is taken from the March 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Levelling up

Housewife favourite Dominic West’s insistence that provincial audiences prove more appreciative than West End theatregoers strikes a chord with those of us familiar with performing to these distinctly contrasting tribes.

While waddling visitors to the capital’s “Theatreland” are regularly of the self-absorbed variety, I’ve generally found jolly northerners considerably more convivial after travelling to such parts. Let us never neglect to remember what it means to these delightfully down-to-earth folk whenever we London troupers arrive to sprinkle much-needed stardust.

Selflessly casting herself in the lead role of Richard III, the Globe’s officially ground-breaking artistic director Michelle Terry faces regrettable condemnation for lacking real-life hunchback credentials.

Addressing this matter with all necessary delicacy, at the time of writing, the theatre patiently reminds disabled detractors that the twenty-first- century Shakespearean canon is about “all artists having the right to play all parts”.

What’s more, having already given us her (oddly unappreciated) Hamlet portrayal on the Globe stage, the irrepressible Ms Terry expects to have more right than most!

Farewell to Ken Russell’s muse Georgina Hale, whose ongoing aversion towards yours truly after learning I was a Scorpio ensured a challenging week’s filming in 1985.

While Ms Hale’s astrological prejudice even extended to bizarrely refusing to travel with this unfortunate co-star on British Rail, I’ve been advised to resist stating further grievances so soon after the mad old bird’s passing.

Belatedly realising the juvenile nephew/lodger is in fact now 34 years of age, I was soon reflecting on the lad’s obvious lack of progress. With only failed careers in “hip hop” and “digital marketing” seemingly to his name, a frank discussion regarding the lie of the land was overdue.

Subsequent attempts to address matters with the deluded fellow made little headway, until he finally felt compelled to launch into a ludicrous diatribe about “privileged baby-boomer property owners” such as myself having the temerity to still be alive!

Feeling a stirring of embers following a chance meeting with an old flame on Earl’s Court Road, the resulting four-hour reunion in a nearby tavern saw me throw caution to the wind when promising to acquire us West End tickets for Plaza Suite.

Having already spent much of the afternoon voicing constant admiration for the show’s two American stars, this still dazzling widow — an Eighties sitcom sexpot of brief note — proved unrestrained in gratitude, prompting one to reasonably anticipate pleasing adventures ahead.

Matters the following morning took a sobering turn, when I discovered this impromptu gesture was amounting to £600! Also rashly committed to wining and dining my eager female companion beforehand, come the night in question it became patently clear that here was a resting actress all too adept at exploiting the sozzled advances of elderly suitors.

As I observed her knocking back a third (large) G&T during Act Two, while now blatantly uninterested in my presence, one bitterly accepted there’d be next to no return on so costly an investment.

Compliments to David Suchet for so admirably clarifying he can’t possibly watch Poirot successor Ken Branagh’s movie portrayal, for  fear the wicked press will want him to  be unkind.

David instead tastefully restricts himself to reminding us Ken’s effort has sadly failed to impress the critics.


Traditionally deemed the pastime of the unfulfilled eccentric, I reassuringly read that “self-publishing” no longer has the stigma of old.

With my own theatrical memoir, Only the Liars Remain (“a devastating exposé” — Su Pollard), continuing to meet with obstacles from London publishing houses, one feels ready to embrace the spirit of the times by forging ahead regardless.

Coming up against a west end security woman who had the audacity not to immediately recognise her, Maureen Lipman, honoured at Windsor Castle back in 2021, sweetly barked: “I’m a bloody Dame!” The personal journeys of formerly socialist nationalist treasures must never be underestimated.

Confirmation that Miriam Margolyes’s attempt to seize control of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund has been thwarted proves a rare triumph in precarious times.

Though temporarily hailed outrageous and lovable by a cheerfully hoodwinked media, the very idea of this self-serving troublemaker ever improving matters over at the ABF was the most farcical of propositions from the beginning.

Briefly staying with the ABF — which counts yours truly as a loyal and longtime member — I’m forced to address recently published allegations suggesting my own allegiances during the ongoing power struggle have proved “changeable” and “duplicitous”.

Rest assured these misguided foes — hopelessly unschooled in the intricacies of theatrical politics — will rue the day this botched assassination was attempted.

Funny girl

Hats off to fetching Lancashire lass Miss Coleman (telly’s one-time Queen Victoria) for using a media interview to highlight the failings of a misfiring agent.

Dispirited by recent dreary screen roles, she pointedly announced: “I keep telling my agent I’m really funny. But I don’t think she’s quite taken it on board.”

While once the domain of the most resourceful figures in London, the largely dead-eyed generation presently hindering the careers of underused/versatile clients surely deserve to be held more to account.

I might add this is being written just days after one’s own so-called representative unforgivably burned bridges with the folk at Midsomer Murders.

Long unable to control that compulsive desire to concoct nonsense about the Royals, Brandreth surpassed himself on the airwaves by preposterously claiming our late Queen spent hours “impersonating cast members from Grange Hill”.

Sensing he’d overreached (even by his own remarkable standards), the rogue hastily backtracked, though not without rightly remaining a figure of suspicion. Since labelled a “snake oil salesman” by one prominent telly host, dare we hope the net’s finally closing in?

While regular readers will recall me highlighting the potential for further ghostly Diana adventures post-The Crown, downmarket telly execs were predictably ahead of the game.

Leafing through the Radio Times, I was perturbed to read our late Queen of Hearts had been reduced to a starring role in Celebrity Help! My House is Haunted, featuring her shameless ex-manservant squealing from a mock-Tudor Midlands residence: “The Princess is here!”

Irate Mr Eccleston’s alarming revelation he was falsely accused of potentially career-ending shenanigans during a sex scene with an “A-list actress” shines a now rarely shone light on such dastardly divas.

One’s own fleeting leading man days never recovered from a similarly harrowing afternoon’s bedroom  filming with a prominent femme fatale of the day, later heard to cackle at this young actor’s expense: “He’s no Ian McShane, is he?”

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