Where there’s a Will…

If plum roles started being handed out on the random basis of “artistic merit”, anarchy would surely reign…

On the Stage

This article is taken from the May 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

Where there’s a Will …

As plans go ahead for Sir Ian McKellen to portray an ancient-looking Hamlet in the “age blind” Theatre Royal Windsor production this summer, might it be easier for everyone concerned if the Bard’s plays are now kept away from the young altogether?

What with the themes of Shakespeare’s work apparently proving increasingly “problematic” for the youthful sensibilities of dreary modern Britain, surely better they find a playwright of their own?

★ Mean-spirited cynics enjoy snidely pointing out that the fragrant Jenny Seagrove “somehow” manages to regularly turn up in productions of longtime partner and national treasure Bill Kenwright. Such jealous fools are, of course, woefully ignorant of Ms Seagrove’s many talents. What’s more, if plum roles in this trade of ours started being handed out on the random basis of “artistic merit”, anarchy would surely reign…

Looking back on these past challenging months, one cannot help being occasionally haunted by the personal and professional lows endured. Not least, the distinctly disturbing memory of suddenly realising I’d succumbed, without any form of resistance, to watching repeats of Nigel Havers’ Best of Britain on daytime television. An indignity only matched when news came through my TV voiceover for the haemorrhoids suppository ad had gone up in smoke and been offered to Miriam Margolyes.

Following a cancelled 2020, the prospect of a handsomely-paid pantomime season at the end of the year inevitably brings out the worst in theatrical rivals. One presently finds oneself having to contend with quite the rogues’ gallery, as these sorry individuals howl in the wind, urging misfiring agents to resort to all manner of skulduggery in a bid to steal coveted roles at the 11th hour. Thankfully, while still to be officially “signed on the dotted line”, I’m assured my own scheduled 2021 panto appearance — alongside Ed Balls and the saucy bird from ’Allo ’Allo! — remains safe from the grubby claws of scavengers.

Left speechless

Leafing through the old diaries — incredibly still ignored by London publishing houses — I appear to have been in Tunisia 45 years ago completing a disappointedly meagre role in TV epic Jesus of Nazareth.

With my agent at the time having failed to point out in advance that my particular disciple to Robert Powell’s Christ would be reduced to lurking in the (non-speaking!) background, my frustration on the written page is all too evident. On the upside, I see my younger self did approvingly note that morale among cast members noticeably rose when Jesus’s new bride — “the cracking blonde from Pan’s People” — turned up on set.

While these days wishing to be known as “she” and “her”, Eddie Izzard, 59, wisely clarifies there are no plans to compete with middle-aged women for film parts. Miss Izzard sensibly avoids trouble: history tells us the jealously guarded domain of the maturing actress is among the most treacherous of all.

How disappointing to discover that American showbiz types have been secretly mocking our very own Jeremy Irons for years. It emerges the long-running source of hilarity among the “in-crowd” was an unauthorised audio recording — subsequently doing the rounds at parties — of poor Jeremy protesting at length about a slapdash “comedy” sketch he was expected to perform on US television.

Mr Irons was merely heard to very loudly state, with trademark modesty, that an actor of his unparalleled stature didn’t expect to be reduced to such tat. Most amusing to juvenile Americans, apparently…

Soul of indiscretion

Preying on elderly stars with offers of “online interviews”, costing punters £15-£20 a time, cheery showbiz vampire Gyles Brandreth once more shows his true colours. Understandably sensitive regarding what he considers might be his last major theatrical adventure in these latter years, I hear dear old Derek Jacobi discreetly mentioned — post-recording I should add — that he was tentatively considering heading for the Broadway stage next year.

Cue Gyles, shamelessly blabbing the “big news” prematurely to all and sundry! Surely this intolerable man has to be stopped?

Crusading english rose Kate Winslet, 45, now humbly appoints herself “godmother” to all the young movie actresses out there. Such is the extent of Ms Winslet’s enduring generosity, it seems she heroically gave herself this all-important title without anyone even asking her.

Cast together in upcoming film The Great Escaper, mutual friends of Sir Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson fear the pair should avoid politics off-camera, having long occupied opposing camps. Should Michael start harping on and putting the world to rights (as is his wont!) prickly Glenda will “surely snap”.

Still mourning the loss of old TV alter-ego Hercule Poirot almost a decade on — and apparently unable to bring himself to watch anyone else in the role — David Suchet wails: “I’ve lost my best friend.” Dignity, David … dignity.

Strictly business

With petty folk having taken issue with Dame Joan Collins and amiable bag-carrier Percy, after they courageously left these shores during lockdown to spend all that time in California, let’s put these green-eyed monsters to the sword here and now.

Is it beyond such people’s narrow, bitter minds to comprehend that for Joan this was, as she’s very carefully stressed, a “business” trip? Certainly NOT — despite misleading photographs to the contrary — a jolly old excuse to escape Blighty and live it up with American pals for weeks on end!

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