Old school ties
Fates in this unforgiving industry are long decided
This article is taken from the October 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
A valuable lesson
Despite Tony Hopkins’ recent pompous claim that those of us giving up valuable professional time to teach the craft are “failed actors”, I’m happy to confirm yours truly is available for one-to-one tutorials with anyone serious about advancing in this treacherous trade.
Contrary to what certain self-absorbed Welshmen may think, there can be few more rewarding experiences than seeing the raw talent you’ve helped nurture take flight. Even more rewarding, of course, should certain ex-fledglings enjoying lucrative telly careers have the decency to pull strings on their old teacher’s behalf and secure him a decent role!
Hats off to old chum Simon Callow, a long-time homosexual of impeccable credentials, courageously taking the fight to the grim Stonewall mafia presently holding sway. Who will stand with him to overcome this tyranny? Following my own impromptu call to arms in a Soho haunt the other evening, it soon became evident alcoholic gay theatricals over 70 are unlikely to prove fit for purpose.
One struggles to keep up with the ever-growing number of People’s Princesses, with English, American and Australian Diana actresses all currently battling for column inches. Surely a canny TV format which sees us vote for the “Best Diana” (think Strictly Come Dancing meets Love Island), is a copper-bottomed ratings winner?
All sunshine and roses
Regular readers will recall my delight at securing spacious summer accommodation on the Cornish coast after a former co-star (admittedly intoxicated at the time) loosely extended an invitation to his holiday home during a chance encounter in town.
Despite his apparent “surprise” at my subsequent arrival — not to mention hostility from a third wife of Latin temperament — we were eventually able to come to an understanding. While blackmail would be far too strong a word to use, it would be fair to concede my old friend, a Sunday night telly actor of note, turned more hospitable on being discreetly reminded I “knew where bodies were buried” regarding past potentially career-harming endeavours.
A keen supporter of the astronomical summer — this year, June 21 to September 22 — rather than the meteorological version which expects us to give up the will to live at the end of August, I can announce the “staycation” was a long and pleasing one!
While initially heartened to hear the nephew was joining young pals heading to The Globe to see the latest Romeo and Juliet, one could not have foreseen the dire consequences.
When returning home late that evening, I was taken aback to find said nephew’s friends in various degrees of distress, pouring their hearts out on their mobile phones. Being of 21st century sensibilities, they’d wasted no time accepting The Globe’s much-publicised offer of a “Samaritans’ helpline” for those affected by the play’s “traumatic” themes!
Among the most alarming developments since my return to London has been the sight of the misfiring agent’s cat, belatedly dead at 17, now on display stuffed in her office courtesy of morbid taxidermy.
Having loathed the creature while it was alive — I was once viciously attacked after inadvertently sitting on the wretched animal during Christmas cocktails — I strongly resent still having to be confronted by its displeasing form during professional hours. Indeed, as I look into “Orson’s” now dead eyes (I mean, really!), one sees nothing but the misfortune he and his owner have inflicted on this once flourishing career. Suffice to say, I’m resolved to free myself from this grisly duo at the soonest opportunity.
With perky trouper and former child star Bonnie Langford preparing for panto in Bromley, can it really be 50 years since Noël Coward famously suggested “cutting the throat” of the then precocious seven-year-old after seeing her West End debut?
Having myself contended with demanding child actors down the years, I cannot pretend that Noël’s long ago words haven’t occasionally come to mind. Though should you “jokily” voice similar sentiments out loud in this humourless day and age — not least when the vicious midget in question is repeatedly kicking you in the ankles during rehearsal — suddenly you’re the monster…
Although newspaper critics questioned the wisdom of Jenny Seagrove’s Gertrude adopting a “Danish?” accent in the Windsor production of Hamlet, be assured her performance proved hugely popular in some quarters. I gather certain theatrical contemporaries in the audience, following generous pre-show refreshment, were heard cackling away at Jenny’s courageous attempt at Scandinavian rather more loudly than was seemly.
Old school ties
Invited to an upcoming reunion for my old drama school year (another “significant” anniversary, apparently), I’ve let it be known I remain in two minds over whether to attend. Truth be told, the previous 40th anniversary get-together showed people at their worst.
With fates in this unforgiving industry long decided, one either had to witness the poison emanating from the professionally unfortunate, or the brazen exhibitionism displayed by certain individuals possessing an inflated sense of their “success”.
The tragedy was complete when these rival tribes eventually took to the dance floor to drunkenly enjoy the “hits of 1971”. It really is too much to bear.
Commissioning execs are eager to bag a TV drama in development which will see the late Sir John Mortimer’s creation Horace Rumpole turned into a lady by his actress/screenwriter daughter Emily Mortimer. With Doctor Who having already gone the same way, be sure that somewhere in the offices of imaginative telly folk the unfashionable male organs of Hercule Poirot, Jim Bergerac and Father Christmas are similarly under threat.
Prime male therapy
Having been concerned to read frisky matinee idol Jude Law is turning anxious about Father Time as he nears 50, may I humbly offer advice? I too have known what it’s like to have officially “handsome” professional features stolen by the passing years. Discreet moments with a libation of choice, while wailing uncontrollably at publicity shots of one’s physical prime, normally keeps the demons at bay!
Enlightened types over at The Arts Council of Wales have managed to commission a report that now deems them racist for being Welsh.
Not before time! I speak from bitter experience, having had one’s own 1987 appearances in Clwyd sabotaged by murky Welsh whispers. I trust a belated apology, in the Queen’s English, shall be forthcoming?
Preying on the vulnerable with “online bingo” during the plague’s height, Biggins is now badgering all and sundry to recommend his new podcast.
I can confirm that should you enjoy a so-called host doing next to no research about the guests he’s supposedly interviewing, while preferring to shamelessly blather on about himself … then this is quite possibly the show for you.
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