Perfect for the part

Oompa Loompas and a newfound enthusiasm for association football


This article is taken from the October 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

News that the thoroughly delightful Ms Sutton has been made head of RSC casting at Stratford boosts morale no end! 

Having proudly counted myself among young Charlotte’s most fervent supporters these past years (one may have even offered some discreet “guidance” along the way), I’ve every confidence the “bold, ambitious, inclusive, and exciting” era she promises shall come to pass.

While less principled figures would consider such an appointment advantageous to their own hopes of a deserved Warwickshire comeback — some 27 years after being so scandalously exiled — this humble Stratford trouper merely prefers to toast the success of a talented, and always loyal, friend.

Once merely deemed underachieving middle-aged thespians seeking a more secure sort of life, today’s drama school teachers are statistically among the most likely to be exposed as racists, sex pests, and bullies to boot.

I’m assured we must be thankful to the current generation of acting students up and down the land, whose unrivalled determination to constantly expose this truly remarkable number of monsters leaves predecessors in the shade. 

After officially damning evidence had come to the fore, Edinburgh Lyceum boss Mr Greig dodged the noose at the eleventh hour.

Exposed as having twice pressed “like” against treacherous Twitter talk of “gender madness” and confusion surrounding outdated lesbians (he lamely claimed to have no recollection of his actions!), the playwright sensibly apologised for “careless and harmful” behaviour, before again pledging heartfelt allegiance to offended parties.

While hopeful enemies still lurk close by, Mr Greig and colleagues have reportedly been placed under house arrest by the HR department. 

Footage of Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa proved beyond the pale for showbiz dwarfs in Hollywood fuming he’d denied one of their own lucrative movie work. The spectacle of grumpy Hugh being contractually obliged to placate pint-sized enemies during the film’s autumnal promotional rounds surely counts as must-see viewing.

Apropos angry dwarfs … while enlightened types over at Disney replace Snow White’s pals with a diverse gang of “magical creatures”, pantomime bosses on this side of the pond should think twice before following suit. Having occasionally crossed swords with battle-hardened veterans of the Snow White panto franchise, I can readily confirm these aren’t the kind of dwarfs you trifle with.

Months after being cast in a telly ad for budget-friendly dying, I’m informed they’ve decided to part company, as market research concluded viewers found me “difficult to relate to”! More work instead for some professional northerner/midlander, whose affected vocal delivery exploits the decrepit with sinister efficiency.

Eveready Eddie

Recently rejected by gloomy comrades in Sheffield, Madame Izzard turns south to court the pink votes of Brighton. Still awaiting the nod from Labour members, Eddie’s repeatedly reassured cynics she’s swapping showbiz trappings for the hard, unglamorous yards of local politics.

Should anyone in East Sussex still need convincing, the old gal will happily elaborate when eventually back from a two-month comedy tour of America.

The death of jane birkin prompts an emotional outburst in the press from ill-fated suitor Simon Williams (handsome chap from Upstairs, Downstairs), bemoaning the fact the London/Paris “avant-garde” got their grisly claws on the girl at his expense.

A poignant reminder for those of us who, like dear Simon, found ourselves earning a crust in gentler drawing-room comedies of the day. Hopes of squiring a fashionable London beauty were all too frequently hijacked by decadent wolves down the road.

Misty-eyed tributes to Michael Parkinson briefly left Helen Mirren in an tricky spot, seeing as she’d spent recent years dredging up sexist interview crimes at her expense dating back to filthy 1975.

Long adept at judging the lie of the land, our media-savvy Dame (who bravely made subsequent appearances on Michael’s show despite the trauma suffered) sensibly deemed recollections of pervy Parky far more suited to modern-day tastes than soppy “chat show legend” talk.

Normally uninterested in association football, I happily made an exception when watching those charming girls playing for England.

Despite eventual disappointment against the Spanish, I share the belief these “Lionesses” can only go from strength to strength. In such refreshing sporting times as these, it can’t be long before we have some strapping lads ready to bolster the ranks.

Watching the detectives

While Ken Branagh insists on bringing back that so-so portrayal of Hercule Poirot for a third time, his touchy predecessor remains anxious not to be forgotten.

Reminiscing about long-ago career triumphs in upcoming stage show Poirot and More, David Suchet’s performance comes highly recommended — not least for the inevitable sight of the old boy manfully wrestling Christian instincts with a devilish desire to tell us what’s so very wrong with Ken’s effort!

Headline news that disruptive audience members at a West End musical had to be removed by police highlights the increasingly dreadful state of affairs in London’s “Theatreland”.

With financial necessity demanding endless gaudy productions for today’s hoi polloi, based on Hollywood blockbusters or ancient/dead pop stars, it’s hardly surprising to find this inebriated target audience reverting to type.

Thankfully, the West End hasn’t entirely abandoned its refined clientele wishing to enjoy more profound offerings — discretion ensuring an altogether better class of drunkard in the process.

Hats off to that clever little actress Ms Grier, whose touching story on social media about having next to no punters at the Edinburgh Fringe met with nationwide headlines, celebrity endorsements and full houses to boot. A firm thumbs-down to mean-spirited media commentators/rival performers who subsequently suggested the cheeky minx had tried precisely the same trick only the year before.

Despite initially proving defiant when talking up courageously awful plans to dig up Basil Fawlty, misfiring comedy colossus Mr Cleese attempts a dignified retreat.

Shoving the blame onto an over-eager producer, who he now insists should never have blabbed about Basil’s comeback in the first place, John announces: “Everyone got excited over something that hardly exists.” We must hope this awkward volte-face marks a discreet end to the sorry affair.

Casually remarking “this looks your sort of thing” when spotting the BBC Four rerun of I, Claudius, the nephew was taken aback by my cutting response. While not attempting to entirely defend said cocktail hour outburst, I’ll merely say sinister forces were at work when yours truly “narrowly” lost out on that gem of a supporting role to intolerable Biggins 47 years ago.

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