Why I “took the knee”

Following a brief loss of balance in a London watering hole I ‘took the knee’ – but that doesn’t detract from the symbolism

On the Stage

This article was taken from the September issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.

Oliver: a cruel twist

A brief, but regrettable update. The underperforming agent now pessimistically reports there are “absolutely no takers” for my long-planned comedy, Oliver Cromwell: The Musical, following months of lockdown toil on my part.

Despite hearing word Laurence Fox was “definitely available”, with hopes briefly turning to an open-air summer production near Ipswich, my gloomy representative insists, with increasing emphasis, that it’s “time to let go”.

I shall say only this: should anyone out there — Mackintosh, Lloyd Webber, Kenwright included — now think about staging anything remotely similar, one’s lawyers are primed to pounce.

LET’S shout a rare “bravo!” for those intrepid folk at Equity, currently planning a new “code of ethical standards” for dastardly theatre critics. Having myself suffered such blatant and damaging prejudice down the decades — such grisly ghouls know who they are — surely it’s better for all concerned that they’re banned from saying anything critical at all?

Staying on the subject of those notepad assassins, I see cuddly national treasure John Cleese has been admirably demonstrating how to deal with such adversity. Whenever on the receiving end of a review that dares not celebrate his genius, John very reasonably points out that the writer responsible is: a) unqualified to pass comment; b) a bitter failure; c) corrupt.

Peake of her powers
Thank goodness
the socialists in my profession have cleared up unfortunate confusion surrounding left-wing Bolton actress Maxine Peake.

While I naively suspected her of spouting ill-informed political conspiracy theories in the national press, as well as possibly not being the sharpest knife in the box, I now find myself corrected in no uncertain terms.

After being ominously warned Maxine boasts “friends in high places”, I’ve been advised it’s wiser to place on record that I marvel at her relentless brilliance whenever she graces stage or screen, and feel only gratitude when she takes time to patiently explain the political issues of the day.

We must never forget, I’m reminded, that being northern means Maxine is “very real” — and can therefore say whatever she damn well likes!

How heartening to be among those building bridges in such divisive times. One’s credibility recently soared when seen to “take the knee” during a socially-distanced encounter with young thespian acquaintances. While the said physical act technically occurred following a brief loss of balance in a west London watering hole — an unholy alliance between Laphroaig and sciatica — this should in no way diminish the moving symbolism.

Veteran sexpot and panto favourite Britt Ekland joins the long list of stars highlighting concerns about the future of the nation’s playhouses. Might I suggest it’s right and proper she makes a significant donation to the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple? The batty ex-Bond girl, previously touring in The Cat and the Canary, caused all manner of embarrassment for her hosts earlier this year, after ungraciously complaining to the press about backstage conditions.

WITH old show-off Sir Ian McKellen, 81, curiously insisting on returning as an octogenarian Hamlet in a so-called “age-blind production”, has he even bothered to consider the consequences? How long before Dame Maggie hobbles  back as a similarly decrepit Desdemona? Or Dame Judi announces she’s been “persuaded” to return as the now 80-something Cleopatra?

Fowl weather friends
Which reminds me, having previously stated in these very pages one’s concern at dear Judi Dench’s involvement in Ken Branagh’s movie of Artemis Fowl, imagine my sadness at seeing those well-meaning fears prove so prescient.

Now this unfortunate venture appears to have gone to the dogs, permit me to put this delicately: loyal as you are to friends, Judi, should you really be entrusting your career at this late stage to silver-tongued Ken?

This sorry excuse for a year inevitably leaves one yearning for simpler, happier times. Imagine my joy, therefore, to recently spot none other than Vanessa Redgrave rolling back the decades by joining protesters outside the National Theatre!

Memories fondly returned to Vanessa striding off to the Savoy Grill after an afternoon’s communism all those summers ago …

WHILE the predicament of the vulnerable elderly has dominated headlines for months on end, special mention must surely go to Dame Joan Collins, now approaching 90. Eager to boost national morale over the summer, Dame Joan generously took time to constantly reassure the media she was living it up quite splendidly in St Tropez. Thank you, Joan!

To whoever saw fit
To anonymously send Gyles Brandreth’s newly-released Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes in the post: with my views on this most shameless of publicity vampires well-documented, one can only presume this was nothing more than cheap provocation.

Having by happy chance once befriended that charming girl JK Rowling in her pre-fame days, one recently felt duty-bound to write a few comforting words after learning the witch hunters were intent on dragging her to the stake. The contents are faithfully reproduced below.

Dearest Jo

I hope this letter reaches you, as the boy in your office bore all the hallmarks of incompetence. Isn’t it strange to comprehend just how far both our respective careers have travelled since our first encounter all those decades ago!

One can still clearly picture you, earnestly scribbling away at your “idea” as our train pulled out of King’s Cross, having cheekily chosen to occupy the standard-class window seat I’d reserved. Who’d have believed such a longstanding friendship would blossom regardless … a friendship to date, I might add, not compromised by any professional favours on your part.

Let us turn to present matters. How dreadful it’s been to see you blacklisted by this trans mob of late, after expressing what appeared perfectly well informed views about ladies. What enraged me most — and I think I speak for you too, Jo — was the sight of your very own boy wizard stabbing you in the back! As anyone who’s witnessed his “acting” would confirm, thanks to you he remains a very, very lucky young man indeed!

So chin up, and don’t let the boy-girls drag you down. Should you be looking for a seasoned professional possessing more rounded views on the modern world for your next film, you know where he can finally be found.

Let us put aside that long ago misunderstanding, when you accused me of “crassness in the extreme” for helpfully offering my services as the next Dumbledore, just hours after Richard Harris’s passing.

Most humbly yours,

Romeo Coates

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