Lone danger

One certainly wouldn’t expect anything resembling loyalty from the wolves running “Theatreland”


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

Lone danger

As the media folk swoon over celebrity thespians’ one-man/one-woman West End shows, trouble surely brews for the rest of us.

With the supporting character actor long content to enhance the more starry endeavours of leading men and ladies of the day, this alarming trend leaving my own profession surplus to requirements promises only to worsen now such solo offerings are deemed “award-winning”.

Despite decades of selfless service for the glory of others, one certainly wouldn’t expect anything resembling loyalty from the wolves running “Theatreland”!

Trigger unhappy

Though initially dispirited by news the “trigger warners” had Mary Poppins and June Whitfield in their clutches, it’s high time I accepted the way of things.

Shortly after finally acknowledging that wicked old yesteryear, complete with “language of the period”, must prove harrowing to younger ears, this septuagenarian felt himself similarly stricken — albeit by the less fashionable strain caused by “language of the present”. 

Ever since this condition took hold, one’s craved for kinder days when said trigger warnings are also responsibly applied to the Reverend Richard Coles, Lorraine Kelly and BBC sports pundits.

With dementia these days deemed a tried and tested cash cow in the TV/film trade, one’s been obliged to audition for three such dreary roles in the space of two months. On all said occasions, I was required to babble in suitably incoherent fashion whilst annoyingly observed by young casting execs feigning their idea of sympathy. Well aware a player of my vintage tempts real fate when pretending to lose the marbles in this manner, the indignity proves complete when they then fail to offer you the part!

Almost a decade since a particularly vindictive third wife coerced him into casting us adrift, an old pal (and one-time TV actor of note) proves anxious to “reconnect” following merciful news of their separation. Whilst it may still take time to fully recover from the character assassination this young woman inflicted at our expense — outrageously calling us “freeloaders” in the August of 2015 — one’s now amongst a select group of veteran troupers cautiously consenting to once again reside at his 17th-century French farmhouse for five weeks over the summer. Having myself considered this charming residence “home from home” in the past, I sense this will be a time for us all to treasure — not least as the fool’s then expected to lose the place in the divorce.

Rada yada yada

No fan of so-called authentic casting (gay must play gay/common folk must play common folk, etc) newly-appointed RADA president Mr Harewood courageously announced: “The name of the game is acting.”

Matters took a surprising turn when the celebrated black actor enthused to the Guardian (!) that this could even theoretically extend to modern-day performances of “Othello in blackface”, cheerfully adding: “It’d better be fucking good or else you’re gonna get laughed off the stage. But knock yourself out! Anybody should be able to do anything.”

As storm clouds gathered — not least above that most enlightened of institutions Harewood now represents — Mr President helpfully clarified in a separate statement that he of course categorically disagreed with everything he’d just said.

Revelling in late fame, Dundonian braggart Mr Cox delights in publicly lambasting the Hollywood oddball playing Napoleon. Though presently given endless leeway by uncritical commentators, confusing him with the formidable fellow he recently portrayed on the television, more seasoned followers of Brian’s histrionics fear an all too familiar pattern. 

Much like our beloved lion who accompanied Dorothy and pals on the yellow brick road all those years ago, Coxy’s trademark roars at the expense of fellow stars regrettably tend to follow with something closer to a whimper the moment he senses danger on the horizon.

Unable to trust anything coming from the agent’s office of late, one sensibly took with a pinch of salt enquiries regarding my “availability for the part of Friar Tuck” at this year’s London Palladium pantomime.

Though I was duty-bound to tentatively reply in the affirmative (admittedly these days being suitably well-nourished for said supporting role) matters took a predictable turn less than 48 hours later when it emerged Havers had chosen to grab the part after all!

Suffice to say, one’s name had quite evidently been used as a pawn in negotiations, designed to knock down Nigel’s already fast diminishing market value. He’s hopelessly miscast, of course.

Delightfully statuesque at 50, Miss Waddingham is cheered to the rafters by media admirers for berating a grubby male photographer who requested she “show some leg” outside an awards ceremony.

Thankfully, we live in a land where such objectifying of celebrities is now largely deemed beyond the pale — barring, of course, when middle-aged female presenters/columnists feel the need to publicly lust over young heart-throbs of the day.

Reflecting on the “difficult ten years” that accompanied a ludicrous refusal to accept his leading-man days were at an end, Jeremy Irons acknowledges: “When you start getting bored with your work, you start behaving badly.” Those fortunate enough to have witnessed Jeremy’s extraordinary range of meltdowns during this regrettable period can confirm this most precious of peacocks didn’t disappoint! 

Will Sheen shine?

With Emily Maitlis struggling to see off pushy former Newsnight colleague Sam McAlister (her Prince Andrew drama coming out before Emily’s), the onus now falls to Michael Sheen to spare the poor girl’s blushes. 

Cast as Andrew in Maitlis’ upcoming and officially beleaguered Amazon version of the sorry tale, Michael truly needs to have brought his A-game, should there be any chance of rescuing matters. This naturally requires the tip-top chameleon Sheen of old, rather than the less intriguing version of late, banging on about Welsh socialism.

Normally uninterested in any words of wisdom from yours truly regarding his own “acting career”, the nephew suddenly proved unusually eager to pick one’s brains about the Edinburgh Festival, having apparently been cast in “two plays” this summer. With the lad continuing to appear oddly receptive to my wide-ranging views on the pros and cons of the Scottish capital in August, it eventually emerged he was expecting me to fork out for his exorbitantly priced accommodation! 

Reduced to making bogus claims he’s “responsible” for the deaths of Rod Hull and Harry Secombe, Brandreth’s insatiable need for public attention descends to tragic levels. With Gyles no longer so adept at covering his tracks, we must brace ourselves for this once remarkable chancer resorting to increasingly wild fabrications as dotage sets in.

Offering a rare olive branch to heterosexuals “making a fuss” about the modern-day direction of Doctor Who, showrunner Russell T Davies reassuringly announces: “Even if you’re straight as a nail, come and watch because there’s lots in this for you.” Such open-mindedness towards this difficult minority can only be applauded. 

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