theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
There was a Sci Fi film in the fifties that had aliens looking and behaving like us mortals in every way, except for limited facial movement. The only way you could tell they were aliens was by looking behind the ears for line marks.
Looking at Cher on So Graham Norton I wonder if this film was a premonition. There’s something awry with a woman who can’t move the top of her face, show any emotion except surprise and looks in a constant state of shock. C’mon, what’s going on here?
Cher is rich in who she is, what she’s about and what she’s capable of, but she now has the look of a 70s showroom dummy, when she’s evidently no dummy. There’s clearly not much movement above the mouth but she could probably knit a jumper with her scalp.
What has happened to her voice? Her last two records sound as if she was burping through a vacuum cleaner. She’s one person who doesn’t need any electronic enhancement or effect as she has such an individual voice. I’m sure Graham Norton would have loved a facial reaction to his jokes and his warmth towards her, not just a dilation of the eyes.
There’s a new computer programme out that senses when your cat has walked over the keyboard, a message pops up saying “Cat-like typing sensed” to save your work from being deleted or corrupted. Manufacturers please note – we desperately need one that senses when the next insipid drama series is being written. It could say “Airwaves full of mediocre pap already, this programme will terminate”.
The first computer it should be fitted to is Chris Webb’s, who is credited for writing Doctors on BBC1 lunchtime. I thought things were pretty bad in TV drama land until I saw this and realised just how bad they are. Can it get any worse than this? The writing is lacklustre and uninteresting – and what doesn’t help is that some of the acting is pitiful. This is not drama, it’s TIE for Grown Ups. It takes something that is happening in the medical world and makes it into a drama exercise, not a drama. Are we all so used to this pap now that we just sit and take it? Is this what happens in drama schools now?
BLACK LEGGINGS DRAMA SCHOOL
Principal Edward Tourniquet interviews Joanna Stellar for the new term’s intake.
Principal Tourniquet: So Joanna, you want to train here at Black Leggings in the craft of acting.
Joanna: Yes, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Principal Tourniquet: Good. We will of course train you in all disciplines; theatre, film, television and radio, but you do realise that everything you learn, every skill you pick up, all vocal training and the summer term on characterisation is now no longer needed and just there for old times’ sake?
Joanna: No, I…
Principal Tourniquet: You see it’s like this. Actors have become the natural wastage of the entertainment industry. It’s nice to have these skills, of course; like learning macramé, you never know when you might need it, and it’ll be nice for you to be in plays and use your skills whilst at drama school, but in the real world, you won’t be needing them. In fact, anyone who can act might just be a threat to the BBC drama department, so my advice is to keep it to yourself and just emote, empathise and laugh in the right places, it’s all that’s required now. Don’t go for depth, it’s out of fashion, and you might just make the producer insecure. He has to feel he’s commissioned the right project, shallow, mediocre, offending no one and saying nothing – otherwise no award. Can’t have that can we? Welcome to Black Leggings.
If the above isn’t happening, it soon will. What this present climate of shallow talent has given us is the spot-the-actor game – you know, the ones who can actually do it – even making something out of an unpromising script.
The actor that stands out for me in the last two weeks is Adrian Lukis, who played the part of a stiff and starchy officer husband in Back Home (21 October ITV). Another starring part for Sarah Lancashire, of course, who was miscast – but hey, there are only two actresses in England, the other one being Pauline Quirke, so in that respect it was good casting.
Lukis took away some of the sugary sweet feelgood factor of the piece and made you want to watch him. An incredible feat, given what he had to work with. Although I can’t imagine him picking up any awards or getting leading roles as his name isn’t John Thaw or David Jason, but I suppose it shows there’s a small hope for the people who can do it.
Quiz question of the week: What does the category Most Popular Actor mean in an award ceremony? Popular [a] with the public or [b] with narrow-minded casting directors?
Lynne Harvey © 4th November 2001
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