If I’m ever dragged along to watch a play, I find a good way to pass the time is to fantasise about what would happen if I stood up and shouted, “Fuck off, you’re all just pretending.”
There’d be an awkward silence. Then someone else would blurt out, “He’s right!” This would ripple through the audience; volleys of abuse would be hurled at the stage by middle class nitwits who’ve just figured out how fundamentally daft the theatre really is.
They’d start to question themselves. Why are we encouraging these grown-ups to preen and prance around like precocious toddlers, clumsily trying to be something they’re not? It’s the kind of behaviour that should be treated in a clinic, not publically celebrated.
By now the audience would be ripping up seats. A mob would storm the stage and begin to batter the cowering thespians with chunks of smashed-up scenery. Then somebody gives me a nudge, and I’m back to the stifling reality of a regional theatre and a tickly cough. Back to shuffling through the programme, seeing which one of these no-marks has been on Casualty and wondering how much longer this shite can possibly last.
The truth is, it’s me who has the problem. As I'm get older, I'm becoming allergic to things that are made-up – to fiction. It’s the theatre which brings out the most severe reaction, but it’s creeping into other areas of my life. I can’t stand TV dramas any more – yes, that includes you, The Wire – and I’d rather defrost the freezer than read a novel.
Acting’s rightful place is alongside prostitution and drug dealing
Because it’s all made-up. It’s meaningless. It’s bollocks. It’s like when somebody tells you about that amazing dream they had last night: “And then this giant pelican appeared, right, and it’s got the face of Christine Bleakley and it’s singing a calypso and...” It doesn’t matter how funny, shocking or meaningful this person thinks it was – it will always be fucking boring. Life-sappingly dull.
Because the less grounded something is in reality, the less interesting it becomes.
Imagine you’re sat in a pub and a bloke starts telling you about his experiences in the SAS. He seems genuine, you’re intrigued – you want to know more. But then he reveals that he’s married to both of the Olsen sisters and he travels about on a moped powered by the spirit of Michael Jackson.
What do you do? Do you marvel at his vivid imagination and fanciful tales? Or do you make a mental note to stay the fuck away from this tedious wanker. He’s a fantasist. A self-deluded idiot. He just makes stuff up. And that’s what I can’t get my head around.
What’s the difference between pub bullshitter and the dickhead who wrote Ashes to Ashes?
I’ve got the same kind of problem with actors themselves. They’re all basically liars and frauds. That’s not a criticism – that’s their job. Their talent is in being something they’re not – a talent shared with politicians, distraction burglars and psychopaths.
Acting’s rightful place is alongside prostitution and drug dealing – it’s a necessary evil. It’s a grubby service which satisfies a need for weak-minded people. But for some reason we idolise these fucking idiots. Our kids grow up aspiring to be them, wanting to be something they’re not.
We prefer fiction to reality. We’d rather forget Ross Kemp was the chubby face of Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fibre
And no, it’s not just a job. It’s more like a socially acceptable form of mental illness. Take Ross Kemp as a case study. Here’s a bloke who now seems to believe that he’s become the character he once played in ITV’s Ultimate Force.
The tabloid’s refer to Ross Kemp as Britain’s Hardest Man. We see him wearing bulletproof vests and talking in a gruff voice about military things which he knows fuck all about. This is Ross Kemp playing the part of Ross Kemp in the style of Ross Kemp playing the character he once played in a shite ITV drama. It’s his greatest ever performance.
He gets away with this because we’re all idiots. We prefer fiction to reality. We don’t want to be reminded that he’s actually a slightly camp, middle-aged, middle class thespian who happens to possess a large frame and a receding hairline. We’d rather forget that he was the chubby face of Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fibre.
That’s the problem with made-up stuff. It’s used against us, to block out reality. We’re happy to be spoon-fed stories – like the one about our brave boys defending democracy in Afghanistan. It’s easy to digest. You don’t have to think too much. Because the real world is too complex for our fragile little minds. We’d much rather cling on desperately to our box set of The Sopranos, rocking ourselves to sleep and dreaming of buying an even bigger fuck-off telly.
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