The Anonymous Actor returns …
His first article was so ‘chuffing brilliant’ (Daily Mail) that I’d have been a fool not to invite him back. This time, Gary Lucy’s arse gets the once over. But in an intelligent way, that makes a point. Gary Lucy’s arse is just there to get your attention.
I was in a regional theatre the other day. A receiving house, you might call it. A theatre which, apart perhaps from producing its own seasonal family show, takes in touring productions. A theatre in a town which means no more to most of us than another week away from home, another town in which to hopefully find a landlord who serves beyond 11pm. A regional theatre.
I watched the audience file in at the bell, file out at the interval, file in and file out again. General burble. Clouds of folk in their 50s and beyond. People in Marks and Spencer trousers or Dorothy Perkins floral skirts. Glass of red wine and half a John Smiths, baulk at the price but it’s only every now and then. The tickets were £40 for the pair though and it’ll take half an hour to get back. But it’s only every now and then. And the production will be nice. It’ll be a nice night at the theatre. The woman from “Keeping Up Appearances” is in it. The man off “The Bill” is in it. It’s an Agatha Christie, so it must be good. Miss Marple. Him off of Bergerac. Posters, flyers. Headshots with soundbite potted biographies. “As seen in….” “TV’s ____” “From the X Factor….”
Gary Lucy’s arse.
Hanging proudly in the atrium style foyer of this theatre, hanging from 50 feet in the air, a banner. Profile, 25 feet in length. Gary Lucy in red underpants. From the back of his knees to just beyond his minutely detailed, product-infused hair. His back, or rather his arse, to us, looking over his tanned, toned shoulder to give us that Gary Lucy smile. The face that launched a thousand commercial producers. Pearly white. Above his quiff, a quote. Block capitals. Huge. Two words. “CHUFFING BRILLIANT.” Beneath those two words, two more words. Sandwiched between “CHUFFING BRILLIANT” and Gary Lucy’s immovable do: “Daily Mail.” I am in a theatre in which the largest dedication is from the Daily Mail, to Gary Lucy’s arse.
I’m not a snob. I’m not. I’m not one of these actors who claims not to have a TV or who claims to have spent more time reading Murakami than watching Eastenders, because I’m not and I haven’t. I have read one Murakami novel and it was ok. I have watched Eastenders loads and enjoyed most of it. My position is not one of wanting the whole world to fuck off and eat itself because the Daily Mail exclaimed “CHUFFING BRILLIANT” at a production prominently featuring Gary Lucy’s arse. I understand the need of the Daily Mail’s certification, I understand the value in Gary Lucy’s arse. But what I don’t understand is why, in this THEATRE, this place in which THEATRE happens, Gary Lucy’s arse and the Daily Mail’s comment on it (“CHUFFING BRILLIANT”) seems to have the pride of place. Seems to be the thing which you are most likely to take away with you from that place.
In the foyer of that theatre, it would take the fingers on both hands to count the actors you recognise from the posters. Not household names by any means, but lots of “that person” from “that thing”. And they’re in plays that you recognise. Not because you learned a monologue from it for your showcase, but because you’ve seen “that play” on the telly in some form or another. And these same posters are in foyers of similar buildings up and down the country. Her off of this, him off of that. You’ve seen the posters, maybe even been in the production. You know what I am talking about. Gary Lucy’s arse.
Bitter at the actors off the telly getting the work? Not remotely. I am an actor, I need the work, they are actors, they need the work. This is not me begrudging an actor earning a crust. Nor is it me looking down my nose at regional receiving houses. They are often putting food on my table. I understand they must cater to their audiences and receive shows they can sell to their valued audience. I understand completely the fact is that you have to get bums on seats or else the whole thing will fucking collapse in a pile of local ice cream and pre-performance scones. The shows have to sell or else the theatre doesn’t work and then everyone loses. People stay in at night.
I stopped watching shows like the X Factor a number of years ago after it occurred to me that what we’re seeing are people at the end of a line of producers and other “impresarios” who are effectively deciding what it is that we, the public, will want to watch. Entrants are split off into two “viewable” categories- “FREAK SHOW” and “MARKETABLE”. Those two sub-categories are both under the umbrella of “MONEY-SPINNING”. It’s the televisual equivalent of sending Simon Cowell into a restaurant ahead of you to delete items from the menu that he doesn’t reckon you’ll like. He patronisingly assumes you won’t want risotto because you’ve never tried it. He figures that you’ll probably have a burger or a roast dinner. You won’t want anything different or interesting. You might have a taste of something daft, but you’ll spit it out and want something else for your main meal. He doesn’t trust the public are clever or adventurous or refined enough to want anything beyond fucking forgettable, because the menu changes next week anyway and he doesn’t want you to ask for the same thing again, because that’ll be off, binned, forgotten.
And so you find yourself in the foyer of a regional theatre looking at Gary Lucy’s arse. Because somewhere down the line someone not unlike Simon Cowell has decided that people won’t like anything that isn’t Gary Lucy’s arse. They don’t want to send out anything challenging, anything that might be deemed slightly risky, they don’t want anything that won’t sell. And the people won’t buy anything that isn’t deemed “CHUFFING BRILLIANT” by the Daily Mail. Slap a Daily Mail quote on it, get these people to their seats. It’s got her off “Last of the Summer Wine” in it. It’s got Gary Lucy in it. What’s the play called? Bollocks, doesn’t matter. Send it. And the company work at it and imbue the work with truth and commitment and the people leave the theatre talking about the bus home, the price of the John Smiths. That he looks smaller than he does on the telly. Nothing. They talk about the things. They don’t talk about theatre. They’re in the theatre. And they’re talking about Gary Lucy’s arse.
But they’re buying the seats, they’re coming to the theatre and we’re working and they’re coming. And that’s what’s important. Absolutely. And the actors are doing good work and we would all take the work as well- YES. Absolutely. Because it’s the work and we love it and it’s VITAL that the theatre isn’t simply for those in the fortunate position of being a short journey from any of the monumentally fucking excellent producing houses in Britain’s bigger towns and cities. The audiences are getting to the theatre and THAT is the most important thing.
And it *is* the most important thing.
And then you wonder if it is the most important thing really. The *actual* most important thing. Of course from the sense of theatre’s existence, people going is the most important thing. But if they’re going to watch people do things off the telly, what’s the point? To have a night out? Good enough reason I suppose. But what happens when they stop going? Because they will. The Agatha Christie crowd will, soon enough, stop going. Because Gary Lucy’s arse or your one off “Allo Allo” isn’t a big enough draw to get them out of the grave and into the theatre. And young folk aren’t arsed about Agatha Christie and they’ve never heard of “Allo Allo”.
Perhaps the world needs to stop spoon-feeding potential audiences. Stop patronising them from office buildings in London. Get people into the theatre and trust that they are as capable of enjoying interesting work as someone who is able to go the Royal Exchange or the National. That we aren’t relying on anyone recognising the author of a murder mystery to get them into a seat. Have you heard of this writer….? Have you heard of this play….? No? Well lots of people have seen it and reckon it’s good. It’s going to be in your town, have a look at it. And the one off “Keeping Up Appearances” is in it anyway, because it’s new writing and she’s utterly fucking thrilled that a part has been written for a woman her age that isn’t an unqualified detective or a bumbling maid. And by the way, the Daily Mail is a shithouse rag that HATES theatre so don’t take their word on anything, even Gary Lucy’s arse.
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