After all those hard-working and uplifted arms that I mentioned recently, following long months wondering why they appear to be compulsory for anybody who talks on television, I have been – er, uplifted.
Joy is well known to cometh in the morning, and for me it came in a letter from John Severn, who has clearly been equally bemused from his viewing platform in Sutton Coldfield.
He calls it a ludicrous craze that prompts him to switch off almost immediately, and he can’t help wondering why everybody needs to be choreographed before being allowed to stand in front of a camera. He wonders whether that other current fashion, to have newsreaders standing up instead of sitting down, has been imposed in order to allow them to demonstrate a bit of nifty footwork as well as the upper-body gesticulations.
He laments: “I am so fascinated by these completely meaningless gestures, and wondering why on earth they’re doing it, that I find I haven’t heard a word they have said.”
It is, he says, another modern development that only seems to indicate a lowering of the standards of professionalism, but nobody can do anything about it.
Well, if you’ll pardon the solecism, there’s always you and me, John. If you’d like to launch the Society To Oppose Unnecessary Theatricals (STOUT), Slim is with you all the way.
However good the production, however committed the cast, any show that involves the company in purporting to prepare for a production never quite carries conviction. Whether it is Stepping Out or Noises Off, or any other depiction of a show within a show, it never completely persuades us.
We always know that we are watching good actors pretending.
So I just know that if I ever find myself watching a play about a keep-fit class I shall inevitably be casting my mind back to a wonderful get-well card that came my way after my recent hip operation.
It is a photograph of years ago, before the era of trousers for everybody, featuring three elderly women in skirts, with their knees half-bent and their arms stretched down at an angle in front of them. They are all deadly serious and are clearly keeping fit under instruction.
In the foreground is a dedicated disciple, an irresistible reminder of Les Dawson in drag, inadvertently showing the whites of her thighs. Behind her, one of her friends appears to be about to dive onto the floorboards and the other has gone for understandable anonymity in dark glasses.
But their commitment is undeniable and I can’t imagine that I am ever going to see it successfully imitated by actors whose job is to make-believe while making me believe.
I was not privy at first hand to this remark in a ladies’ fitting room, but I’m sure it could fit into a stage comedy somewhere:
“This is size 18 – but I think they’re always generous with the sizes here.”