I am a non-practitioner in the gentle arts of theatre and television. I venture no further than the sidelines – but I cannot help noticing the parallels and paradoxes they display.
Many years ago, I saw a popular TV sitcom man in a stage play – and it was obvious that nobody had told him that a stage performance demands more than the conversational tones that are all right on television. It needs something called “projection” – and he did not have any.
On the other hand, while it is fine to sit and talk on stage – albeit a bit more loudly than normal – without enlisting support from hands and arms, it seems that you are not allowed to get away with this on television.
On television, a conversation between, say, a news presenter and a reporter who is either out on location or sitting on the other side of the desk, is a quite absurd exercise in animation.
On television, the supposedly quieter medium, the protagonists have clearly been told to wave their arms about with renewed vigour with every sentence. Waving arms, it seems, are deemed to be more interesting than talking heads. We can’t be trusted to concentrate on talking heads.
But there is also arm activity on TV that has most certainly not been planned or decreed.
Let me be more specific. It is always the left arm – and, even more specifically, the left elbow. And it is completely involuntary.
Left Elbow Bounce is an affliction affecting many television reporters who talk to camera standing up. It affects newscasters who stand up. It affects TV weather forecasters. Whoever they are, they are liable to find their left elbow repeatedly bouncing away from their waist while they speak. It’s fascinating. They invariably have me riveted. More riveted than waving arms – and, of course, talking heads.
Has anyone else noticed this? Has anyone explained it?
So how on earth did the woman making a hospital visit to her father, the man in the bed opposite mine, know that she and I had the same telephone number, apart from one digit?
I didn’t know her, and I had known her father for only five days, since we had been brought into fleeting friendship by the replacements of his knee and my hip – yet there she was, quoting my telephone number at me without let or hindrance.
It turned out that this was just another reminder that all the world’s a stage and that Shakespeare, as ever, knew what he was talking about. But it was a moment that caught me on the hop – or at last on as much of a hop as I could manage with a brand new bit of bone substitute.
Before it happened, I had been astonished to discover that my new friend Bill and I both knew Bob Edmiston, the Coventry businessman who stands high on Britain’s Rich List. Bill had a warm friendship with him, founded on business dealings, and I had met him intermittently over a period of about five months, several years ago, after he had asked me to write his mother’s life story for family record purposes.
This was why my name cropped up at Bill’s bedside, and why his daughter Julie turned round to spring the surprising news about our telephone numbers as soon as she discovered I was in the offing – because although I had never met her, it turned out that it was she who had called at my house in Bromsgrove every morning a couple of decades ago to drive herself and my son Gary to where they were both working in offices on Birmingham’s Hagley Road.
And what’s really interesting is that if a playwright tried to work such a covey of coincidences into his latest opus, he would be howled off the stage. Art is allowed to imitate life – but not too closely.
Here’s a note for newcomers to the wonders of theatre.
Nick Hennegan, formerly with Hall Green Little Theatre, founder of Maverick Theatre and intrepid creator of a one-man Henry V, has launched Maverick Academy. It’s aimed at eight-to 21-year-olds and it meets on Fridays at Kings Heath Community Centre, 8 Heathfield Road.
Nick says: “It’s not just acting, dancing and movement but also acting on film, how to write a script, puppet work and camera operation. There’s also a chance for individual tuition with L.A.M.D.A. Acting and Drama examinations.”
There is more information on 07531 138 248 and email@example.com.
The Old Rep, monument to Sir Barry Jackson and his pioneering work for theatre in Birmingham, is back in business.
It had been closed since February to undergo a programme of renovations to provide lift access for wheelchair users, improved box office, refreshment and toilet facilities. Welcome back!
A friend was telling me of a 96-year-old relative who is as bright as a button and who sounds ripe for transition into a domestic comedy.
She can trot out her birthday on the instant – except that she is uncertain of the year.
He told her it was 1912.
“Oh”, she said, “I wouldn’t know about that. I was only a baby then.”
* WHAT’S ON
Fly Me to the Moon: Fellowship Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (to Saturday).
The Arsonists: Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
Oklahoma!: South Staffs Musical Theatre Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton (to Saturday).
The Great Songwriters: Argosy Musical Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 9-11).
Sylvia: Hall Green Little Theatre (Oct 10-18).
Valentino: Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (Oct 11-18).
The Full Monty: Worcester Operatic & Dramatic Society, Swan Theatre, Worcester (Oct 14-18).
The Beauty Queen of Leeane: (Priory Theatre, Kenilworth, Oct 15-25).
Hi-de-Hi!: Rowney Green Players, Palace Theatre, Redditch (Oct 15-18).
Ring Round the Moon: Birmingham School of Acting, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 15-18).
Lulu: Birmingham School of Acting, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 15-18).
Talking Heads: Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (Oct 16-25)