American Stars Don’t Shine in British Theater, Says UK Playwright

Kevin Spacey is one of the few American stars who can project his voice in the theater, says UK playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn to The Times. But most London-bound Hollywood stars don’t know the first thing about stage acting – and he thinks it’s killing British theater. He goes on:

“What is happening is that the theater is being stuffed with the stars’ fans. What they experience in the theater is a poor performance, and they go out profoundly disappointed and disenchanted. That is another blow for the theater. You’ve emptied the theater for a whole load of people who will never go again.”

Yeah, we all know the stars who go to the West End to pad their resumes. It’s far enough away from their Hollywood critics to avoid the stench of failure if they bomb, yet it still lends them a bit of cachet. But British theater faces an even more insidious enemy–the reality TV and soap stars who are cast more for their notoriety than fortheir acting ability:

“We have tremendous talent in this country. Young actors have never been better, but they are fed up with seeing their jobs whipped away by people who’ve chanced by a TV camera or stood in a field taking off their clothes.”

Well, this phenomenon has been going on for years in American theater. Could it be that British theater, which has been held in such high regard by us Yanks, has finally sunk to our level of vulgarity? Or is Ayckbourn simply making broad generalizations? TV can often yield unexpected talent. Take, for example, The Office‘s Mackenzie Crook, who is currently grabbing critical adoration for his role as Konstantin in Chekhov‘s The Seagull. From The Daily Telegraph:

“Mackenzie Crook, best known for his comic roles in The Office and Pirates of the Caribbean, turns out to be the most moving Konstantin since Simon Russell Beale. His painful thinness, feverish energy, and those haunted, hollow eyes constantly suggest a man nearing the end of his rope, and his final scene with his beloved Nina, touchingly played by Carey Mulligan, is almost unbearably affecting.”

Also, recall that Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing, Love Soup) received sterling reviews for her performance in Much Ado About Nothing, and Connie Fisher, a reality show winner, has given Julie Andrews a run for her money as The Sound of Music‘s definitive Maria. But what Ayckbourn should fear is the West End becoming a place where old Hollywood stars go to die, literally and figuratively. For example, Jessica Lange prepares to take her critically decried Broadway role in The Glass Menagerie to the West End and chats with The Independent about it.

Meanwhile, British theater directors are finding the transition to Hollywood filmmaking quite easy. There’s been Sam Mendes, Stephen Daldry, Roger Michell, and now Richard Eyre, who directed the Oscar-nominated Notes on a Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Eyre is interviewed in The Daily Telegraph about the unique extravagances of making movies:

“Movies are preposterously expensive. I’ve just directed Mary Poppins on Broadway, a mega-musical in a big theater on 42nd Street. It felt like steering an aircraft carrier. But it cost far less than what the film industry fancifully describes as a small-budget movie. Notes on a Scandal cost ‘only’ $15 million, but it’s hard to get that money back, and they use any mechanism. So even in the quietest moments of making a film, you’re being drawn by that bungee wire: how is this film going to meet its budget?”

I haven’t seen Notes on a Scandal, but it looks like a campy hoot. Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in a knockdown, dragout catfight? Ice queen Blanchett schtupping studly students? I’m so there.

In other news:

  • Two new white rappers raise the Union Jack: Just Jack and Jamie T.
  • A Harry Potter reality show? (BBC)
  • Eva Green is rudely asked by The Guardian‘s Stuart Jeffries if she was jealous that Daniel Craig had “bigger boobs than she did” in Casino Royale. She responds, gamely, “Well, he is the Bond girl, not me. He’s the one who comes out of the sea with his top off.” Also, something about Eva I didn’t know…since Eva’s dad is Swedish, her last name “should be pronounced to rhyme with Wren.”
  • Critics aren’t that impressed by the much-hyped “realistic” teen drama, Skins, which premiered on Britain’s E4.(Guardian)
  • Tips on how recording artists can avoid the sophomore slump, by The Guardian‘s Ian Gittins. Rule No. 6: “Don’t make the same record again but without the good bits…[you] can get away with this only once, as Alicia Keys, Craig David, David Gray, Katie Melua, John Legend, and Keane will discover at some point in the near future.”
  • The Strange Death of Liberal England, a buzzed-about UK band, has an unorthodox live show. From The Guardian: “When playing live, the Portsmouth-based quintet don’t talk to their audience: they hold up placards. At their most anodyne, these read: ‘Thank you.’ But the band are not averse to presenting people with more provocative instructions, such as: ‘Repent! Repent!’”
  • Listen. Are those wedding bells we hear for Nadine Coyle and Jesse Metcalfe? She’s already moving to L.A. to be with her man, saysThe Mirror.
  • Due to his footballer father George Best‘s large gambling debts, Calum Best was left with only a World Cup watch as an inheritance.(Mirror)
  • The 3 am girls emasculate the boys of Keane simply because they won’t engage in childish name-calling with the Gallaghers.(Mirror)
  • The Rolling Stones top Forbes’ “rich list” for music, earning $150.6 million last last year.(BBC)
  • A rock drummer’s curse?: only days after Snow Patrol‘s Johnny Quinn broke his arm while skiing, Razorlight‘s Andy Burrows has injured his elbow. The Sun‘s Victoria Newton wants to know who’s next – and lists a slew of possible candidates. She really is horrible, isn’t she?
  • Telegraph‘s Judith Woods wonders why Britons seemed so much fitter in the ’70s. “The women’s curves were more toned and the men’s middle-aged spread was modest. There was no sign of the huge beached sunbathers that are part and parcel of any seaside scene today. No folds of dimpled flesh hanging over trunks or bikini bottoms, no acres of cellulite, or pitifully fat children waddling down to the sea.”
  • Graeme Dyce, a 17-year-old tennis player coached by Andy Murray‘s mum, has something Murray would envy: a Grand Slam trophy.(The Times)
  • Donny Tourette says Jade Goody‘s behavior in the Big Brother wasn’t surprising to him. “I f–king called it, didn’t I! I called it for everyone else who was [saying] ‘Oh, she’s a really lovely person’ and that people misunderstood her, but she’s a f–king fat prick and her mum’s…they’re both sh–. The way they acted with all the bullying sh– and the racism, it was no surprise to me. They’ve always been those sort of people anyway.”(NME)
  • To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left: footballer Teddy Sheringham gets all Beyoncé on Danielle Lloyd‘s ass. Supposedly, he’s so appalled by her racist behavior on Celebrity Big Brother that he’s already packed up her stuff. What a waste. She gave up her Miss Great Britain crown for this guy. But, alas, as Ms. Knowles says, I can have another you in a minute….
  • Shilpa Shetty stands to reap great financial rewards because ofher newly raised profile.(Daily Mail)
  • A great interview with Paul Weller, in which he revisits the final days of The Jam, the critical drubbing he suffered while a part of The Style Council, and his love for old American R&B.(Yahoo!)
  • British filmmakers and actors rule at Sundance.(The Independent)
  • Sienna Miller bemoans the press’s obsession with her relationship with Jude Law. “Everything just happened in the wrong order. I did my first proper film where I met Jude and we got together, and then the whole celebrity thing happened before I had any films out. And before now I’ve only had three films out – and they haven’t been very successful – so there’s nothing to overshadow the celebrity side of things,” she said. (Daily Mail)
  • Demonstrating a party trick she learned from Heath Ledger, Sienna tries to fit as many grapes as she can into her mouth on The Tonight Show. Maybe if she kept her mouth stuffed more often she’d be a bigger star.(Mirror)
  • Big Brother co-host Russell Brand‘s comment about young cancer victims has offended a few viewers. Frankly, I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Here’s what he said, in The Daily Mail: “You know that kid at school who has six months off because he ain’t been well and the kid comes back to school and you have to have a special assembly and they say everyone has to be nice to Trevor – no one mention [sic] that baseball cap he wears all the time.”