David Lister: It’s more than just pedantry to insist on a left-handed McCartney


Should an actor playing a famous person look like that person? We all know that what really counts is conveying the truth of a character and all that, but...

I’ve been pondering this since seeing the picture in the press of the four young actors playing The Beatles in the forthcoming West End musical Let It Be. The actor playing Paul McCartney is pictured with his guitar. I’ve no doubt he will convey McCartney’s inner truth. The only problem is that he will convey a right-handed inner truth, for he is clearly right-handed, whereas McCartney was and is, quite famously, left-handed.

In the history of theatre, this will hardly be counted a cardinal sin. And yet anyone with a passing acquaintance with The Beatles or McCartney knows that he plays his instrument with his left hand. Does it matter? They’re not meant to be lookalikes, after all. Yet, the actor playing John Lennon wears dark glasses in some scenes, as Lennon indeed did on stage, so clearly the producers want some sort of attempt at verisimilitude. “But come on,” some will say, “they can hardly insist at the auditions that only left-handers need apply.”

“Come on yourself,” I might reply, “students of pop history and hard-core Beatles fans, who presumably will make up much of the audience, will be unable to resist a pompous little snigger when they see a right-hander delivering ‘Eleanor Rigby’.”

It’s a tricky thing, this verisimilitude on stage. The most notable example of reaching it without being an actual lookalike is that fine actor Michael Sheen. He has played both David Frost and Kenneth Williams on stage, and Tony Blair on screen. He is not the image of any of them, yet watching him you felt you were watching them, because he conveyed their characters – and, to be fair, got their voices. Sheen has gone out of his way to say he is an actor not an impersonator, and we don’t care that he doesn’t look exactly like the people he is playing.

But then again, up to a point we do care. We may not mind if he is shorter or taller than they are, or if he has a fuller face, but we would mind if he had red hair to play David Frost, because we know this simply wasn’t the case. And that’s why the audiences at Let It Be might well do a double take at the right-handed bass-guitar player.

It’s a tricky thing, indeed, this verisimilitude. Audiences can be more literal than producers like to think.

Some statues are more equal than others

Reports have it that Mark Thompson, the outgoing director-general of the BBC, has vetoed the idea of a statue of George Orwell outside Broadcasting House, deciding Orwell was “too left-wing.” As Thompson hasn’t denied the reports, I will assume there is some truth in them. Without even going into the argument that the writer and BBC broadcaster appeals to all parts of the political spectrum, and without even bothering to argue that, if he is left-wing, then so what, I would simply urge Mark Thompson to reconsider.

I’ve been impressed with his record as DG, but if he wants to leave a lasting impression, he could go down in history as the DG who put a statue of one of Britain’s greatest writers and thinkers outside Broadcasting House. He would be remembered for that long after his other achievements in the post were forgotten. Go on, Mark, make it your parting gift.

Keira condenses Karenina  in just five simple words

Keira Knightley is playing Anna Karenina in Joe Wright’s soon-to-be-released film adaptation of Tolstoy’s book. Although Wright appears inclined to cast Keira in every film he directs, this is a piece of casting that could work rather well. I was intrigued to read in The Independent this week that, after re-reading the novel in preparation for the film, Knightley declared of its author: “My God he hates her.” This seems a very direct and accusatory piece of literary criticism. It’s at moments like this that one wishes one could do what Woody Allen did in the cinema queue in Annie Hall, and summon up the author to answer the criticism. “Actually, I hoped I was doing something rather more complex than simply hating her, Miss Knightley.” “No you hated her, Leo!” That’s a literary debate that I’d buy tickets for.



Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism