Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Meryl Sheep received rave reviews for her role in ‘The Taming of the Ewe’

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The Independent Online

Who knew that there is a character in Sesame Street by the name of Meryl Sheep? This ovine has appeared sporadically as the US children's show resident acting coach since 1987, once memorably teaching the Meryl Sheep Method to an eager Susan Sarandon.

Sheep's biography is brief and depressingly incomplete. All we know is that in between being rescued from becoming a ball of wool by mentor Sam the Shepherd and joining Big Bird and the gang, Sheep received rave reviews for performances in The Taming of the Ewe, Lamlet and The Merchant of Venison, in which she movingly asked "If you prick us, do we not bleat?".

While Ms Sheep's work has been uniformly admired, the same cannot be said for Ms Streep. The most successful actor in Academy Award history was no fan of the most often nominated. Katharine Hepburn, four times Best Actress, described Streep as her least favourite modern actress. "Click, click, click," was Hepburn's viciously concise analysis (hardly a ewe-logy) of Streep's acting, which she found as icily and audibly mechanical as ticking clockwork.

Most disagree, and Streep is hot favourite to win her second Best Actress Oscar next month, this time for The Iron Lady. She last won one – for Best Supporting Actress – back in 1979 and winsomely claimed to have left the statuette in the loo at the after-party.

Her latest film has not been reviewed as glowingly as Streep herself, least of all by friends of Lady Thatcher who think it cruel that her dementia is so heavily featured. But as yet there has been no comment from old enemies such as Sir Geoffrey Howe, who hastened her departure by savaging her in his resignation speech, prompting Denis Healey to describe him as a "dead sheep". Which if the casting director had only thought of it, might have provided a good part for the other, woollier, Meryl. Ms Sheep would have had to work on her accent, of course, which in everyday speech is strangely similar to the one used by Ms Streep in Sophie's Choice.

But given her amazing success so far, there is still every chance that the pre-schoolers of America will one day rejoice at hearing Meryl Sheep declaim: "Ewe turn if you want to. The lamby's not for turning".