We don't all have a stage, Steven Berkoff. Twitter will have to do

The 76-year-old actor has no time for the tweeting masses

Share

I had that Steven Berkoff in my garden once. The actor, playwright and actor was in the locality appearing at a literary festival, and he arrived at my front door with a friend of mine, making good on my offer of tea and cakes.

He couldn't have been more polite, only occasionally interrupting his benevolent flow to revert to a classic Berkoffism when pronouncing on a mutual acquaintance, or on someone in the public eye. His assessment could not have been more withering. "He's a total ...." he'd say firmly and unequivocally, utilising mono-syllabic Chaucerian language. It made me think I wouldn't want to do anything to incur the displeasure of the East End's number one polymath.

Even at 76 years old, he still has something of the enfant terrible about him, and he's been at it again at the Edinburgh Festival, excoriating, among others,  the BBC - "garbage" -Twitter - "facile" - and critics - "a sordid bunch of bilious scum". His new show, An Actor's Lament, is conducted in clever couplets and satirises the acting profession, lifting the curtain on what happens backstage to reveal a landscape of self-obsession and insecurity. It has played to appreciative audiences, hardly surprising because Berkoff is a rare creature in the world of modern media in that virtually everything he says demands - and generally receives - attention.

His pronouncements are authentic and unmediated, and have the refreshing feel of someone who's not got a battalion of PRs and publicity agents engineering his image and carefully prescribing his opinions. And he made sure he'd sell some tickets for his show by going on the BBC and slagging off the BBC, criticising its output as sub-standard, and pouring scorn on its flagship soap opera. EastEnders, he said, was "stinky, slobbing, clichéd, mindless, moronic"... Say what you think, Steven!

But it was what he said about Twitter that provoked the biggest reaction. At a time when Twitter abuse is a live issue, he brushed aside the protestations of those who felt bullied and victimised on the network. "If I jump into a garbage bin," he said,  "I can't complain that I've got rubbish all over me". His view is that if you open your door to one and all, that includes opening it to every sicko in town. This is not a view that holds much water: clearly, signing up for Twitter represents something of a contract, but so does, for instance, having an email account, or indeed choosing to engage in any communal discourse, and that doesn't mean you should be subject to abuse and vilification.

He also thinks Twitter is banal, facile and epitomises the shallowness and vacuousness of modern life. Which is, of course, why we like it so much. Steven Berkoff is the product of a much more serious age, and you can understand why he'd think Twitter is a trashy, superficial medium, but he speaks from the advantaged position of someone who has a direct channel for his opinions. The performer takes comfort in autocracy. Twitter is about democracy. Some of us don't have a slot at the Edinburgh Festival to sound off. We only have 140 characters with which to let loose our views on the world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam