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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL)

£30 - 40k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Operations Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the single governing and regul...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A cervical brush used for to perform vaginal smear test analysis  

If I had let the stigma around cervical cancer stop me seeing a doctor then I could be dead by now

Karen Hobbs
 

I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality

Farhana Khan
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935