Theatre-going would seem to be in some sort of crisis, to judge by the deemed necessity of a week-long season of programmes on C4 called "Blow Your Mind - See a Show". While doubtful of the wisdom of this "welcome back to butter" approach to putting bums on seats, I did enjoy See a Show (Sun C4), short excerpts of plays put together by Royal National Theatre director Richard Eyre and actors Frances Barber, Kathy Burke, Brian Cox and Clive Owen.
This consists of vividly realised snippets from Jean Genet's The Maids, Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Samuel Beckett's Happy Days and Shakespeare's Macbeth - if theatre really wants to advertise itself, perhaps it needs its own equivalent of Film 95. Rumour has it that LWT already hassome such idea in mind.
I wouldn't, unless I was feeling especially mischievous, suggest Steven Berkoff for the role of Barry Norman. His One Man Show (Sun C4), a characteristically high-octane monologue on his own art, opens the "Blow Your Mind..." season. Statements such as "Everything that you do as a human being is sanctified; the very nature of your body is a sanctified holy instrument", are only going to get Joe Public reaching for his stereotypes - all actors are luvvies; the moving camera made theatre redundant.
Maybe television is absorbing all our top drama-writing talent. It seems unlikely, though. Jimmy McGovern may have created Cracker, but no one is going to claim that he's up there with Orton and Beckett. McGovern co-scripted, with Paul Henry Powell, Go Now (Sat BBC2), the first in a short season of Screen Two romances called "Love Bites". It wouldn't be a kindness to say too much about the plot, but this enjoyable piece benefits considerably from its hot casting of Robert Carlyle (from Hamish MacBeth) and Juliet Aubrey (from Middlemarch).
William Blake first saw God peering out at him from an upstairs window in London's Broad Street, according to The South Bank Show's (Sun ITV) tie-in for Peter Ackroyd's new life of the divinely inspired poet and painter. Blake was four at the time, but the visions persisted. He was the sort of person who would go for a walk in Dulwich Park, and instead of dodging ducks and dog's excreta, he would see angels sitting in the trees. It helped that Blake's wife of 45 years, Catherine, was also prone to visions - but she could also be abruptly down-to-earth at times. If she thought Blake was spending too much time with his angels, and not enough earning his daily bread, she'd simply lay an empty plate at his end of the table.
"Can you tell me the way to the A and E?" "Oh, you must be the new S.H.O." Yes, Casualty (Sat BBC1) is back for its 10th season. Some of the bit- part acting and much of the plot-driving dialogue on Casualty could do more to send you flying back into the seats of your nearest Royal Shakespeare Company production than any "Blow Your Mind"-style promotion on C4. The real treat of this hospital drama is, of course, in guessing just what horrible way the extras will end up under Holby City Hospital's T.L.C.
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