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Archive for April 2017

Mcphereson Advertising and the Actor

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Just come off the phone from talking to a certain computer manufacturer. You see, acting isn’t only about walking about, speaking your lines and not bumping into things. It’s about creating. It’s about being open to the muse and giving it form, breathing life into the ideas and concepts that are floating around. And if posssible flogging them to someone.

I well remember Sir Ian McKellan, during fallow periods when work was thin, devising a new advertising scheme for detergent. Long into the night he laboured. Should it be a housewife? Should the lead character be a single man? Should it be a super hero bubble, searching for dirt in a cape? Sir Ian disappeared for a few months and then – in a shock reappearance in the Duck and Sniffers – he appeared triumphant. The pitch itself was brief. Sir Ian was to play the main part, a beleaguered man tortured by a mysterious stain on his codpiece. Try as he might he cannot remove it without Stainaway. Sir Ian demonstrated his characters dilemma by furiously rubbing his codpiece, waving it about and moaning too all and sundry before being asked to leave by a somewhat luddite landlord. I caught up with him in the street and after dusting himself down and getting up Sir Ian explained the whole concept. It was to be set in 15th Century Italy, and this Duke of Naples had an important meeting with the Pope but had spaghetti stains on his best outfit and therefore was in a quandary about the attention he paid to his personal grooming in front of the Pontif. Many courtiers suggested remedies, but none seemed to fit and with each paltry and superfluous suggestion a courtier met with the blade of the executioners axe. Even his sisters were not immune to his wrath and on the scaffold one gave a heartfelt and well written speech about brotherly love, the joy of life and the importance of bibs. Finally a wizard appears with the detergent and removes the offending stain and is rewarded with keeping his head in the traditional position. And so the Duke finally meets the Pontif, who compliments him on the cleanliness of his codpiece, and awards him six castles and a Earldom.

The actual advertisment was somewhat over the allotted twenty eight seconds, running at roughly three and three quarter hours (minus the music but including interlude).

Sir Alec Guinness once confided in me he wanted to promote Cream Eggs. He had this idea that he doing a Hamlet, and would be in the middle of his oratory, when his stomach would rumble and he would squat down and produce a Cream Egg. The rest of the cast would then abandon their roles and tuck into his newly laid egg. This was – amazingly – turned down. As was Derek Jacobi’s Zanussi washing machine idea, David Suchet’s DFS Sale and Helen Mirren’s Volvo (though the last one may be down to a spelling error in the proposal).


Posted By Ed to Mcphereson on 4/29/2017 04:12:00 am

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Written by edparnell

April 29, 2017 at 12:12 pm

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Mcphereson Letters, Bills and The Bill

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This morning I received by way of the postman (who was in Eastenders) a letter from British Gas. I know, the part you are intrigued by – my erstwhile eastendian mail deliverance officer towit the indentity of. Well, after a brief discussion which started with him denying what we both knew quite fervantly to an admission of the facts (and the swearing inbetween) I was sworn by said postie not to divulge his name for professional reasons. But I did praise his later work as a gangland documentary maker.

The letter, such as it was, was regarding an underpayment I am ‘supposed’ to have made regarding my consumption of gas and electricity. I of course dispute this, and it is here that acting comes into it’s own. Whereas an ordinary person would not have the tools to make a case with such a powerful foe, an actor is ideally placed to maximise human emotion and reaction to a point where a considerable saving can be reached. I remember seeing darling Thora Hurd once get an entire cruet set from Harrods by simply wailing loudly whilst spinning on the floor knocking things over. As we left, cellars and dispensers in hand, we laughed at how we had outwitted the humble assistant, her manager and the security people and nabbed what Thora called ‘A tidy haul’. While I think about this I also recall the lovely late Alan Rickman getting a two for one discount in the Harvester simply by manipulating his eyebrows in a sinister way. He did in fact in the end pay for two though because he had another portion on the same terms. I miss Alan greatly, I can’t believe it has been so long since I saw him, and longer since one of those three a.m. Phone calls (he changed his number).

Back to British Gas. I have always found electricity to be a mysterious thing. You can’t see it, smell it, feel it but it’s there. A lot like the acting in Hollyoaks. I sometimes think it would be good to do a series on BBC 2 about things which have no substance, and when I have put this idea forward I am flattered people consider me to be the ideal presenter. I rang their customer helpline, which is euphemistically called ‘Customer Services’. The voiceover telling me my call is important I find impertinent, given as how they have anticipated I and my fellow ‘customers’ would be on hold and therefore commissioned a voiceover to underline just how important we are. She interrupts the Vivaldi with such rudeness had she been at one of my shows I would surely have had her removed before she’d even thought about advising me that I may find solace and solution in the website they so ably provide. I am put off by computers and this Internal Web because of a mistype I once made for Hotmail. This was not the sort of service I desired, and there was many a blush in the library that day, I can tell you.

There is nothing wrong with things being online. I am not adverse to technology. I have a microwave. But I fear many jobs will eventually be replaced by these Al Gore rhythms. I have no idea what they are but I think eventually they will replace live theatre. It will be people sat at home, watching actors sat in their homes doing performances, mark my words. And they lose the essential thing that the theatre is all about. The only plus side as far as I can make out is that the audience will have to clear up their own rotting fruit from behind the screen. But that is of little comfort. Actors need the approval and adoration of their audiences there, in the flesh. We can’t rely on tape recordings of tumultuous applause to be triggered to make us feel good. We’re not all Michael Winner. We need people to adore us in person, and if possible tell all their friends to come and adore us too, be it matinee or evening performance.

I’ll tell you who is good with these computery things though; Biggins. He is a master with them. They are like second nature. To watch those podgy fingers dance a ballet over the keyboard is a joy to watch. He did offer to let me have a go on his laptop, but I totally misunderstood him and we don’t talk much now.

Still on hold…

I often think of the times yonder when there was a shop you could go into for such things. You would speak to Terry or Elaine or Yvette and they would listen to your problem and sort it out. It was more personal then, and the gamut of angry or frustrated customers in the showroom would give you so much material for a performance. A glance here. A frustrated thump on a Tumble dryer there. If you were lucky there would be a right to-do and Police would attend and there was all the ingredients for a character piece in the Bill. I miss The Bill. As people may remember, I was Denny Snorkels, a local vicar trying to reintegrate recently released thugs, druggies and murderers into the area with little or no success. The character was sad and lonely and unfulfilled, and I was sadder and lonelier and even more unfulfilled when he was found dead in a Dumpster in only his second episode. I did suggest a spin off, Snorkels of the Dead, where he comes back Jesus-like to continue his work saving lost souls. I told the producer and the Welsh bloke with the big nose and both said they needed to think about it, I haven’t heard anything since so fingers crossed. The Bill were a rum lot, really. Very dedicated to their work. When I was leaving, I suggested perhaps we should all go out and have a few drinks and a Chinese to celebrate new opportunities for me, but no one had even thought of this, such was their focus on the show. What could have been a leaving party to really remember ended up as White Lightening and a packet of pringles whilst gazing at Ceefax through a Rumblelows window.

Still on hold….

Now I think about it there was no real investigation into Snorkels demise. I think one of the DCIs mentioned it but I don’t think they really looked into it. Now that is a plot hole. Maybe I should call them and mention it.


Posted By Ed to Mcphereson on 4/19/2017 10:17:00 am

Written by edparnell

April 19, 2017 at 6:17 pm

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No more excuses. It’s time to protect yo

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Written by edparnell

April 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

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Mcphereson Easter

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Well, another easter has been and gone and let me tell you in acting circles there is no greater time than Easter. Apart from Christmas. And Autumn. And summertime spectaculars. And Winter Wonderland engagements. But apart from all that – and halloween – apart from all that Easter is the number one time to get together with acting brethren and – and Pancake day – relate stories of your exploits in the world of Thespis. And Michaelmas.

To me, Easter holds a special place. For it was Easter when my Nanny, Bess, took me to the theatre for the first time. I was four and, as most four year olds are, very excitable. I remember the smell of the West End, the lights, the action. Oh, the heady days of childhood wonder. It was here I first used a public lavatory.

Nanny Bess has taken me to London because my parents apparently had something to sort out. To this day I do not know what it was but I do know Nanny Bess left our house shortly upon our return.

London was a magnificent place in those days, full of promise and tweed. Before we went to the theatre, we went to see Oxford Street. If there is somewhere which seeped what London was in those days, it was Oxford Street, and I drenched myself in the colourful characters. There was the bus drivers, angry and impatient. The angry taxi drivers shouting as we crossed the roads. The builders always ready with a comment about Nanny Bess which young ears should really never hear and the restrained tutting of ladies as they went by. I was pleased to see Nanny Bess was welcomed to the capital with a picture on the front of the Standard, although I cannot remember what the headline was, I do recall her shyly hurrying away.

The theatre we attended was the Shaftsbury, a place where subsequently I have attempted to work many times. The welcoming foyer and doorman have long since gone, but if you close your eyes you can still hear the sounds of merry theatres goers within. And sometimes you can almost still smell the doorman.

We bought peanuts (you were allowed to buy peanuts in those days) and sat in the Gods, watching the action. It was an Ibsen play ‘Olaf Liljekrans’. As you can imagine, watching a 19th century in the original Norwegian didn’t long entrance the youthful me, and it wasn’t long before I was attempting to flood the stage with ill-aimed peanuts. This lead, I am somewhat ashamed to say to the first and last time I have been forcibly ejected from a Theatre (if you don’t include Mother Goose in Southend in 2006. I still say I should have got that part. Damn you, Jacobi!). But the bug was definitely there. For acting, not for being ejected. Although God knows some people have made a big name for themselves being thrown out of entertainment venues of all types. But not me. I like to be in there, on stage, all eyes on me, and if possible, being supposed to be there.

The bug was in me and I immediately pestered my parents to send me to stage school. I wanted to act, to give pleasure. My Father said I gave pleasure whenever I entered another room, so it was obviously something I was destined to do. I was enrolled in Bernie Dintes’ Dramatic Academy. One of the advantages of this form of education was that it was self-supporting. We, the students, made saucepans for fourteen hours a day and then would put on a show in what remained of the day (as long as we kept the noise down). Musicals, drama, comedies, they flowed through us in those heady shows like the sauces which were put in the pans we were making. We didn’t pay enough attention in the smelting process and thus the school closed down.


Posted By Ed to Mcphereson on 4/17/2017 09:09:00 am

Written by edparnell

April 17, 2017 at 5:09 pm

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Mcphereson Another post

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Written by edparnell

April 17, 2017 at 5:09 pm

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I Tried Being Vegan for 4 weeks and… •

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Written by edparnell

April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

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