That’s Entertainment?

That’s Entertainment?


As always, I find myself alone in a theatre reading the programme to keep myself entertained. My usual form of entertainment is British Extra Bingo. It begins with naming a soap. My favourites include The Bill, Eastenders and Holby City. First to find an actor with that television credit is the winner of that round. It’s fun, honest. This evening, I’m alone with no one to play with. So I have to read the programme cover to cover. This evening I was to see The Entertainer by John Osbourne. Otherwise known as Kenneth Branagh: What Can’t He Do?!

Kenneth Branagh is having a season at the Garrick Theatre. It’s similar to the Michael Grandage Company season at the Noel Coward Theatre that was said to be “reaching out to a new generation of theatregoers through pricing and access with over 100,000 seats going on sale at £10”. It featured a shit ton of famous people. Because that’s what young people love: fame. It featured Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan and Henry V with Jude Law. Anything Michael Grandage can do, Gilderoy Lockhart can do better. His famous faces included Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Rob Brydon. John Hurt had to drop out.

Not being content with his Order of Merlin, Third Class; Honourary Member of the Dark Force Defence League; being five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award; and being the dude that directed the first Thor film (or Obliviated the real director and took the credit); Branagh has to prove himself a triple threat. Archie Rice, played by Branagh, is a dying breed of music-hall performer. Archie sings, dances, taps and tells jokes!

If I was alive during the height of music-hall popularity, I think I would have been a very happy bunny. For the record, my favourite era of theatre was when it was live action Crime Watch during the Victorian era. Back to the cheap laughs and naked girls. Archie Rice is a star but he’s using his own definition of ‘star’. He loves to entertain. He lives to entertain everyone. His dysfunctional family had heard the same stories as his audience, almost word for word. The world is changing. His family is changing. Archie’s act hasn’t and won’t.

This was a very angry play. The beginning of the programme I spoke of earlier said John Osbourne was “27 when he wrote The Entertainer, and it remains fuelled by the passions, prejudices, dreams and nightmares of an angry man with an urgent desire to communicate”. If John Osbourne was communicating to us today, he may have written a blog. I haven’t seen any of his work but this play was a series of angry monologue and arguments. And some singing and ‘comedy’ in between.

I couldn’t make up my mind about it. Everyone had a turn. A gin fuelled rant about the state of affairs and the business in Trafalgar Square. It wasn’t until the next day at work that I discovered that the unpleasantness in Trafalgar Square was referring to Suez Crisis, a moment in history I have no understanding of. Back to the Shakespearean soliloquies of seething hate. I wondered what purpose they served and who they were for; were they for the audience or the characters on stage? As a member of the audience, I’m not sure I cared. Yes, change is difficult and they’re all stuck in some way and by their family, but I hadn’t grown particularly attached to anyone. They all caused their own misery. It was pretty to look at, but I’m not sure what I was looking at.

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