There’s some sympathy for actors in The Fosse Forest Ballet, which despite its title is a pantomime (there’s a joke in there somewhere, which I’ve evidently missed). Practically everyone else is painted in a bad light. When Bob (David Muscat), desperate to tread the boards again, pours his heart out in desperation to his agent James (Philip Joel), the latter falsely claims it’s a bad line and he didn’t hear the bulk of what was said. Bob ends the call diplomatically, emotionally spent, and must somehow summon the strength from somewhere to carry on dreaming the dream.
Such is the harsh reality of the acting profession. But it also seems grossly unfair to most theatrical agents out there, who (or so actors invariably say) work hard for the people on their books. I suppose one mustn’t take this series too seriously or think that the attitudes of the creative team behind this ballet/pantomime are indicative of everyone in the entertainment industry. The production seems doomed to fail, which probably makes better drama than a show about a show where everything goes swimmingly, and a blockbuster success is born.
The style of humour is quirky to say the least: in one scene, the pantomime’s director, choreographer and musical director (all Philip Joel), all assert in similar ways that actors are impossible to work with because they never, ever get anything right (in which case, why not pursue a vocation that doesn’t involve working with actors?). Individually and collectively, their attitudes stink, and one wonders why, if this is meant to be remotely representative of how creatives behave in the real world, actors put up with it. Perhaps it was meant to be a light-hearted poke at how creatives are sometimes perceived, and many of them may well take what they find here with good grace.
But I’m sorry to report I barely raised a smile, let alone a hearty laugh. Non-actor characters are pretty much all the same, universally extremely highly strung – the sort of people that seem to think the planet will stop spinning on its own axis if the slightest thing doesn’t go wholly and entirely in their favour. Frankly, I found much of the episode tiresome. When the narrator, Darren Day, claims, with reference to a certain point in the audition process for the panto, that “not many make it this far, but then again many do”, which is it? And I couldn’t see the need to lampoon call centre workers in a ‘punchline’ (inverted commas mine) at the end of the episode.
That the series was commissioned with the idea of supporting Acting for Others and Theatres Trust by donating its profits to such causes makes such a disagreeable portrayal of the theatre world all the more bizarre. The show, is at least, filmed to a high standard, and appearances from the likes of Kerry Ellis, Louise Dearman and Oliver Savile will doubtless be welcome to regular theatregoers. A pity, really, that I had little interest in watching any further episodes of this peculiar story.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.