Well good day there. I'm, oh, let's call me "Sir Edwin". You don't know me but I'm an acquaintance of Skiver. The poor lad was originally booked to do the summary of this week's episode of something called "Next Action Star" on one of those vulgar American networks that are run by the kind of philistines who don't know their Ibsen from their Austen, but he couldn't do it, bless him! He took one look at the show and threw up his hands. "I can't summarize that piece of crap!" he told me when he telephoned. (He's always been one to overuse the vulgar vernacular, I'm afraid). "Nothing happened! It was the worst hour of TV since Bush's last State of the Union address" (Another thing you may have noticed about young Skiver is that he does tend to overdo the political metaphors. He's constantly offending the Conservatives in our little circle). He went on to implore me to do the summary for him. "Maybe you - being an actor and all - can do something with this terrible piece of trash. I certainly can't find anything to say about this bunch of nonentities!"
"Glad to, my boy!" I boomed. "I have a little time on my hands since the closure of my one man show at the Brighton Pavillion, and I'm more than willing to lend my expertise to reviewing a show on my chosen craft. Tell me, what does it pay?" "That's all still to be settled," said Skiver. Apparently, from the quaver in his voice as he said this, he was a little upset at having to give up his fee to your humble correspondent. "I'll send you a tape of the show," he continued. "Can you have the summary done in a couple of days?" "Well, I don't know," I objected. "I may have trodden the boards for this many a year, but I haven't done this kind of thing before." "I'm sure you'll do fine," said Skiver. "Or at least better than my six-year-old nephew, who's my other option." He hung up.
The next day, on rising and perambulating through my lobby to my little breakfast room where I expected the maid had laid out brunch, I found a little brown package in my mailbox. Intrigued, I unwrapped it and found it contained a tape! Of course! This was the episode of the American television show Skiver had asked me to review. Remembering that I’d had to fire the maid - funds being a little short, you see - I made myself a pot of tea and popped the cassette into the video player. After a short delay, my telly screen was suddenly filled with flames and explosions, and a deep American voice was yelling at me. Moving as quickly as if the machine actually had caught fire, I turned it off. My head was a little on the tender side that morning. We actors live life, as Hemmingway said “all the way up”, and in my book that means drinking a lot of port wine of an evening.
Anyway, after turning down the volume on the telly and steadying myself with a deep draught of tea, I ventured to restart the video player.
The screen was filled with explosions and two young people leaping threateningly around. I had not the faintest idea what they were supposed to represent. Martial ballet? What will they think of next? Then the deep American voice proclaimed: “Previously on Next Action Star...” Ah, yes, this must be a review of the proceedings that occurred previously on this show. Oh my Lord! There is a naked man being shown climbing into a bed! And there’s a woman in the bed! What kind of shows are these Americans showing each other! Is this one of those ‘porn’ movies I’ve heard so much about? Now, I know that occasionally the vision of the author and the essential truth of a piece will be served with nothing other than the unadorned human form. I myself went unclothed in a Bennet adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers” at the Birmingham Playhouse - to great acclaim from the ladies, I might add. But I had been given to believe that this was an unscripted show. Do they also have cameras in the bathrooms?
Luckily, Skiver had sent a transcript of the show, so I was able to get over my shock and find out what the loud American announcer was saying, which was: "Jared was caught in a compromising position." He would be the pale, naked man climbing into bed (admittedly the television company had blurred the man’s backside) that they’d just showed.
Then we see an unshaven oaf named Sean, who apparently is to tell us more detail on the incident. He says, to camera, "Jared was naked, and Melisande was there..." Melisande must be the name of the long-haired creature that was already in the bed.
Now a talking-head identified as Jared himself speaks! He says: "Honestly, I am attracted to Melisande..." Well I should hope so, young man! Climbing into the beds of those one is not attracted to is at best bad form, and at worst somewhat desperate.
The deep-voiced American announcer speaks (actually he sounds more hoarse perhaps he needs a throat lozenge? I always find those work marvelously, if I have an upcoming performance and I’ve been a little too liberal with the port in the afternoon). He says: "And hopefully, Jared's girlfriend wasn't watching." This Jared has a girlfriend elsewhere? Is this a second Richard Burton? I, of course, knew old Dicky Burton intimately, and although he was a simply brilliant actor, he wasn’t quite the sharpest spear in the armory, if you get my drift. Most of us - what you might call distinguished actors - never marry. Theatre is too demanding a mistress, and there are - or were - always young actresses wishing to impress one - but poor Dicky married the same woman twice, which I think says it all. Perhaps this Jared is also as dumb as Dicky Burton.
In fact, he seems to be of this persuasion himself, because he then says: "I am an a$$(beep)". I wonder what vulgarity was beeped? A man calling himself an a$$ is quite vulgar enough, in my view.