After the bizarre spectacle of multiple gay marriage ceremonies at this year’s Grammy Awards with Queen Latifah as ‘celebrant’ and Madonna as wedding singer, I was in desperate need of a cultural palette cleaner to reassure me that the world hadn’t been taken over by a weird brainwashing cult similar to Scientology. So naturally I turned to the Daily Mail who one can always rely on to play witch finder general of extreme political correctness, venal politicians and celebrities for whom self-doubt has never troubled them mentioning no names…Madonna.
But what do I find in the pages of the Daily Mail but one of the most disturbing ‘celebrity’ Selfies in the history of the phenomenon? I refer of course to model of the moment Cara Delevingne who posted an Instagram image of she and her current beau (or belle as it happens) an American actress I’ve never heard of. Said wholesome young ladies were holding hands in a dim hotel room and both were injected with individual intravenous drips apparently administering vitamin shots into their scarred, blood spattered vampire white flesh. ‘Eww’ as my friend Matty Bee would say.
I tell you my flesh crawled not least because non life-saving intravenous drips are for very wealthy, spoilt people who abuse their bodies and are compensating for excess cocaine, booze and hard living. Now I’ve said it before and I will say it again: people in glass houses. We’ve all been guilty of excess but the most I can do to compensate is eat half a grapefruit of a morning with two Aspirin not pay a ghoulish Doctor Feel Good to come to my hotel suite with needles and clear plastic bags of liquid relief.
‘On your conscience be it’ say I to all the fashion houses, magazines and casting agents who encourage this year’s model to f****-up her posho Belgravia upbringing and scratch and sniff with rather dirty dogs. In this I include Kate Moss who seems to have been rather a blowsy den mother to the Cara Delevingne generation of manky, misbehaving mannequins. The cry is ‘I’m a model not a role model’. Wrong as it happens!
Without going into too much detail, I’ve left London for the present to spend time with my folks in Derbyshire. Not entirely sure when I’ll return but suffice to say it won’t be within days. I am enjoying very early nights snuggled-up in jim-jams by 9pm and cruising YouTube or the iPlayer for entertainment. Sadly it’s only the odd farm boy or various livestock listed on Grindr once one gets to the countryside.
Anyway, what should I find last night but the genius that is the new series of ITVs Benidorm? Apparently this brilliant comedy has been showing for years and A-list television stars have been queuing-up to appear in cameo roles. But having seem most of the new series it is not all about star cameos. The success of Benidorm is the choice of the lowest of the low comedy target – common British people abroad – and scripts worthy of Alan Ayckbourn or Alan Bennett for an ensemble of actors trained at RADA, LAMDA, the RSC and the National Theatre.
In short Benidorm is a very cool, classy customer masquerading as a drunken slut with a Tango tan and anger management issues. For me the spiritual leader of the series is the divine Sheila Reid playing the scrawny, monstrous, chain-smoking hag on a mobility scooter Madge Harvey. A nastier witch you won’t find this side of Act One Scene One of Macbeth. And that’s the point. I remember Sheila Reid in an RSC season in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and was struck that she understood how to spin on the axis of tragedy and comedy.
However there isn’t a star who steals Benidorm. This is the sign of a class cast. Sherrie Hewson as hotel Solano’s GM Joyce Temple-Savage is a character played with tragicomic genius. She’s a pantomime dame on paper but Hewson squeezes an awful lot of pathos out of a woman who speaks without irony about her years under Richard Branson. What a deliciously uptight characterisation for a Loose Woman.
The warring Garvey and Dyke families serve as a backbone to the many sub-plots and the more extremely camp characters. Tom Maudsley is the queen of the grotesques (and that’s a compliment) playing the obese, acid-tongued in-house hairdressing salon owner Kenneth du Beke. To get a rough idea of Kenneth you only have to read the T-shirts stretched across his enormous belly with legends such as ‘Snacks’ across the nipples or ‘Tuck In’ with an arrow pointing to his bulging crotch in hot pants. Ewwwwww.
My favourite relationship in Benidorm this series is that between Kenneth and his apprentice camp, ginger Liam as played by Adam Gillen. Liam is a character in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Bottom. He is an endearing idiot and Gillen describes the character with every gormless guppy-mouthed stare and ludicrously naive utterance. You leave the series loving Liam. There is no dead wood in the Benidorm cast and no characters filling space or playing patsy. Each is roundly drawn and is give both comedy and tragedy to play. In short get me a booking at the Solano next season and, Matteo, mix me a Pink Pussy!