They gave actor Mathew Horne a standing ovation at Windsor on Wednesday and pretty good, too.
Mr. Horne is best known for his work in comedy. He was in the television series The Catherine Tate Show and Gavin & Stacey, co-starring James Corden.
Some people, hearing their name, might think that they had their measure as one of those daring, but slightly superficial, figures who are right for all occasions.
Then he came on Wednesday night, when he took the stage at the Royal Windsor Theater and played a man with severe autism. He did it magnificently.
They gave actor Mathew Horne a standing ovation at Windsor on Wednesday and pretty good, too
I was starring as Raymond in an itinerant production of Rain Man, which you may remember as a 1988 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Raymond, a sage, has a mental disability so big that he must live in a nursing home.
What happens with people on the spectrum of autism is that their disability may be difficult to detect initially. To project the character of Raymond, Horne had to exaggerate his facial tics, body spasms and strange vocal gestures.
If he had not, the audience might not have understood the problems that are such a big (and wonderfully edifying) part of Rain Man.
And then we saw the transformation of an intelligent comedy in this anguished and dispossessed man. I left thinking that that guy is quite an actor. Any "actor" means in these troubled times.
Sadly, it is beginning to seem possible that in the future no physically capable person like Mathew Horne can be chosen as Raymond. He would not be & # 39; qualified & # 39; for his life experience to be allowed to play the role. That's what the new art gauleiters would say.
I call them gauleiters because there is something menacingly autocratic in these vociferous agitators who press movie theaters and producers to select minority actors.
Do you give minorities a good run of green? That's a fair idea, at first you could think. Minority actors should have the same opportunities as any other person, is not it? Well, yes, to a reasonable extent.
But what about artistic freedom? What about the freedom of a director to choose actors for a different purpose, or only in their ability to act? And the right of actors to imagine themselves in the skins and souls of a multiplicity of characters in the rainbow? Is not that what "acting" means?
Yesterday they brought the latest in a series of invading controversies over minority casting. It came to the light of a wider political aggro about "cultural appropriation," which, for example, saw the ridiculous denunciation of television chef Jamie Oliver for his jerk rice.
Only people of Jamaican descent can comment on that dish, said Labor MP Dawn Butler. Comrade Butler, something like an imbecile, rightly scoffed. But I bet he will not stop her trying more of the same.
Liberal "liberals" opened a fight over a young actor named Charlie Heaton who was given the lead role in a BBC TV production of The Elephant Man: the story of Joseph Merrick, a severely disfigured man in 19th century London XIX
The late John Hurt played the role in a film version, and he did it so well that it sparked a welcome reconsideration of attitudes towards people with disfigured faces.
But that was then and this is now. In this age of Twitter, in this crazy and self-destructive age of grievance and alleged cultural appropriation, Heaton's acting ability and star profile after his role in the Netflix Stranger Things series is no longer good enough to justify his casting as Merrick.
The charity Scope, leading a mob of outrageous screams, attacked its selection with the argument that it was not disfigured. How could they think about giving him the part?
A Scope spokesman, one could almost call him Scopesman, but that probably only triggers another fury storm, he wagged a finger and said Mr Heaton's casting was "a missed opportunity". He added that "a massive group of disabled talents has been overlooked".
Theaters and filmmakers should embrace and celebrate difference and diversity, without ignoring it. "
Anyone who claims that the BBC, which is now accused of "power", has "ignored diversity", is monumentally unobservant or is a liar.
But there, in all its anti-liberal acidity, spoke the authentic voice of the sector of charity of the 21st century. Give our customers their pound of meat. Do what we demand. We know the best.
But they do not know better, not when it comes to the power of dramatic art. Hurt's portrayal of Merrick was powerful because he was a great actor and used his unique artistic ability to instill performance with pathos and pride.
That is what qualified him for the role. Our understanding of Merrick's history and underappreciated humanity was further heightened by the fact that such an extravagant star had undergone such a visual transformation.
Which only serves to remind us how deformed and illogical the casting policies have become. Earlier this month, comedian and actor Jack Whitehall suffered a similar fate when he was selected in a new movie as Disney's first major gay character.
The news led some to wonder why a gay actor was not chosen for the role, although Stephen Fry seemed to mock the discussion when he wrote on Twitter: "I share your shame, Jack Whitehall." I played a heterosexual man more than once. A father should have even been sent to training, correction and adjustment years ago.
It came to the light of a broader political aggro about "cultural appropriation", which, for example, saw the ridiculous denunciation of television chef Jamie Oliver for his rice hitch
On stage, meanwhile, the Royal Shakespeare Company and other theaters subsidized by the state, under the political pressure of the Arts Council funded by taxpayers, are rushing towards 50-50 balanced gender releases, even if it makes a fool of the plots of the games.
Therefore, we have women military leaders in the Elizabethan dramas. The public thinks it's ridiculous, but who cares about the public when a lot of their money comes from the state?
The directors and producers tell me in private that they feel threatened. "We do not resist in case a charity comes out and attacks us," a West End producer told me.
This year, a Broadway star, Sierra Boggess, was forced to withdraw from a West Side Story concert after allegations that she was not Hispanic, and should not sing the part of Maria, a Puerto Rican maid. The performance should have been a dance of the BBC, broadcast mainly by radio.
This was not, therefore, really an argument about the color of the skin, because it was not a visual medium. It had to do with ethnic identification.
It is not any kind of "fair" correction of neglected minority artists. It is threatening. It is the opposite of liberal. It is discriminatory, racist, divisive and artistically constrictive.
Erect barriers and where does your logic end? If only the interpreters with the appropriate racial identity interpret those characters, should we deduce that only an Anglo-Saxon could in the future play Henry V (formerly known as Henry of Monmouth)?
This week, I saw a good black actor, Ashley Zhangazha, play Shakespeare's Pericles at the Royal National Theater. I do not know Ashley's genealogy, but the Zhangazha surname does not sound terribly Greek to me. Pericles came from Athens. Was the national guilty of cultural appropriation?
Come on, come on, you can say, this is just a small dispute outside the arts and has nothing to do with real life. I do not agree. This is a dictatorial and literal assault on an important freedom of expression, not to mention common sense.
If Elephant Man Merrick can only be represented by an actor who is severely disfigured, he jeopardizes the very concept of the theatrical performance, the imaginative representation and the fantastic British heritage, our reddish heritage, damn it, of the dramatic stage.
The silence of the Secretary of Culture, the Council of the Arts and the main producers about this illiberal harassment is a scandal.