LAST Sunday, on Armistice Day, I turned on BBC Radio 3 . . . I know, wrong side of the page. The classical station was mounting the first performance for over 80 years of John Foulds's World Requiem, written to honour the dead of the Great War . . . live from the Albert Hall. I wanted to imagine a fraction of the epic sacrifice and struggle of WWI in preparation for a one-off period drama, My Boy Jack, the David Haig scripted drama about Rudyard Kipling's (also played by Haig) son Jack (Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe) that same evening.
Jack had bad eyesight and the army deemed it too dangerous for him to fight. Kipling moved heaven-and-earth to get his son in and even told a local political group (in Haig's words, anyway):
"Every young fit man must come forward and enlist and anyone who refuses should be shunned by his family." Jack was dying to fight.
With a platoon of Irishmen, he got his wish. Haig was as passionate and misguided as Kipling, while Radcliffe . . . who was turning 18 at the time of filming, the same age as Jack . . . did his best to harness the lashings of doomed idealism.
Kim Cattrall . . . who I rate highly as an actress, far more than Radcliffe . . . played Kipling's wife, who was called Carrie. Well, she had the main female role here, even if she didn't get it in that other series. But, as much as the World Requiem had put me in the mood, I kept thinking, 'That's Harry Potter!' and 'Oh, look! It's Kim Cattrall, Samantha from Sex & the City. Doesn't she look funny with dark brown hair?' She did a fine job in those beautiful costumes. But I couldn't help asking myself, 'Did they have botox in 1914?'
The big difference between Cattrall and Radcliffe is she is a veteran of TV. Even with botox, she doesn't struggle to emote like the jaw-clenching Radcliffe. (He really should vary those acting chops. ) A quick IMDB-search shows she's been a bit player in Nancy Drew, Columbo, The Paper Chase, Vega$ . . . deep breath! . . .
Charlie's Angels, Trapper MD, Quincy ME, Starsky & Hutch. She knows her craft. She's trudged through a lot of crap to hone it. In one stirring scene she told an equally marvellous Haig, whose Kipling was now hopelessly deflated, "He wasn't lucky or brave f he was 18-years-of-age."
My Boy Jack was a polished piece of masterpiece theatre, but the casting of Radcliffe in particular was not entirely successful and, at about half the length of World Requiem, it was far too short: boy goes off to war, boy dies, The End.
On the upside, there wasn't an overload of orgasmic scenes on the battlefield for the benefit of warmongering viewers. How pertinent "If any question why we 9died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied" appears today, what with Vietraq and all. With 40 million people dead and up to 20,000 dying in one day during the Great War, troops were mere cannon fodder. They still are, sunshine.
Paul O'Flynn did an affecting report on Nationwide Special:
Armistice Day from Galway Cathedral. About 1,000 Galwegians of the 50,000 Irishmen served in the Great War.
O'Flynn said, "Those who returned never received the hero's welcome they were promised."
Mary McGrath, whose father was a veteran, attended the ceremony and said: "I thought, 'Thank God that I lived to see the day'. I really enjoyed every moment and I sang the song, 'How Great Thou Art'."
The British army stooped to bad pantomime to get boys to enlist.
According to William Henry, author of Forgotten Heroes, two 16year-old boys in Eyre Square were told by soldiers that the two pregnant nuns standing on the stage had been raped by German soldiers. They both went, one returned. Henry said, "When he came home, he said, if you'll excuse the language, on the stage that day there were two quare ones stuffed with pillows." He is most politely excused.
Not to be slap-happy myself, but every time a celebrity feud starts to brew on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! they wake up the next morning and realise that it's better to kiss and make up, which is lovely, but it doesn't exactly make for good television. Anyway, you know the way people love to grumble that they're not real celebrities and who the hell are they anyway? It's the usual begrudging sentiments when it comes to reality shows.
Well, who the hell are they anyway? I had heard of Lynne Franks, the inspiration for Edina in Absolutely Fabulous, and I love Janice Dickinson, the supermodel from The Janice Dickinson Modelling Agency. (Please don't look down on me for having Living TV. Do you think I wanted my life to turn out this way? ) Dickinson told a pudgy, powder blue-pullovered Malcolm McLaren he was a "loser" for backing out . . . she was right . . . and told a bitchy-chippy Franks, "Say nice things to me. You don't want me as an enemy." Ah, Janice, Me Old Surgically-Enhanced China Pot. You will always be my Warrior Queen.