http://www.blogger.com/template-edit.g?blogID=27684744 ARTYFACTS: Leslie Philips, old chap - Day 18

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Leslie Philips, old chap - Day 18

Trapped in a peculiarly English persona
Odd evening. Philips, the person, seems literally trapped in an odd and dated English persona. This working class Londoner freely admitted that when he started, to work in the Theatre, you had to have a super-posh accent. This was perpetuated by the BBC, who insisted on censoring accents . To be fair, he is faintly aware of this, and didn’t like the way his three appearances in the Carry On films typecast him as an English toff. His accent even got him a commission as an officer! (His brother was a sergeant.)


However, he plays to this character with lots of, very English (i.e. not subtle) innuendo (I want play King Leer – groan) and language that seems stuck in the 1930s (my dear old chap). This is neither a character nor phenomenon that I like. I often imagine what Britain would have been like without the BBC and Carry On films. A better place I suspect.

There were moments when he talked about serious roles in serious plays and a comment about ‘comedy being the most serious work of all’ when he broke through his toff-mask, but he quickly returned to type.

Turdish or Shi-ite Rebels
Simon Fanshawe had a difficult time, as the old thespian ignored him for most of the time, simply addressing the audience directly. Philips would literally ignore questions and even when they came, he’d contradict the dates, even after Simon had confirmed that they came from his own book. Simon turned out to be quite funny. After an over-long anecdote from Philips about an epidemic of turds being found in a theatre, he speculated on whether it could have been Turdish or Shi-ite Rebels. That was funny.

Not my cup of tea old chap

As you can gather I didn’t like Philips very much. He and Terry Thomas perpetuated a type that just grates with me. He seemed like a smug, throwback, still pushing values that we abandoned decades ago. The audiences at this type of event are there for the memories and they go ‘aaahhh’ whenever some recognisable name pops up in any old anecdote. Asked where he was going next by Simon, he said ‘To the Hay book Festival, wherever that is.’ ‘It’s in Hay’ Simon replied! Of course, we had to have the quip, ‘I thought that was what we were sleeping on’ (groan).

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