Tag Archives: spin doctor

How Bernard Manning was almost cast in a classic British children’s story…

Comedian and actor Matt Roper is going to the Edinburgh Fringe in August and should have a baptism of fire, as he is performing in two separate productions – as his comedy character Wlfredo in Wilfredo – Erecto! at the Underbelly and as a Satanic and sometimes singing spin doctor in the satire Lucifer: My Part in the New Labour Project (And How I Invented Coalition Government)at The Phoenix.

Matt is the son of George Roper, one of The Comedians in what was at the time the startlingly original and cutting-edge 1970s ITV series which introduced the British Isles to the ‘old school’ likes of Bernard Manning, Frank Carson, Stan Boardman and Jim Bowen.

I went with Matt to Soho last night to see London-based New York comic Lewis Schaffer‘s extraordinary on-going thrice-a-week Free Until Famous show. It was Matt’s third visit. I go to see the show maybe once every month – as Lewis Schaffer says, it is “never the same show twice”.

Matt, though every inch a ‘new-school’ comedian, grew up hanging round the old school comics as a kid.

Granada TV producer Johnnie Hamp was a seminal figure in British comedy of the time – he is also credited with putting The Beatles on TV for the first time. But I did not know until Matt told me last night that Johnnie had also put a young Woody Allen on British TV screens for the first time.

The most surprising story Matt had, though, was that his dad George Roper and Bernard Manning were originally considered for the parts of Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the mega-all-star 1972 movie version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

At the time of the casting read-through in London, George Roper was starring nightly on stage at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. On the day of the read-through, train hold-ups in the North West of England delayed him to such an extent that getting down to London and back up again in time for his appearance on stage in Manchester was going to prove impossible, so he had to cancel his trip.

The ever-exuberant and straight-talking Bernard Manning did make it down to the session, though, striding brashly into the room where Dame Flora Robson, Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Robert Helpmann, Dennis Price, Peter Bull and other creme de la creme of up-market British theatrical nobility was holding court.

With an outspoken fucking this and a What the fucking hell is that? and a right old fucking load of old fucking bollocks, Bernard soon made his presence felt and…

as a result, neither Bernard Manning nor George Roper were cast in the film.

The parts of Tweedledum and Tweedledee went to the Cox Twins

I can’t help feeling that Bernard Manning and George Roper would have been a casting made in  movie comedy heaven.

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More Matt stories Here.

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Shimmering images, Ann Widdecombe’s brilliance and Gordon Brown – The Opera

I have had a fair amount of feedback from yesterday’s blog about the appalling image of the current Labour Party leadership.

One thing I have not been able to figure out is how the Conservative Party has successfully re-imaged at least two of its failed former party leaders.

John Major had a very large and very under-underrated role in bringing a 30-year stretch of Irish Troubles to an (almost) end (or at least to a healthy pause). Tony Blair took the credit but it was John Major who set all the necessaries in place and started everything rolling along. Unfortunately for him, as Prime Minister, he had the image of a weak, grey man out of control of the economic events buffeting him and the accusations of tabloid sleaze swirling round his colleagues.

Yet, just a few years later, he had been turned into an amiable, cricket-loving uncle figure and now he has been transformed yet again, this time into an elder statesman – a wise advisor with a steady pair of political hands.

Almost more staggering was the transformation of William Hague from simultaneously too-young and too-bald laughing stock into the wise semi-Churchillian muse he always aspired to be – and now into a calm, respected Foreign Secretary. I would not be surprised to see him ‘do another Churchill’ in a few years time and return to lead the party or even the country.

A third failed Conservative Party leader (there have been an awful lot of them) Michael Howard seemed to be brilliantly and terminally characterised by a venomous Ann Widdecombe as having “something of the night about him”. But now, when he occasionally pops up on TV, he seems less like a political vampire than an amiable man with a humorous twinkle in his eye and a jolly chortle. Though I would still not trust him after dark in a gothic mansion.

Even Ian Duncan Smith, a man for whom the word ‘bland’ seems too glitzy a description, has re-appeared on our screens of late not seeming too definitively dull. I think, with him, though, even the Conservative Party’s best spin doctors are on to a semi-loser.

Compare these mostly successful Conservative image-changes to the Labour Party’s PR failure with their ex-leaders.

Neil Kinnock still comes across as a charming, well-meaning Welsh windbag, simultaneously over-erudite and approaching near air-headedness. I can imagine him banging his head in Wayne’s World.

Tony Blair is now seen as the bullshit artist he always was: a man endlessly prepared to duck, dodge, dive, weave, spin and shit on others – and allow others to die for his principles – always smugly secure in the knowledge that his opinion is right because he and God work as a double act.

That’s two former leaders whom the Labour Party has been unable to re-image.

And then there is the sad case of Gordon Brown who is still in that nether region where he is too embarrassed to pop his head above the parapet and everyone else is too embarrassed to talk about him.

If Anna Nicole Smith’s life can be turned into an opera (as it just has been for the Royal Opera House), then Gordon Brown’s story cannot be far behind. It cries out for loud Wagnerian music to accompany one of the great political and personal tragedies of the last 50 years.

The story of a man with deeply-held socialist principles and a lust for power who had to wait ten years watching superficial socialist pretender Tony Blair – all style and no substance – get plaudits… then, after waiting that long decade of labyrinthine, Machiavellian, soul-destroying plotting, he eventually gets the powerful job he always knew he deserved and was promised… only to find the whole edifice comes crumbling down around him. And, ironically, the one thing he was always lauded for – his sure touch on the Economy – is one of the main causes of his downfall. That and an accidentally-recorded aside about an ordinary woman he casually called a racist on an apparently insignificant visit to the provinces.

It is like James Cagney at the end of White Heat.

Gordon Brown – he finally got to the top of the world and it blew right up in his face

If that is not meat for an opera, I don’t know what is.

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