Thursday, 1 February 2007

My Picks for 2006 (2) - Fantabulosa

Hullo. Continuing my look back at the years television programmes, todays blog is about the biographical drama that has provided the acting performance of the year.

It is amazing to think that half a century ago, radio was the dominant medium in the UK. In the 1950’s there were two radio shows who’s influence would carry on through the decades. The influence of “The Goon Show” is for another blog. Hancock’s Half Hour, on top of giving us the first sit-com about the everyman that thinks that he is better than everyone else (a former colleague of mine had a theory that Galton & Simpson, the writers of Hancock & Steptoe and Son, based their characters on the more unpleasant aspects of their actors own personalities). The other influence Hancock would bring to British comedy was that the majority of the Carry on team worked on Hancock, among them Kenneth Williams.

I must confess that I am not a great fan of the Carry on films, but I did watch this drama about his life because he was such a larger than life figure, and because Michael Sheen was in it, and from the trailers not so much plays him but somehow inhabits his skin.

The trailers don’t tell the whole story; Sheen was just sensational as Williams.

I first saw Sheen in 2003’s “The Deal” (about the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown up to their infamous meeting at the Granita restaurant in 1994) as Blair, opposite David Morrisey as Brown. Morrisey was his usual excellent self as Brown, but Sheen was just excellent. He seemed to inhabit Blair (He reprises this role in Stephen Frears follow-up “The Queen”).

In Fantabulosa! Williams is played as a complex being, even more complex for being what we would now call gay, but at that time homosexuality was not thought of as normal. So this feeling of not being normal fed even more into his neurosis. In effect, he was scared to follow his own feelings, because they made him feel guilty. Somehow Sheen conveys this and the absolute sense of loneliness that this brings.

This is a fine drama about one of British comedy's standard bearers, which unlike a few of the documentaries shown over the past few years (which have tended to be warts and all), this drama shown Williams in an understanding light.

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