THE STAGE - 22.08.11
Three cheers for Laura Mackie and ITV’s decision to invest in more British drama! As Maggie Brown says in your last issue, this will be wonderful for our industry where many actors, writers, directors and production staff have felt the pinch as work opportunities have continued to decline.
It will also be wonderful for the public, many of whom are used to getting drama through turning to football, the games industry or watching the cut and thrust of television talent shows.
In the last year I believe ITV has begun to get a grip on what the public are looking for. “Downton Abbey’s” popularity and success has much to do with its splendid equal spread of male and female characters of all ages well written and portrayed from the little kitchen maid to the elderly housekeeper, thereby giving the public opportunities to identify whatever their own sex or age.
Unfortunately, as it is set in the early 20th century, it does not reflect the British ethnic mix of today and it is hoped new drama will show the positive contribution women and men from minority groups in the UK make to our rich culture.
In “Scott and Bailey”, which we learn has 7 million-plus viewers, it is refreshing to have two female characters within their working environment sharing their deepest feelings in two-hander scenes which we are used to seeing played by actors rather than actresses. It is very heartening to learn that Laura Mackie is looking for more drama of this kind though not necessarily with cops and robbers settings.
The public I am sure will be behind her and ITV. One of the latest comments on Equity’s Viewers’ Petition* is from a Jon Pierson living in Northern Ireland. His view on a more equal representation of women, particularly of older women, in film and television drama is this:
“I'm an ex-pat living in Ireland with a Freesat box. I hardly ever watch Irish TV. It's outrageous, in this day and age, that not only are too few women given opportunities but that, when they are, it is frequently in non-leading roles.
Even more disgraceful is the casting off of fine actresses with experience and maturity. How many times do we see leading men with love interests decades younger than them? It just doesn't reflect the real world.”
I think he too will give three cheers for Laura and ITV. Let us hope the screen will reflect their proposed change in attitude.
Equity Vice President