|By Matthew Bellwood|
Date: 14 August 2011
It's always a bit peculiar reading reviews of your own work. Nice that someone has thought it was worth the effort of course, but always a bit peculiar - especially if, like me, you are doing a show in which you are essentially being yourself on stage. Because regardless of whether it is good or bad, it gives you a tiny sliver of insight into how you are perceived by other people.
I have had two reviews this year - one from Brighton and one from Edinburgh - which have gone some way towards confirming a worrying suspicion. Namely that I remind people of Alan Bennett.
Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate that people mean it as a compliment. After all, Alan Bennett is an excellent writer, (and vastly more successful than I am) and certainly there are worse people in the world to be compared to. Moreover, I can kind of see why it might happen. We're both from Leeds, we're both gay and lower-middle-class and we both grew up in suburbs that are not a million miles away from each other. So I guess that there are certain similarities.
But there is a part of me that finds it rather disturbing - if only because it conflicts so much with my own self-image. I guess that I've always thought of myself as being a pretty rock-and-roll kind of guy. Most of my youth was spent hanging out in indie clubs, watching rock bands and drinking things that were not very good for my liver and whilst, having recently reached the end of my twenties, I've definitely slowed down a bit, I wouldn't want to think that I'd reached the Alan Bennett stage of my life just yet. After all, he might be a National Treasure but, like the nation's other favourite homosexual, Steven Fry, he is fundamentally unsexy - a cerebral, non-threatening and slightly tweedy kind of presence that even the world's most homophobic grandparent could love.
The really worrying thing though is a line in the most recent review which said that I came across as being a bit like an Alan Bennett character.
How blood-freezing is that? Not only does the description suggest that I myself am nothing more than a living caricature of another writer's work but let's face it, Alan Bennett's characters are not the most admirable of human beings. Certainly they're sympathetic, but they often seem to me to be deeply flawed and even rather cowardly - trapped in situations which they are unable or (perhaps deep-down) unwilling to transcend.
Maybe I'm giving myself more credit than I deserve but I'd like to think that I'm all about change. My show is a collection of stories which are all about getting better - trying to recognise one's flaws and then moving on.
In which case, perhaps I just need to accept that in other people's eyes, my rock-and-roll days are over and that now, in my early thirties, I am fundamentally Bennetty; a gentle, safe and rather cosy homosexual, slightly wry, quietly insightful and unlikely to frighten the horses. I suppose that there are less palatable pigeon-holes to find oneself in. And as for changing and moving on, well, maybe next year I'll do a show about the time I accidentally slept with a crack addict in Canada. Yes. I think that ought to do the trick.
- by Matthew Bellwood
Any opinions expressed above do not represent the view of Whatsonstage.com nor any of its staff or contributors beyond the bylined author.
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|Have you ever tried the other Alan's style - Ayckbourne that is - infinitely better and wittier. Watch out for all those Hurstian diagrams and never ever go to see Kafka's D. Too many OTs in it.
The rain sounds great and realise now that I could probably move back up there as the rain is so much warmer and cosier in t' burgh. - E Gibbons||29 Aug 11|
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