Unlikely pals: the Young One and the Good Life legend
dmg media (UK)
China In The Dock
IN 1992, I’m cast in a four-part series called If You See God Tell Him, along with Imelda Staunton and Richard Briers – who starred in The Good Life. Richard is a witty and self-deprecating bloke who likes to remind everyone that he won the silver medal at RADA in his year. He does this not to brag, but because he likes pretending to be bitter about not winning gold. Or is he pretending? Whichever, he likes the joke of casting himself as second rate: ‘I could probably do this scene better if I wasn’t just a simple silver-medal winner.’ He treats me with suspicion when I turn up. And quite rightly. Anyone watching series two of The Young Ones will have seen my character Vyvyan’s rant about The Good Life: ‘NO, NO, NO, NO! WE ARE NOT WATCHING THE BLOODY GOOD LIFE! BLOODY, BLOODY, BLOODY! I HATE IT! IT’S SO BLOODY NICE! FELICITY “TREACLE” KENDAL, AND RICHARD “SUGAR-FLAVOURED SNOT” BRIERS! WHAT DO THEY KNOW? …THEY’RE NOTHING BUT A COUPLE OF REACTIONARY STEREOTYPES, CONFIRMING THE MYTH THAT EVERYONE IN BRITAIN IS A LOVABLE MIDDLE-CLASS ECCENTRIC, AND I! HATE! THEM!’ On our first meeting, Richard quotes the whole speech to me more or less verbatim. I tell him I wasn’t the writer, I was just the actor – but that sounds a bit like the Nazi guard saying he was ‘only following orders’. I say The Good Life has stood the test of time much better than The Young Ones, which is already looking a bit dated. And I tell him that the scene on the raft in the cellar wasn’t funny, and the puppets were a bit crap. He likes that. But mostly I get through because Imelda, Richard and I share a trailer on set – a small touring caravan, the type an elderly couple might tow to Bridlington for the weekend. So there’s nowhere to hide, and you either bond or fall out big-time. Luckily, we bond. Mostly because Richard and I have something in common – being famous for sitcom – but talking to him it becomes clear that, like me, he often feels like an actor stuck in a comedian’s body.