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The Drama review is a cautionary tale for all of us, featuring Bill Bailey's latest acting competition.
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The Drama review is a cautionary tale for all of us, featuring Bill Bailey’s latest acting competition.


As there are now competition shows for almost every career or interest imaginable, one might assume that viewers would become disinterested. Personally, I thought I had outgrown these types of shows, yet every Sunday evening I find myself fully engrossed in watching people create unique teapots from clay. It is evident that this format is still very much alive. Bring the Drama is a commendable and at times sincere, but mostly heartwarming, attempt to provide aspiring actors of all ages with a chance to pursue their dreams.

Bill Bailey hosts the show and keeps things moving, but the true standout is casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry, who is tough but fair as she guides the eight ambitious amateurs through their professional training. She believes that the entertainment industry is biased towards those with privilege and hopes to see change in the future. While the topic of social class is not directly addressed, it becomes clear that the finalists faced challenges in pursuing acting as a career, whether due to financial limitations or lack of knowledge about where to start. This show gives them the same opportunities they would have at a traditional drama school, including coaching, auditions, and a showcase performance for the top three contestants, attended by agents and other professionals.

The success of the show depends on the audience rooting for the inexperienced actors, and they have been cast perfectly for their roles. This could be due to the influence of the show “Traitors”, but it is refreshing to see a diverse age range represented. The actors range in age from 22 to 67, resulting in a variety of unique stories. For example, 62-year-old George, a former police officer, always dreamed of becoming an actor. After retiring, he started a local drama group, but admits that it is difficult for him to show his emotions due to his tough upbringing. However, once he is on set and the cameras are rolling, he shines. Lizzie, 26, currently works as a civil servant, but took a chance on acting by dropping out of university. She worked various jobs, including as a cleaner, in retail, and at a call centre to support herself. Her mother wanted her to become a doctor, but Lizzie still holds onto her dream of one day playing one on screen.

Every week, the actors have the opportunity to try out for a role, and those who are chosen will recreate a famous scene from one of the most popular dramas in the UK. While they are not auditioning for a permanent spot on the show, they will have the chance to be on set and film an iconic moment under the guidance of one of the show’s stars. In the first episode, they travel to Elstree to perform a scene from EastEnders where Sonia saves Ben Mitchell from a collapsed lung while Phil and Linda watch in panic. Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia, directs them with kindness and empathy. The world of soap acting requires intense emotions, but since these aspiring actors are new to the industry, their interpretation of “intensity” ranges from realistic to exaggerated. Hendry is honest in her feedback, stating that she thought their audition was only satisfactory. However, she had warned them beforehand that rejection is a common occurrence in this field. It’s evident that a little tough love is nothing compared to what they will face in the real world.

The problem with a program focusing on acting is that your level of interest in the learning process of emotional expression may depend on your level of investment in the necessary skills to become a professional actor. Similarly, many individuals will mention that film and TV sets can become quite dull once the initial excitement wears off. They typically involve a significant amount of time spent standing in a padded jacket, waiting for the catering van to provide a jacket potato.

This type of situation has been successful in the past. Jessie Buckley, who is now nominated for an Oscar, got her big break on the TV show I’d Do Anything, which was led by Andrew Lloyd Webber in search for a cast for a stage production of Oliver!. Bring The Drama is not overly dramatic – it’s enjoyable to watch and not as intense as a soap opera – but it carries important messages. The acting industry is heavily biased towards those who come from privilege. If this issue is so prevalent in the real world that it requires a new TV competition to address it, then we should see it as a warning sign. If only actors from wealthy and private backgrounds have access to these kinds of opportunities, then we are at risk of losing something significant without even realizing it.

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  • The show “Bring the Drama” was broadcasted on BBC Two and can now be viewed on BBC iPlayer.

Source: theguardian.com