Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Langham's Orwell

Remember Chris Langham? A prodigious comic talent, he wrote and starred in superior sitcoms Kiss Me Kate and Help and the brilliant mockumentary series People Like Us, was the sole British writer on The Muppet Show and the original star of The Thick Of It. In 2005, when he was at the height of his fame and winning all the awards going, he was arrested in connection with an investigation into internet child pornography; in 2007 he was found guilty of possessing indecent images; he served a prison sentence - and, since then, he has been a non-person. Don't expect to see anything with Langham in it (even as a voice only, as in People Like Us) repeated anywhere on the BBC, ever. It is as if Langham never existed.
This is terribly sad, and - while one can understand the BBC's reluctance to court the inevitable hysterical reaction - it's a shame that such an important figure in TV comedy has been effectively wiped from history. Happily there are fragments on YouTube, including parts of one of his most remarkable performances - not in a comedy but in a highly original documentary, George Orwell: A Life in Pictures, which blended archive material seamlessly with dramatised passages to create a warm and intimate portrait of the man. Langham's performance, with its edge of vulnerability, has something clownish about it which is unexpectedly effective, and affecting. Here's a taster (there's more on YouTube)...
Surprisingly, given his fame, there is no known sound recording of George Orwell's voice - which was surely a good deal more clipped than Langham's, but never mind.

4 comments:

  1. Loved the clip Nige - and was unaware of the obviously sensitive picture that emerges from the piece. It is a sad reminder of the sort of programmes that appeared regularly on the Beeb but are now a distant memory. Like most I imagine, my feelings about Langham are mixed. Most of us have a dark side (I know I have), and the trick is not to let the light in upon it. His darkness must, I suppose, be all-enveloping as friends and family will for ever be looking at him with a slight squint.

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