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Richard Griffiths - In the Tradition

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RICHARD GRIFFITHS
PA

My heart always sinks a little when I hear of a Brit actor/actress decamping to Hollywood. I can understand that. Hollywood, America in general, is the big dog, the wide open field of dreams where ambition can be deeply challenged and realised.

Most players make very little to no money and let's face it: the British theatre/TV scene can be a closed shop: Witness the number of people we always see onstage and on screen.

But the main reason that I moved to Britain many moons ago was because the British theatre is simply the best. It was in the late '80s when I arrived and it still is today.

It is often too clubby, like many things in British life are. It is also relentlessly male-dominated at its high end, which actually is a disgrace. You are more likely to be hit by a meteor on the South Bank than to be produced on the mainstages of the National Theatre if you are female but that's for another blog.

British audiences' devotion to theatre - West End, local, regional and amateur - is without equal and is under appreciated by the powers that be. The current government is giving the arts over to philanthropists and fundraisers.

Maybe it's common sense in these cash-strapped times but we'll be back in the Victorian era if they go on. But nevertheless, people continue to go to the theatre and always will because Britain itself is a kind of theatre. In fact, the first map of Britain-published in the early part of the 17th Century-was titled The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.

American audiences are shocked when they discover that some of their favourite actors: Damian Lewis, Idris Elba, David Harewood, to name a few, are all British. They can't compute this because Americans, the French , too, largely cannot play anyone but themselves.

Catch an American production of a Noel Coward play to get a taste of Purgatory in this lifetime. But watch a David Mamet play done by British actors and you'll learn something new and often profound.

The loss of Richard Griffiths is a time to remember and to celebrate British acting. In the end, he doesn't need me or you to say that he was a part of a great tradition. Everyone knows that.

Maybe bring this tradition up next time you encounter a young actress/actor starting out. Just so THEY keep it in mind.

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