While everyone is going on about MP Glenda Jackson's anti-eulogy in the House of Commons yesterday, may I, just for a minute, rhapsodize about the awesome power of Glenda Jackson, actress.
From the mid 1960s, when she became an international sensation in Peter Brook's masterpiece Marat/Sade; her Oscar winning performance in Women in Love which set the standard, back in the day, for intense, truthful screen acting; and her second Oscar-winning performance in the direct opposite kind of role in A Touch of Class, no one could touch Glenda. No actress on screen in Anglophone cinema came up to her until the arrival of Meryl Streep. And Streep has never matched her onstage. Her ISP always was truth and a formidable vocal power which seemed to emerge from a place of deep beauty.
She was a salesgirl from the north who literally knows what the term 'shop floor' means. Through sheer determination and great potential, she got herself into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It was lucky for her that she did so at a time when British stage and screen acting were quite simply changing the world.
The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade is set in a madhouse right after the French Revolution. When this play-within-a-play came out as a film at the end of the '60s, it was Glenda who was the sensation. For those of us who wanted to make theatre, Glenda was True North. And when she took on Oliver Reed's obsessed and brooding lover in the film Women in Love a few years later, her performance was the greatest by a female that the screen had presented in many years. No wonder she won the Best Actress Oscar for it.
The irony of it all is that Thatcherism was among the forces -not solely - that destroyed the theatre that trained Glenda. In her day it was possible to get a grant to attend RADA, for example. Grants for higher education are now gone. This is affecting one of the industries that Britain is without equal in the world. The majority of the great British actors/actresses from the recent past and now trained or were educated in the subsidized sector. Now that this is largely gone, no one knows how it will affect British theatre, television and the cinema in years to come. And the revenues that these industries bring. I have no answers in these times of austerity, but I know for sure that something important is being lost.
The late John Thaw once made a touching tribute to his time at RADA, a time which gave him not only life-long friends, but opened a door into his own life for a young man who would have had very little chance to not only discover himself, but make a great contribution to the nation.
Glenda was declared 'in order; after a 'Point Of Order' from the floor had been shot down by the speaker. But by then she had said her piece. As is her custom, it was said with her own truth and conviction and with that magnificent voice and power she has to hold an audience. It was on YouTube almost immediately and deserves to be.
She is without question, like the late Margaret Thatcher, a conviction politician. Jackson is a woman who does not compromise her beliefs, not even for the niceties of eulogy. She said that Mrs Thatcher would not have balked at what she had to say yesterday in the HOC. That's true. Mrs T would have relished the fight, relished the words, relished Glenda's sheer guts. She would have fought her all the way. No soppy sentimentalism for either of these ladies. Both giants, one living, one now gone. It was pleasing to me to see a woman stand up and cut to the chase like Glenda did. Love, loathe, or don't give a damn, they don't make 'em like Mrs T anymore. Nor like Glenda Jackson MP.