Joined: 09 Feb 2006
Location: Ontario Canada
|Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:49 pm Post subject: Getting the breaks--17-23 September 1983 Radio Times
|A couple of very unlikely lads--a scouser and a cockney--form an unholy alliance in and around smoke-filled snooker halls of London. Robert Lindsay and Paul McGann star, but much of the limelight may fall on new writer Geoff McQueen.
Getting the breaks
By Guy Bellamy
pp. 88-92 of 17-23 September 1983 Radio Times
Two years ago Geoff McQueen was a carpenter. This week he will take on another role--as a writer. Thursday's new comedy drama series, starring Robert Lindsay, will, I predict, see him heralded as the greatest gift to TV comedy for years.
Geoff, who is 36, left school in Dalston in the East End of London at 15 and went to work for his father who was a builder. He ended up travelling around Europe--Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland--building pub interiors for continental drinkers with British tastes.
'Writing was something that crept up on me,' he said. 'I knew there was something I wanted to do. When I found out it was writing I was as surprised as anybody.'
He first tried it five years ago. He spent a year writing a novel that was rejected. 'It had a good story but it was badly written,' he said. 'I shall rewrite it one day.' Then he submitted some scripts to television and received swift encouragement.
Give Us a Break, his first series of seven programmes with ten more promised for next year, is a deadly accurate and hilariously funny look at the East End of London and its snooker tables. Robert Lindsay plays Micky Noades, a 36-year-old has-been--or never-was--who lives on his considerable wits and regards 9:30 in the morning as the middle of the night. He is a wheeler-dealer, a gambler who invests in pop groups, a hustler who survives with great difficulty with the help of his barmaid girlfriend Tina, played by Shirin Taylor.
And then, one foggy day, Tina's younger brother Mo boards a train to London to escape the jobless tedium of his life in Liverpool. Micky's welcome is less than icy. But soon it emerges that Mo is a wizard at snooker. In the East End it is a talent that can produce tax-free pound notes in large quantities. Paul McGann, who plays Mo, is no snooker player, and so he was handed over to 43-year-old Geoff Foulds, the resident professional at Ealing Snooker Club, where one of the episodes of Give Us a Break was filmed.
'Funnily enough I played very little snooker there,' said Paul, who is 23. 'Of course you can't learn just like that. Geoff Foulds has been playing for 28 years. What he taught me was to walk with a cue, to chalk a cue and to sit down with a cue. There are a lot of armchair snooker experts around these days who know what a good player looks like. I played the easy shots but not the difficult ones. But I had to look as if I could handle them.'
Geoff Foulds said: 'The secret was to make him look as if he was a good player. My wife saw an episode of the series and said: "I didn't realise Paul was such a good player." That really pleased me.'
But it is the script of Give Us a Break that has convinced the cast that this isn't going to be just any series. It crackles with good lines, catch phrases and jokes that will fill a few million rooms with laughter, and it isn't only McQueen's native East End that has provided the material. He is equally at home with the conversational idiosyncrasies of Liverpool or Wales.
Shirin Taylor, who took over from Julie Walters in Educating Rita in the West End, said: 'I think it's very exciting, very well written and it's got a lot of truth and humour in it. He's a very honest writer.'
David Daker, who plays Ron Palmer, the landlord of the Crown and Sceptre where Tina works and Micky drinks, thinks this is one of the best series he has been in.
'Its writer Geoff McQueen has a very good ear for dialogue and also very good ideas for stories,' he said.
When Micky narrowly escapes having both legs broken by an irate gentleman seeking the return of some cash, he reflects: 'I could have been shaking hands with Jimmy Savile at Stoke Mandeville.' When Mo first challenges him to a game of snooker, Micky reveals that he is 'a bit warm' at the game himself. ('A bit warm' is a phrase that should take off.)
Lindsay, the show's 32-year-old star, possesses a remarkable percipience when confronted by the avalanche of scripts that descends on the world of television: the last exciting new comedy writer to emerge was John Sullivan, a BBC scene shifter who wrote Citizen Smith, Lindsay's biggest television success so far.
'I'm very optimistic about Give Us a Break,' he said. 'Geoff's script allows the characters to fly a bit and he's writing about a world that he knows and cares about. It's not all jokey-jokey; the flaws in the characters come out. It's a story about an innocent guy with raw talent and another who is over the hill and grabbing at everything. It can't survive just on jokes.
'And it isn't just about snooker, like my last series Seconds Out was just about boxing. Snooker is the cover and that's why it makes such a good series. There's far more to it--winning, losing, greed and love, because the two of them can't bear to be apart.
'Yet in one episode I beat him up. Mo loses 500 pounds of our money and we fight and then we end up crying on the floor. It's unusual to put that sort of power into this sort of programme. It's a script for which I have had to stretch myself.'
Coming from Ilkeston, near Nottingham, Lindsay has also had to mug up on McQueen's East End slang.
It is a bit of a jump from the Shakespeare that he has recently been immersed in, on television and on the stage. This autumn he is playing Hamlet in Manchester.
But it comes as no surprise to the people who work with him. As an actor, they say, Lindsay is 'a bit warm'.
And a couple of piccies: