Jump to content

Ben Steel

Guest Frankie

Recommended Posts


09:30 - 28 October 2005

After been written out of TV's Home and Away, Ben Steel is well cast in a play about the absurdities of soap operas. Ashley Franklin reports.

In the Prologue to the Derby Playhouse production of Serial Killers, we're immediately thrown into an end- of-episode cliffhanger to the soap St Celia's.

A fire is raging in Ward Four. "Heartthrob surgeon" Doctor Robert Gilligan, played by Andrew Lomas, bravely disappears into the smoke to rescue a patient.

Cut to Act 1 Scene 1 where one of the scriptwriters declares: "And, at precisely 6.01pm, the title music fades - and, in the blink of an eye, Andrew Lomas is Dr Robert Gilligan, human torch. Pfoof! Exit crap actor, entered blackened sausage thing."

However, the good doctor has a remedy: he takes the scriptwriters hostage so that he can be rewritten into the story???

Art truly mirrors life: Ben Steel, who plays the soap star Andrew Lomas, was the popular character Jude Lawson on Home and Away from 2000 to 2002.

He, too, was written out. Ben didn't react like Lomas; he was hurt, but bowed out with grace. However, in all other respects, Ben can totally relate to Serial Killers.

"Like the soap in the play, Home and Away was starting to change; the writers wanted to try different things. Also, my character had got to the point where the writers had got bored with him.

"As much as it is about pleasing the audience, it's about pleasing the creative team. You are at the whim of these people; our careers are out of our control. I was told that Jude had 'come to the end of his journey'. It's a nice way of saying 'we don't need you anymore'.

"It's hard to take when you've lived with this character for so long. It was like losing a friend. It was also the first job I'd been fired from. I'm still raw from it. Mind you, they didn't kill me off and they've actually asked me back - twice - so I feel kind of vindicated."

Ben can also relate strongly to the "us and them" mentality of the soap writers.

There is an uncomfortable moment in the play when Andrew Lomas invades the scriptwriters' sacred territory to discuss his character, saying: "I've had had a couple of ideas where we can take him."

Ben reveals that he, too, offered ideas to the writers.

"Some ideas I passed on actually turned up on screen. I made suggestions because I've always thought that it's a team effort, whatever you do. However, when you talked with the writers, you always felt as if you were treading on eggshells. It's still regarded that the writers are the brains behind the project and they are making you the star. They're also disgruntled because they're not getting the sex, the fame or the glory and that all you do as an actor is turn up to do your few minutes and walk away with a fat cheque.

"That's why this play appealed to me: it's about my industry; and anyone who's interested in this industry - how soaps get made and what the people behind soaps are really like - will see a very accurate portrayal. It's so accurate, it's scary."

Ben also believes that non-soap followers will enjoy Serial Killers and that the machinations in the play will reverberate with audiences involved in their own industry/

"Anyone who has a boss to answer to can relate to this. Office politics is all about passing the buck, trying to get ahead. That's what you see here."

Ben admits that soaps are "not art" but he does believe that Serial Killers runs much deeper than any soap and has something substantial and interesting to say.

"This is not a shallow one-gag-after-another play. It's funny, alright, but it's not pure parody with a bunch of actors having fun. This really opens the curtain to give you a look at those crazy, funny, witty, screwed up people who make soaps and deals with some pretty hard issues that may shock and surprise you and really affect your gut."

Serial Killers

What: Comedy by James Griffin.

Where: Derby Playhouse.

When: From tomorrow until November 26.

Tickets: £13-£20 (concessions £9-£15).

Box office: 01332 363275.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and here is a bit more from the Derby evening poat



09:30 - 04 November 2005

The only time you'll catch me watching a soap is if it's in danger of slipping into the bathwater.

As to who is getting off with who in Ramsay Street or the Rover's Return, I remain blissfully ignorant.

As to which side you need to be on to get the best out of Serial Killers, I can blissfully declare that whether you're at Home or Away, this is a seriously entertaining play that anyone with a receptive mind and a funny bone will relish.

Mind you, the more you hate soaps, the more you'll guffaw at the filmed extracts of the beautifully cheesy hospital drama thrown on the giant tele screen that looms suitably large above the writers' room, a den awash with scrunched-up paper, post-it-notes and the draped bodies of the scribes.

The hacks gather round the "table of pain" where they daily "feed the beast".

As soap writer James Griffin's acutely observant play reveals, the writers wield the pen??? and the sword of Damocles.

They decide to kill off the character of Dr Gilligan - "Gilligan's boring, the rating's falling".

However, the good doctor has a remedy: hold the scriptwriters at gunpoint and "make everything be all right"???

Despite an occasionally sluggish first half, in which the odd line missed its mark, this otherwise excellent ensemble cast bared all the foibles, vanities, rivalries and insecurities of the writers, unaware they were their own soap.

I especially loved Kate Atkinson's sparky, sussed Simone, who contemptuously dismisses the actors as "pretty fish".

As the dim prawn about to be hooked, Ben Steel - himself killed off once on Home & Away - perfectly pitches a star's vanity.

His savage desperation at being written out makes for a second-half tour de force which turns both alarmingly intense and hysterically funny.

Neighbours star Mark Little, at first merely acidly amusing, increasingly proves an expressive and ultimately poignant figure as the play smartly and fascinatingly blurs the boundaries of reality and fantasy.

Director David Freeman and his cast and crew deliver a deliciously sharp, scything, cynical comedy.

And it's miles better than any soap...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.