Andrew Scott: do I want to be him, snog him, or just watch everything he ever appears in? I think it’s all three. Either way, from now on I’m going to ask everyone I meet if they agree that he is the greatest actor of our generation. If they don’t, sorry, we cannot be friends.
Not everyone loved the BBC’s lavish adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love (I did), but everyone who watched it agreed on one thing: Scott, who played louche bright young thing Lord Merlin, lit up every second of his screen time. As we watched him dancing to T-Rex in silk pyjama suit with a harem of beautiful people following him around, we wanted to have a pyjama party in his honour.
He became a legend of this nation as Fleabag’s Hot Priest, the gin and tonic-drinking clergyman who ensured that the second series of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit show was even better than the first. It was an emotional rollercoaster: we sobbed and got hot under the dog collar. Paloma Faith spoke for us all when she infamously told Scott on the Graham Norton sofa that she’d needed “alone time” after watching the show.
But we bow down to him as the very best actor we have right now because of a long career of stellar performances, elevated by his own personal life philosophy. “Acting without humour is bad manners – it’s not the way human beings work,” he said last year in an interview for Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast. That’s the key to his brilliance: he brings both humanity and levity to all of his characters.
The first time I ever saw him was on stage in Birdland at the Royal Court, back in 2014 as a rock star going off the rails in a metallic jacket. He’d already played Moriarty in Sherlock by then and won a Bafta for being the best thing in the show, but I had no idea who he was (I don’t watch things about men who are really good at doing maths in their heads). I still remember sitting at the back of the circle and thinking: that man is a star. His performance was vintage Scott: manic charisma, sexy but in a way that felt a bit dangerous, all with a vulnerable tenderness at its heart.
He’s an actor who can do the biggies. In 2017 he played Hamlet, making the prince into a sensitive man whose life has become unmoored by grief. I saw the nearly four hour running time of Robert Icke’s production and went to the theatre with a visceral sense of martyrdom, but Scott made it feel like it wasn’t long enough. It was the first time I’d watched Hamlet and not fallen asleep; usually I wake up and everyone on the stage is dead. But Scott made it so that I could understand every word he was saying… suddenly I understood why everyone else liked it so much.
And as Garry Essendine in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter in 2019, he picked up a host of gongs including Best Actor at our Evening Standard Theatre Awards. Not only did his hilarious performance light up our summer, but the production had an important political meaning too, allowing the queer subtext in Coward’s work to be openly expressed. As Scott himself said in his acceptance speech, “I think sometimes [Coward is] accused of being a dusty old playwright but he smuggles through comedy really modern ideas about sexuality and gender. He sort of says it’s okay to live a life that’s less ordinary.”
But whatever he’s in, he always becomes the bit you never forget. Psychotic taxi driver in Black Mirror? Tick. Upper class World War One officer getting through the trauma with gallows humour in 1917? Tick. Welsh bookshop owner disowned by his family for being gay, who made us cry every tear in our body in Pride? Tick. Priest who would make you hotfoot to confession (even though you are an atheist) in Fleabag? As we know, tick, tick, tick.
His next project is playing Tom Ripley in a new mega-series about Patricia Highsmith’s enigmatic con artist, alongside Johnny Flynn and Dakota Fanning, and we already know Scott will make us forget every other Ripley depiction we’ve ever seen – apols Matt Damon.
It’s not just his first class acting chops, though. Scott has an electric quality to him that makes us feel intimately connected to him. Who else could have us hanging off his every ‘to be or not to be’ and also make us feel like we could have a deep and meaningful with him at 2am in a toilet?
Give Scott an Oscar. Give him a knighthood. Give him our phone numbers. Give him everything. We pledge allegiance to the way of the Scott.
A deliciously detailed portrait of sexual intercourse get the job done in a changing Soho
“She’s heading to the church, to the occupation. She has noticed the protest in the news. Sex employees occupy Soho church. Prostitutes’ picket: a distinct form of service”.
This is a line from Frankie Miren’s debut novel The Assistance. Established in a 2019 wherever a fictional new regulation has brought down sexual intercourse workers’ advertising internet sites and heralded an increase in police raids, it depicts the overlapping life of three females: two sex staff and a journalist. Alongside the way, it deftly explores entire body anxieties, trauma, motherhood and the compromises women of all ages have to make in seeking to match their feminism to their life. It is a deeply London novel, a person that speaks to “long back Soho as fields and sky, as wheeling birds, Soho as homes for the aristocracy, as tightly packed slums, as two hundreds of years of prostitution… lovable boys in limited denims who smile and wink and get on their knees” as very well as a speedily gentrifying Soho – a district that is significantly policed to drive intercourse employees out, even as the cleaned-up, Mastercard-helpful organizations put in neon ‘girls women girls’ symptoms previously mentioned their doors.
Miren has a “long heritage of sexual intercourse get the job done in Soho”, she tells me. She labored in a club on D’Arbly avenue – barely a bar, just a basement, actually – in the late 1990s. We speak about the little sofas, the mouldy carpet, the lights turned lower, the overpriced champagne that the women created a commission on – and discreetly poured into the fake pot crops relatively than consume them selves. Miren tells me, “my key memory of that 1 night is this dude seeking to rescue me, just staying quite like ‘you don’t have to do this, why are you accomplishing this’ … and then I don’t forget him saying, ‘I’d really like to have you as a girlfriend’, as if people were the two selections in existence – prostitute or girlfriend! I keep in mind wondering, ‘uh, I just need some money’”.
I know Frankie from several years of sex work organising together, and from the cameradie of intercourse perform tales, some amusing-amusing, some amusing-dreadful, shared about eyeglasses of wine. Her novel is thick with the delicious information that she has generally had an eye for in her anecdotes. In The Support, we get a textual content from a person who’s cancelled today’s session since he’s in healthcare facility having an procedure he’d overlooked about a scene where an oblivious consumer grunts to a bored intercourse employee, “Lucky you … getting to do this job when you are these kinds of a nymphomaniac.” Sexual intercourse operate is often dull – but it is even now unconventional to see that reflected in fiction, laced with deadpan humour.
While the regulation that provides down sex operate promoting web pages in Miren’s novel is fictionalised, it is all-way too scarily plausible. Several other sorts of criminalisation which the novel grapples with are quite serious. Policing and the at any time-current threat of raids condition the lives of intercourse staff across the Uk, and in Soho, the place the sheer quantity of sexual intercourse companies would make this sort of strategies significantly lucrative – the Proceeds of Crime Act usually means police forces get to simply continue to keep the cash they just take from sexual intercourse employees on these excursions. Miren tells me about returning to sex perform in Soho in more the latest yrs, and acquiring a function flat with a pal till the pandemic compelled them out. Doing the job with a close friend from a shared flat is a lot safer, but as The Support depicts, it comes with the hazard of arrest for brothel-keeping, even when two mates are just sharing payments and seeking out for just about every other. It is partly Miren’s extensive own heritage in Soho that presents the novel this sort of a visceral emotional heft. As one particular character, Lori, asks, “And in the conclude? So quite a few flats shut down, women arrested, deported, a conviction for a penknife, and all for what?”
Politicians, notably Labour MPs, go on to thrust for regulations which will even further criminalise intercourse workers’ lives. At the time of composing, MP Diana Johnson had proposed amendments to the previously-authoritarian Policing and Crime Bill that would criminalise the clients of sex employees. In The Services we see in human conditions the price to sex staff when customers disappear: “The web pages are however down, and Lori’s mobile phone is silent. Yuli is in a blind stress, her messages a properly of will need so enormous Lori merely has to mute them or she’ll drown”. The return to exploitative administrators the scary auto-satisfies. The way every sexual intercourse worker tries to keep safe and sound somehow, and how a reduction in shoppers pushes them to compromise on regardless of what safety actions they use.
Most likely this all seems very particular to sex do the job. And of course, it may well make you see Soho – and the girls who perform there, and in parlours and flats all throughout London – otherwise. But in simple fact, a person of the strengths of The Service is that it will be deeply recognisable to absolutely everyone who has at any time struggled with a lousy career or a pushy manager. It speaks to looking back again in excess of how your mum lifted you and seeing her as a authentic particular person who was battling and doing her most effective. It speaks to break-ups and friendships. It speaks to getting experienced a difficult year. Can anybody relate?
Molly Smith is the co-author of Revolting Prostitutes: the fight for sexual intercourse workers’ rights, with Juno Mac (£9.99, Verso Books) The Services is out on 8 July, £9.99, Inflow Push
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