There are several different factors in the forging of great actors,
Such as empathy and speaking from the heart;
In the house of stage illusion there are mansions in profusion
As one strives to find the essence of a part.

But the one thing you can say of any stage-struck strolling player,
Be they Garrick or some bank clerk in a wig;
Sarah Bernhardt to Paul Newman, they have ev'ry one been human
And there's never been an actor who's a pig.

So the tale about to follow, you may well find hard to swallow,
But it happened, sure as night-time follows day,
As our hero saw the dawn in on a bright September morning,
In a litter down in Herefordshire way.

From a very early age, he showed a penchant for the stage
And would stroll around the farmyard in a cloak;
He would fascinate the farmer quoting lines from costume drama
So the farmer called him Hamlet as a joke.

By the start of adolescence, he had sensed a certain presence,
The existence of a muse that promised more;
Soon with stick and hanky too, he was off to pastures new
'Cos his father really was an awful boar.

As an ASM in Oldham (quite appropriate, he told 'em)
He began to learn the business at first hand;
He could even turn his trotter to the Tales of Beatrix Potter
(Though the critics found his Pigling somewhat Bland).

But the nub of Hamlet's art, it had been Shakespeare from the start;
His audition piece the deathbed scene from 'Lear'.
Though some claimed he was mistaken, picking up a scent of Bacon,
He obtained a job at Stratford for a year.

At the RSC he flowered. and with plaudits soon was showered;
He attacked the roles with gusto and with style;
His Othello rivalled Burton's, his Macbeth took seven curtains,
And his Bottom had them rolling in the aisle.

Now the papers were euphoric, his ascent was meteoric;
He moved into television with a will;
In the latest Carla Lane, using only half his brain,
And a part as Chief Inspector in The Bill.

For a while he reigned supreme, it was ev'ry actor's dream,
Impresarios were never off the 'phone;
With no atom of compunction he turned down 'A Private Function'.
(Richard Griffiths later made the part his own.)

No more rooting for his truffles, he imported them from Brussels,
West End restaurants knew him as a gastronome;
Soon his girth was so obese, that he looked Vietnamese
And an Ilkley couple tried to take him home.

At the British Film Awards, Hamlet almost swept the board;
He ascended to the stage in floods of tears.
And he stood there half the night, thanking everyone in sight,
Till Dickie Attenborough threw up in his beer.

It was a solitary life, with little chance to find a wife,
Though Miss Piggy came backstage to have a snog;
While the gossip columns drooled, sadly Hamlet wasn't fooled,
For it was rumoured she was only into frogs.

There were secretive agendas, lonely weekends on the benders
When he'd wake up in the gutter ev'ry day;
'Cos you can tell a pig that boozes by the company he chooses
And George Clarke got up and slowly walked away.

Now the barriers were down, and other names were big in town;
'Cats' was played without a human in at all;
As a novel stage device, now The Mousetrap had real mice,
And a warthog understudied Michael Ball.

As the competition grew, there was less work for Ham to do
And his talents to the offers seldom matched;
When it came to talking turkey, like his part in Pinky and Perky,
He would find there were too many strings attached.

Ham was soon so often pickled that the offers barely trickled
And he talked of moving back to find his cred;
But the theatre's unforgiving, once you've left to make a living
In artistic terms, he might as well be dead.

He who'd trod the boards at Stratford now played pantomime in Bradford;
Versatility's a blessing and a curse;
From Macbeth in hose and doublet to some childish rhyming couplet -
It might well be said he'd gone from Bard to Verse.

Stacking tins of beans in Tesco, it was hardly Ionesco,
(Though he'd doubtless grasp the sense of the absurd);
Ev'ry moment stabbed his pride as shoppers passed the other side,
Or even worse, stopped coyly for a word.

But once the acting bug has bitten, you remain forever smitten;
To the Goddess of the Theatre you're enslaved;
When his agent made the call, there was no room for doubt at all;
Once last chance to give his public what they craved.

There are sev'ral diff'rent factors in the forging of great actors,
Such as empathy and speaking from the heart;
In the house of stage illusion, there are mansion in profusion
As one strives to find the essence of a part.

Now his flame is burning brightly, on the telly ten times nightly,
'Cos you have to gather rosebuds while you can;
One last chance of stardom taken, advertising British Bacon,
As our Hamlet sizzles gamely in the pan.

© Kevin Collier 1999.