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<span style="font-size:19.5pt;"><font face="Verdana">Call this acting? It just doesn't wash</font></span>

<span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><b><font face="Verdana">Two top drama coaches tell our correspondent why our leading soap stars need to sharpen up their acts</font></b></span>

<span style="font-size:7.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma"> Tim Teeman</font></b></span>

<span style="font-size:9pt;"><font face="Verdana">We asked Kate Marlow, the acting coach known for her cutting observations on shows such as Model Turned Actor, and Jennie Buckman, head of acting at RADA, to sit down for two hours of intense soap viewing. “The standard of acting is bad because the writing is bad,” said Buckman. “It’s incredibly hard to give something to a role if there’s not much there in the first place.” But actors can use soaps to their advantage, such as Tracy-Ann Oberman (Chrissie Watts, EastEnders), who left the show, skills and actor value enhanced. “The usual story is different,” says Marlow. “I’ve known lots of actors go into soaps after leaving drama school. They start excitedly, then six months later they’re so depressed. They tell me it’s the speed at which soaps are made, the demands placed on you.”

Marlow, who also works privately with individuals and teams to improve behaviour and performance, loves soaps. She dreams of acting on the Street. Buckland has written for the BBC World Service drama Westway. One senior TV soap producer once told her: “Every episode has to start with a fight or a f***.”

Marlow and Buckman watched a recent episode of Hollyoaks and tonight’s episodes of the big three (if you want to avoid plot revelations, read gingerly). Unlike many TV critics they were not snooty about soaps. But after two solid hours’ viewing, they concluded that a lot of the acting was very bad indeed.

EastEnders <br clear="none">BBC One, tonight, 8pm: <br clear="none">‘This soap is dying’

A heavily pregnant Honey (Emma Barton) complains to her fiancé Billy (Perry Fenwick) that she is getting “bigger and bigger, uglier and uglier”.

Kate Oh no. The eyebrow thing. Every time they speak their eyebrows go up. There’s nothing going on between them.

Jennie There’s nothing going on full stop. She’s doing what I call “head-waggly” acting. She looks like Una Stubbs (who has just joined the show as Honey’s aunt).

“We’ve got a problem with the wedding, Peggy” — a familiar refrain in the Vic.

Jennie Oh, that’s Steve McFadden. He’s ex-RADA, you know. He’s playing a parody of Phil, he just growls, doesn’t he? Barbara Windsor: I won’t hear a word against her.

Somebody says they should get Honey to the church under the guise of a shopping trip.

Jennie It’s unbelievable s***, isn’t it?

Kate Eyebrows, frowning and shouting — that’s the range of acting on EastEnders.

Pat and Peggy bitch on the stairs.

Kate Finally, a visible relationship between two characters.

Honey and Billy sit on bench and whinge.

Jennie A bit of internalising on her part wouldn’t go amiss, believing in what she was saying and doing.

Kate She is so aware of being filmed, the actress hasn’t given us her character here. When an actor is engaged with their character they almost forget themselves. Well, they should . . .

Jennie She indicates all the moods she’s in, “I’m upset, I’m cross, I’m bored”, instead of just responding spontaneously to her fella.

Kate I’m so bored I’ve started thinking about things I need to do at home.

Jennie Good acting isn’t “acting” at all. It should be completely seamless — if you can see the cracks between the character and actor then it’s not good acting.

Peggy and her new boyfriend, Honey’s dad, share a moment on the stairs.

Jennie These two are good. You buy into Barbara Windsor. She’s over the top as a character but it seems natural. Her voice and her moods are all of a piece. It’s not Lady Macbeth but . . .

Kate She is the Vic, she is that landlady.

Honey and her dad have a heart-to-heart.

Kate With Barbara Windsor he had a rapport, with this one who can’t act . . .

Honey’s dad tells her: “Smile and your baby will smile with you.”

Jennie Unbelievably bad.

Kate Look at their necks. There’s so much unnecessary tension in them.

Jennie You shouldn’t need to amplify emotions this much. Shameless is totally over the top but you buy every minute of it.

Kate I feel cheated watching this.

Billy sets off for church.

Jennie Everyone is doing speaking-acting, not acting-acting.

Minty and the Aussie girl share a picnic.

Kate This is superficial and boring. The actress should be imagining being on a picnic. I get people to imagine colours, textures.

Jennie Minty (Cliff Parisi) is good, though.

Outside the church, Honey is saying something about her mother in Heaven.

Jennie Her expression hasn’t changed, even though she’s supposedly expressing shock and love. It’s all “I wuv you”. Ugh.

Kate She is supposed to be stupid, then they give her depth but she can’t make it work. This soap is dying. They all look as if they’re struggling with what they been given. It must be awful for those who have been there a long time.

Billy and Honey’s wedding is under way. Honey goes into labour as they exchange vows.

Jennie and Kate Bollocks.

Her waters break just after they are declared married. The theme music starts up.

Jennie I’ll never watch it again. It’s lowest common denominator stuff. It’s taking the p*** out of the audience. There are no “real” moments in it. When you think of how brilliant it used to be, it makes you weep.

Coronation Street<br clear="none">ITV1, tonight, 7.30pm:<br clear="none">'It's just so good'

The theme music starts.

Kate (rapturously) Ahhhhhh.

Ashley and Claire prepare Josh for his first day at school. The two coaches are silent.

Kate I’m just watching it. It’s just so good, so natural.

Jennie The last time I saw this was at the age of 8, with my grandmother, when Ena Sharples was in a hairnet.

Adam Barlow tells the factory girls to take the day off.

Kate This guy is one of the show’s few bad actors, and that hair is ridiculous.

Jennie The gay guy, Sean, is wonderful. He’s camp and really goes with it. Brilliant.

Cilla chunters away. Liam flirts with Frankie. Blanche says she will run a magnifying glass over her sandwich.

Kate Funny. Great interaction. These actors are so comfortable with each other.

Ashley and Claire drop Josh off at school.

Kate The characters feel real. We all know girls like Claire. The very idea, which they seem to be hinting with the subtle shots of that lovely baby’s face, that she could hurt her baby is just amazing, horrible. But in Corrie the outrageous always makes sense because the writers build the situations carefully.

Jennie Does the guy who plays Ashley actually speak like that?

Kate The writers care so much about these characters. Look at who’s graduated from there: Jack Rosenthal, Paul Abbott. Jonathan Harvey is there now. Unlike the other shows, the main actors are in the background of other characters’ scenes, which gives an important sense of continuity.

Eileen apologises to Sarah for her sons causing unhappiness.

Kate Classic Corrie scene: nothing much happens, perfect. Sue Cleaver (Eileen) can always raise a tear from me.

Claire returns home and finds what she says is a bruise on her baby’s arm. She thinks Hayley is to blame.

Kate I can’t explain why, but I’ve got goosebumps.

Claire slaps Hayley.

Jennie Absolutely riveting. Julia Haworth (Claire) is so believing her own storyline that her actions came straight from the heart. There was no signalling, no demonstrating, no attitude playing. Completely shocking.

Kate She was being propelled to action by what she was thinking, not doing. It was in her eyes, she was on fire. Brilliant, too, to place Gail, Audrey and Eileen in that scene and have the unspoken tension around Hayley being transsexual. The care and attention given to the writing, acting and direction makes me actually feel nourished. My brain has been fed.

Emmerdale <br clear="none">ITV1, tonight, 7pm: <br clear="none">‘Patsy Kensit’s face isn’t moving’

Diane (Elizabeth Estensen), the landlady of the Woolpack, asks Daz (Luke Tittensor) why he’s upset.

Jennie Oh I like her. Emmerdale’s Peggy Mitchell. And the boy’s good: believable, fresh.

Kate The whole group is keeping our interest.

The Dingle clan have their breakfast.

Kate The dynamics are wrong. But when Debbie leaves the house I believe she is actually going to work. Emmerdale characters, unlike EastEnders’, seems to have a life beyond the scene they’re in. The outdoor scenes mean characters squint into the sun: it makes them more real.

Jack confronts his foster son Andy about cheating on Katie.

Kate Andy’s so pumped up now. He’s been spending all his time in the gym.

Jennie The young ones are good in this show.

In the Woolpack, Shadrach Dingle is being idiotic.

Jennie I don’t believe these characters. He is supposed to be a smelly scoundrel — fine. But can’t he give me something else? Sadie and Cain are carrying out a burglary.

Kate Look at Patsy Kensit’s lips and face. It’s obvious she’s had work done (Kensit has admitted to using Botox). Jennie Yes, her face isn’t moving.

Kate I like Emmerdale. There’s a bit of life in it. You’re outside a lot. The detail is good: there are dogs on the Dingle sofa, the tea’s hot. Someone has taken care to do that. There is a sense of the day passing.

Sadie and Cain head for impromptu sex in the Woolpack gents’ lavatory.

Kate Cain Dingle has worn that coat since he started. We are what we live in, our home and clothes — and that’s how good soaps make their characters distinctive. I like Patsy Kensit but she is always Patsy Kensit, not Sadie. When you watch her you can’t forget she went out with rock stars.

Sadie mocks Cain’s hard-man image. And in a saucy play on words asks, “Are you feeling hard?” “Believe me, I am now,” he replies.

Jennie Hahaha. I like him. But she’s playing an attitude, “I’m a minx”. For me there’s a lot of cliché here, a lot of signposting about what each scene is about. It’s lazy acting: “This is my character and this is the cartoon I’m playing.”

Kate Jeff Hordley (Cain) is good because you really believe his character. I really believe he has just had sex with Sadie in the gents.

Hollyoaks<br clear="none">C4, August 29, 6.30pm: <br clear="none">‘It’s a dream life for teenagers’

Jake gets ready for his day in court on a hit and run charge, there’s a montage of sexy young people starting their day.

Jennie Good ironing. I like the music.

Kate It’s like soft porn.

Jennie The actor playing Jake (Kevin Sacre) is good. He looks like he’s in pain.

Kate I’m mesmerised by the visuals — the people are all beautiful. I’m not listening to the script. They look so good and the houses are nice. I’m watching beautiful people humiliate themselves by acting badly.

Jake’s family debates whether he’ll end up in prison.

Jennie The script is just awful.

Kate These actors know that they’re not very good and that they’re in the show for their looks.

Jennie Every scene is someone looking down on someone else.

The screen splits in two, then three, as two girls discuss boys.

Kate The script and direction are so bad they have to resort to tricks like this to maintain our interest.

The hit-and-run victim’s son Sonny (Devan Anderson) gets angry.

Kate The script is just s***.

Jennie It’s so unreal. They’re like woodentops.

Kate I can see why teenagers like it because it’s the way teenagers speak and dress and be with each other. Actually, it’s like a dream life for teenagers — they have their own flats, go to restaurants. It’s so airbrushed.

Two female characters discuss boys.

Kate I’ve never seen such overt breasts on teatime TV.

Jennie They’re real, though.

Jake is given a suspended custodial sentence.

Kate God, Part One took ages. These kids are pretty but exhausting.

Part Two: Sonny is still angry.

Jennie We’ve had this scene over and over. This is bad “yoof” acting. Everybody is shouting.

Becca is sacked from her job by an impossibly beautiful boss.

Jennie There’s a lot of clean-hair acting in Hollyoaks.

Two characters flirt.

Jennie They’ll fall in love: it’s nerd love.

Kate I don’t have teenage children but I wouldn’t be thrilled if they were watching this. What a waste of time. You can see lots of young actors picking up bad habits here — acting to camera, an obsession with hair and make-up — which will turn them into difficult, tantrummy actors later on.

Jake breaks down.

Jennie Oh shut up. I’ve had enough of his tears now.


<span style="font-size:7.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma">http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article625734.ece</font></b></span></p>

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Jennie is much too nice about Babs Windsor. Entertaining, yes, acting, not so much.

I love those digs at Patsy Kensit. And Sonny as woodentop :lol:

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I also laughed at woodentop! :lol:

I wish was done more often, not just with acting, but generally writing about attitudes of people who aren't regular viewers but decide to on assignment or something else.

I know I've posted a Telegraph article from a while ago in the DTS section about one of their journalists deciding to watch with his wife and finding it much better than he thought it would be. I think it was Corrie.

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I remember that earlier article...

This was from 2007 or so I'm guessing from the names used? Wasn't that when Eastenders was still in a sharp decline? (I haven't kept up so I have no idea what people think of it now...) Anyway what a fascinating piece, from the few actors I know (mainly Corrie--I watched a lot back then), I agree with many of their comments, though not all. Their take on Hollyoaks is essentially what I've always taken from it, I admit. (I never saw Patsy Kensit in Emmerdale--I always think of her as the lead singer of Eith Wonder and their fun club hit I'm Not Scared ;) )

Poor Emma Barton, though that fits basically with what I've seen of her. I know she's had some theatre success since then... (to be fair, from the 3 months of Eastenders I followed when we briefly got it here again last year--I believe it was from 2006 or 2007, her character was horribly conceived)

It sounds a bit mean, as I like Antony Cotton on Corrie fine, but the fact that he's playing nearly exactly his Queer as Folk character (ok, who has now somewhat mellowed) makes me, I admit, wonder about his actual acting talent. I know he won that soap singing contest a while back, but I never saw to see if he's as campy in real life.

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