In Ambridge, where my heart is, there are no cameras, ergo no need to shave or hold in my stomach as Justin Elliott
Simon Williams on flitting between Albert Square and Ambridge
BY BEING CAST as a mysteriously malevolent posh (and therefore villainous) character in Eastenders, I have won the approbation of my brother Hugo, the renowned poet, who loves the show and tells me that he sees it as ‘a postmodern variable’. I’ve never been sure when his tongue is in his cheek. I tell him that I see it as Game of Thrones with costumes from TK Maxx.
In the scripts to date I am referred to enigmatically as ‘The Chairman’. I have no name, but the script department have lent a kindly ear to my request, and I am now looking forward to seeing my brother splutter over his postmodern Pot Noodle when he hears that The Chairman has been anointed: Hugo.
I have obviously signed an NDA regarding the plot, but even with the truth drug coursing through my veins I couldn’t b egin to give away any secrets – not least because I really haven’t a clue what’s going on. I wear good suits and heavy glasses, and I don’t do smiling. Perhaps Hugo has come to Walford to give elocution lessons as they prepare for gentrification. Having watched the show for some time and seen the interior of most of the houses on Albert Square, I reckon the wily businessman could make a killing with a Farrow & Ball franchise – my dear, some of those wallpapers are just so de trop, aren’t they?
Walking into The Queen Vic for the first time was déjà vu with bells on. The cast were friendly beyond the call of duty as they slipped effortlessly in and out of their famous alter egos. There’s no time for any of the usual flimflam – like motivation. The ultra-cool Danny Dyer even uses rhyming slang in real life. Linda Henry as the savvy Shirley Carter could go toe to toe with Maggie Smith in a thrilling clash of the matriarchs – Belgravia vs Walford.
Normally the locations I inhabit on film or television are pretty grand (long gravel drives and rhododendrons) and it’s easy to spot who the actors are – they’re the ones in bonnets and frock coats or at least tweed – but it’s not so easy in Albert Square, where cast and crew are in a permanent state of dress-down.
Meanwhile, in Ambridge, where my heart is, there are no cameras, ergo no need to shave or hold my stomach in as Justin Elliott. Best of all, I don’t have to learn the lines.
Recently, Justin and his fiancée, Lilian, have been given a number of scenes on horseback. Imagine: a windowless studio in the middle of Birmingham, Sunny Ormonde (who plays Lilian) and I standing in front of the microphone with our legs astride invisible horses, clutching our scripts for dear life as we struggle with our rising trot. Radio vérité. The sound technician in the booth will add the birdsong and hooves. There you have it: an everyday story of country folk.