Si­mon on the art of on-screen love scenes

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Con­tents -

Si­mon on kiss­ing for the cam­era

‘To­day, in the age of rumpy-pump vérité, sex scenes have cou­ples thrash­ing away against the fridge’

FAN LET­TERS aren’t a prob­lem for me – I get so few that I hoard them for reread­ing on rainy days. But here’s a re­cent gem. I’ll leave the hand­writ­ing to your imag­i­na­tion.

Dear Si­mon (if I may),

As a fel­low thes­pian, al­beit not a pro like your­self, I write to ask your ad­vice – I am re­hears­ing a play which ne­ces­si­tates cer­tain amorous ac­tiv­i­ties. The fe­male in­volved is not unattrac­tive – she works in a lo­cal gift shop. My wife is also in the cast, play­ing a mi­nor role. Any tips? Should one hold back on tongues? And what about the other thing? For­give me writ­ing but my mum was a fan of yours. Kind re­gards,

Barry [sur­name with­held]

My first thought was to google the shop where Barry’s co-star works and rec­om­mend clenched teeth for the kiss and a firm but gen­tle knee for ‘the other thing’.

Love scenes are a prob­lem for ac­tors – the pro­to­col and the modus operandi. Things have moved on since the ster­ile pas­sion of Doris and Rock. In bed­room scenes then, the man had to keep one re­spect­ful foot on the floor at all times – hmm, chal­leng­ing but not im­pos­si­ble.

Ac­tors are cry­ing out for one of Michael Simkins’ in­for­ma­tive books on the sub­ject: Kiss­ing by Num­bers or Hold Your Tongue. (Ray­mond Briggs could do the il­lus­tra­tions.)

I have played many love scenes with, among oth­ers, Joan Collins and Glenda Jack­son – pre-clinch, see if you can guess which one said, ‘Don’t smudge my make-up, dar­ling.’ And which asked, ‘Are you a full mem­ber of the Labour Party?’ On screen, ac­tors are not try­ing to turn each other on – it’s their Twit­ter fol­low­ers they have to please. There’s lots to worry about – grav­ity for starters – the toupee, the lip gloss and the ‘I love Cor­byn’ tat­too on their hip.

The ma­jor con­cern is what their part­ners will think when the scene is aired. (Yes, they’ll go through it frame by frame, mut­ter­ing, ‘What do you mean, it’s all in a day’s work?’) When­ever I had a love scene on telly my chil­dren used to cover their eyes and cry, ‘Kissy kissy woops!’.

In the olden days, love scenes were played out hor­i­zon­tally un­der a Laura Ash­ley du­vet; to­day, in the age of rumpy-pump vérité, they’re done ver­ti­cally with cou­ples thrash­ing away on break­fast bars or against the fridge, flout­ing all health and safety regs. Sex al fresco or in cars is all very well on film, but it’s never worked in real life – or is it just me?

Pro­duc­ers now hire ‘in­ti­macy co­or­di­na­tors’ to chore­o­graph the nitty-gritty: ‘Come on: kiss – moan – nuz­zle – stroke – roll – strad­dle…’ Fade to black. Job done.

No tongues, Barry.

Si­mon plays Justin El­liott in The Archers and is ap­pear­ing in the new Alan Ben­nett play, Al­lelu­jah!, from 11 July

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