THERE can be few more effective antidotes to the acting bug than Whatever Happened To . . . ? (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week). If you have a daughter whom you most definitely do not want to put on the stage, then download this on to her iPod and watch her dreams corrode. As told to Lauren Laverne, the three case-studies in life after drama college provide all the evidence you need of the nature of perpetual rejection.
Whatever Happened To . . . ? is a series in which three alumni from the same institution are asked to reflect on their careers. Last week, we heard from three graduates of the Poor School drama college, King’s Cross, London, all of whom appear to have been attempting to reinvent themselves. In the past, young people in their predicament might have joined the Foreign Legion, but nowadays you learn how to be a chipmunk or a washing machine and, if you are lucky at the other end, you get yourself a bit part on Holby City.
To be fair, in each case the period of failure appears to have been ultimately productive. Boyana, from Zagreb, wanted to tread the boards to annoy her professional parents; she has since become a translator for international organisations that work for the dispossessed of the former Yugoslavia.
Judy was escaping a career as a dancer and model, and wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. Her explanation for not making it on the stage: that she was too beautiful. She is now a personal stylist to those who presumably are not similarly disadvantaged. But one felt particularly well-disposed towards Lewis, who grew up in a children’s home in Jersey and was destined (he thought) for menial work. He might not have landed any acting jobs, but he now teaches it to fresh cohorts of wannabes. As so the cycle continues.
Just as a little boy will eventually turn the most innocuous implement into a toy gun, so it seems that we cannot help turning each new social-media platform to the pursuit of violence. In The Inquiry (World Service, Thursday of last week) Helena Merriman reported on the misuse of WhatsApp in parts of India as a tool for vigilantism, spreading confected stories and doctored videos that suggest that outsiders are coming to a community and kidnapping children to harvest their organs. In rural areas, where digi-literacy is low, WhatsApp may be the only means of digital communication which people will use; so it is easy to spread rumour unchallenged.
The problem with WhatsApp is that it is devised to encourage closed groups of users — unlike Twitter, on which nonsense can be corrected. If WhatsApp is all you use to get your news, then there is clearly a problem; but, even among the social-media savvy, the WhatsApp community mentality can encourage protectionism and hostility as much as intimacy and trust. Take the example of the Neighbourhood Watch scheme in Johannesburg featured here, whose WhatsApp feed goes well beyond the twitching of a few curtains.