Thought Control - #6 - Strumpet

thought control logoIn previous discussions storylines, actor's role in production, genre choices and character features have been brought up. This time, let's look at certain type of roles, such as in

TV film which was also shown at Edinburgh Film Festival (2001). Written by Jim Cartwright and directed by Danny Boyle.

Christopher Eccleston plays Strayman, an alternative poet with a penchant for adopting strays. Upon meeting a homeless girl who gets the name Strumpet - and his words meeting her music, - they make for a breakthrough only to get entangled in show industry's monetary stratagems.

While their hit certainly lingers in the ears, it is especially the very beginning of the film that introduces the film's platform. Strayman recites a poem during a standard karaoke night at a pub. Danny Boyle commented on the scene: "I have to say that for Chris Eccleston and myself, the start of Strumpet, where we have him delivering John Cooper Clarke's Evidently Chickentown to a pub full of ordinary local people who were hearing it for the first time, that was a bit of a milestone in both our lives. We both come from the same background, we both feel the same way about Cooper Clarke. To have Chris driving that through in honour of him was just a great way of celebrating street life and street beauty and achievement. Really, that scene's a pinnacle for me."

Despite long-lived aspirations to appear in a Ken Loach film (the director has apparently maintained Eccleston got enough work without him), Strayman is the only Chris Eccleston's role where he is playing a contemporary person not just down, but quite off the ladder of society (not counting Boethius who's more of a phenomenon than a character).

How come?

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Anonymous said...

Being a JCC fan when I first heard "Evidently Chicken Town" I thought it was JCC but clearly it wasn't because the swear word had been changed to the f-word instead.

It's the crowd's reaction when the expletives start flying, it's either shock or the language they use in everyday life.

Christopher delivers it with absolute spittle, the way it meant to be, that people are stuck in a situation they can't get out of.

I love JCC aka the Bard of Salford and have three albums by him and my favourites are "****" (carefully edited so not to offend), "I Married A Monster From Out Of Space" and the seminar produced by the great Martin Hamnett "Beasley Street".

I could see Christopher actually playing JCC because he has that stature and swagger of him.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

'Fucking' version is the original afaik, 'bloody' is another one.
It's also shock at everyday language on stage. All the beeps on radio and tv, but that's off-topic.

You can't really compare CE's frame to JCC's whom you won't see if you look at him at a wrong angle =)

Neptunienne said...

Actually I think that Strayman's character is close enough to Claude's in Heroes. In both cases (though for different reasons), they're living outside of society and seem pretty ensconced in misanthropy. Both characters seem to be "different", the one because of a special ability (accompanied by complexes about being different/paranoia about the "normal people") and the other apparently because of his inability to get the words in his mind out into the world (outside of his song lyrics, Strayman's speech can be very strange).

I think Christopher does very well in these roles, which are laced, deep down, with a terrible sense of loneliness. Strumpet breaks my heart and puts it back together again every time I watch it.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

I buy that, Neptunienne. Yes, both are outside the society, and misanthropic. Claude is more eloquent in daily speech than Strayman, but they are also similar in that physical action is what breaks the social shackles for both of them: fighting for one, singing and dancing for the other (as Chiclit noted in the review, how Strayman's body language changes).

Still, Claude is a sci-fi figure, and his attributes, while translatable, are still isolated from the real. Strayman, on the other hand, represents a certain contingent who are there, here and now, in every city.

Maybe it's harsh, but when no longer in the refuge of film media (and without the slight fairytale filter), who'd consider befriending him? Health and safety first, rescue of the drowning is the matter of those drowning.

'Strumpet' is great because it manages a balance between gritty and sentimental, pathos and light. Because it doesn't promise anything, and doesn't manufacture illusions.