Sunday 15 September 2019

Hugh Laurie: Fractured politics threatens drama

The actor spoke to Mariella Frostrup at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Hugh Laurie has spoken of a disregard for truth (Yui Mok/PA)
Hugh Laurie has spoken of a disregard for truth (Yui Mok/PA)

By Craig Simpson, PA

Hugh Laurie has said the fractured political world is threatening the impact of drama.

The actor, writer and musician suggested that opposing ideas of the truth make storytelling more difficult in the modern world.

Laurie spoke with Mariella Frostrup at the Edinburgh TV Festival, where he received an award for outstanding achievement in a varied career which has spanned light comedy and dark drama.

The actor said the power of his profession is under threat from partisan approaches to politics and facts.

He said: “Storytelling requires a consensus of some kind.

“If you start feeling an audience fracturing, starting to think completely different things about the same piece of information, that makes storytelling very hard.”

I think it's important that somebody speaks to truth over sentiment

The actor compared the situation to the 2015 viral photograph of a dress that appeared either blue or yellow depending on the viewer.

He said of the tribalist approach to truth and political events: “Everyone is looking at a different dress.”

Laurie reflected that his own character in the US drama House was “important” for being a beacon of rationalism in an era of emotion and subjectivity.

He said: “I think it’s important that somebody speaks to truth over sentiment.”

Laurie added that the world became “drowned in this feeling that the world is remakable in my own head, to be what I want it to be, to wish upon a star”.

The actor, who began a new life in the US for the show, said of his first impressions of American life: “Americans work so hard it will make your nose bleed. It’s just extraordinary.

“There is this furious desire to get on. That happened to suit my Presbyterian soul.

“I took some pride in being able to keep up.”

Laurie said he has taken little pride in anything else in his career, and is averse to self-belief due to his Presbyterian background.

The actor, who received an OBE for services to drama in 2018, said of the ceremony that he was “a totally unworthy time-waster”.

Laurie told the audience in Edinburgh: “I’m just very self-conscious I think, which is odd. It doesn’t fit with the career.

“Any pride, or vanity or ornament in one’s life was Papist. A vengeful God would come and take it away from you.”

He added: “It can all be taken away at a moment’s notice. I don’t know if it’s insecure, I think it’s realistic.”

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