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Rupert's too posh to push our buttons

You run out of everything when you least want to. Cigarettes, matches, petrol, teabags, bread, beans, soup, toilet roll, soap, shampoo, hair, excuses, interesting celebrities.

Interesting celebrities, that is, who appear on Who Do You Think You Are?, telling us about their dazzlingly interesting, non-celebrity ancestors.

To be fair, Rupert Everett is an interesting celebrity. He's an openly gay person in an industry -- movies and TV -- packed with gay people who are about as open as the locked door of a freezer room (although, according to his assessment of his career, he's paid a high price for his openness: namely, exclusion from the roles he should be getting).

But, anyway. For a while Rupert was flavour of half the calendar months. Even Madonna -- a woman who knows a thing or 20 about the next bandwagon leaving the station -- briefly adopted him as her favourite gay best friend. Before she turned to adopting African children.

Rupert has also written a frank, bitchy and hilarious book about his Hollywood experiences that leaves no turn unstoned. All of which -- allied to the fact that he presented a pretty good Channel 4 documentary about Lord Byron last year -- should make him the perfect candidate for Who Do You Think You Are?

But it doesn't. Rupert's WDYTYA? turns out to be as dull as the contents of the average kitchen drawer. A major part of the problem is that he's posh. Incredibly posh. And posh people don't tend to be like the rest of us. Watching them on television is, by and large, an alienating experience. Mind you, Rupert is not half as posh as his mother, who could posh for Britain at the Olympics.

At one point, recounting her father Cyril's colonial adventures in Africa, she said: "They loved him in Nigeria.

"They gave him that gold cigarette case . . . after some uprising, heh-heh-heh!"

That "heh-heh-heh" was, as far as I can tell, intended ironically. Whatever the story about the gold cigarette case, there was no record in the archives of Rupert's grandfather ever having been involved with an uprising of any sort. In fact, the histories of several of Rupert's forebears seem to be clouded by doubt. Cyril conducted a loving, but long-distance, marriage; his wife remained in England throughout his career in Nigeria.

Rupert also discovered that his great-grandfather, who was called Frederick, was "a little workhouse boy, left on someone's doorstep".

This was a bit melodramatic. Frederick spent time in a boys' home alright, but he was hardly Oliver Twist. The institution was conceived as a charitable alternative to the dreaded workhouses of the time.

He was a stockbroker who once served in the merchant navy and, it seems, something of a fraudster as well. So, Rupert's most traumatic discovery during his trawl through the Everett history was that the family wasn't always as posh, privileged or respectable as he'd believed.

It was hardly an earth-shattering, life-changing conclusion. Throughout it all, Rupert -- his upper lip remaining as stiff as a starched collar throughout -- remained strangely unmoved. So, as a result, were we. Maybe it's a posh thing.

Britain's Witch Children was a harrowing Dispatches documentary, not merely because of the subject matter -- the manipulation of gullible African immigrants in Britain by fire-and-brimstone pastors who routinely accuse innocent children in their congregation of being witches and subject them to so-called "deliverance ceremonies" (exorcisms to you and me). If the pastors' beliefs, no matter how ridiculously superstitious, were genuine, you might just be able to rationalise their behaviour, without for a second condoning it. But they're not. As this film showed, it comes down to two things: money and the sexual exploitation of children. Depressing.

STACEY'S STARS

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE **

DISPATCHES: BRITAIN'S WITCH CHILDREN ***


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