On today’s Guardian online, Stuart Heritage asks ‘Has Britain’s Got Talent been faking it?’:
After more than a decade of reality TV talent shows, we’ve become inured to this, haven’t we? Every year, audiences are expected to endure at least one story about an act that already has a record deal, or has a lucrative cruise ship career, or was brought in as a ringer by the producers. I mean, how long has that dancing five-year-old from Saturday’s show been in the business? Two decades? Three? And, frankly, I’ve yet to be convinced that Pudsey the dancing dog wasn’t just a kid with a rug taped to him all along. By this point, all the backstage jiggery-pokery should just wash over us, so why am I still bothered?
I know why I’m bothered.
Here are the three golden rules for auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent:
Practice is for suckers
If you weren’t born with the kind of once-in-a-generation talent that could reduce David Walliams to hysterical tears, forget it. Your skills are basically worthless unless you fell out of the womb a fully-formed Cheryl Cole impersonator, Pavarotti-level opera singer or breakdancing border collie.
When it was revealed that Paul Potts, the winner of the first series of BGT, had received professional vocal training and had previously performed in front of 15,000 people, his victory was called a ‘sham’. To some people, apparently, mobile phone salesmen who just happen to be blessed with world-class talents that they have done absolutely nothing about for 36 years are more worthy of praise than mobile phone salesmen who worked 13 hour days in a job they didn’t like very much so that they could save up enough money to take six months off work to go to opera school in Italy.
The only exceptions to this rule seem to be street dance crews and teenage boy choirs, and even then practice is mostly just a way to keep you off the drugs for a couple of hours.
So is having actually embarked upon your dream career before, and having a decent level of professional success
One of the strongest contenders in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition is Francine Lewis, who sailed through to the semi-finals after performing solid impressions of Katie Price, Stacey Solomon and Cheryl Cole.
Backstage before her audition, she told Ant and Dec “I started doing impressions when I was about six, and then back in the nineties I entered a talent show. I came second to a puppet. I carried on for a little while, but never got to the level I always dreamed about, but then I came out of it when I got pregnant.” She confided “I love being with my kids, I really do, but I wouldn’t die happy if I didn’t pursue what I feel I should be doing.”
When David Walliams asked her “do you have a day job, Francine?” she replied “well I’m a mum, a mum of two, so I do my impressions to entertain everyone when I can.”
When she says “I do my impressions to entertain everyone when I can”, I think this implies that she occasionally manages to squeeze in the odd Stacey Solomon “OHMAGAAAWWWDDD” in between nappy changes and school runs to make her kids giggle. I don’t think it implies that she recently did her impressions on a comedy show watched by over a million viewers, as Francine Lewis did in Channel 4’s Very Important People. She also didn’t mention that she has previously appeared on Time and the Place, Pebble Mill, The Big Big Talent Show, 5’s Company, Bushell on the Box, Fully Booked, Big Breakfast, Generation Game, This Morning, Loose Women and the Ian Wright Show. She does on her website, though.
This is why I like The Voice more than Britain’s Got Talent, in spite of the incessant ‘denim-on-denim’ jokes from Jessie J, the fact that they wear the same clothes in the obviously pre-recorded Sunday evening results show (smelly) and the impossibly small-scale set that makes Countdown look like the Superbowl. If Sean Conlon from Five and Cleo Higgins from Cleopatra had auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent rather than The Voice, they would both have had to pretend to be stay-at-home mums who thought an octave was a type of wild boar.
Confidence is gross, especially on a woman
Ideally, you should be a young mum who whispers Katie Price impressions under your breath to yourself as you drain off tinned carrots for Lily May’s tea, letting a slight smile spread across your lips as the nasal squawk echoes off the metallic hollow of the kitchen sink, thinking maybe, just maybe, one day, you might pluck up the courage to audition for Britain’s Got Talent. Don’t be silly! you tell yourself. You would never have enough confidence to stand there and perform in front of all of those people!
Ideally, you shouldn’t have recently done your Katie Price impressions in four episodes of a comedy show watched by over a million viewers, like Francine Lewis.
Another talent show contestant who has been hitting the headlines this week is Alice Fredenham. Here is Alice, a 28 year old beauty therapist from Hertfordshire, belting out The Lady is a Tramp for The Voice judges and receiving a unanimous ‘no’:
Another talent show contestant who has been hitting the headlines this week is Alice Fredenham. Here is Alice, a 28 year old beauty therapist from Hertfordshire, wimping out My Funny Valentine for the Britain’s Got Talent judges and receiving a unanimous ‘yes’:
What happened there? What happened to the confidence, the sassiness, the killer cleavage, the shimmying, the retro styling, the supportive family on standby? I’m not even going to ask what’s going on with her hair, and ask why it looks like she’s about to have half a head of highlights put in, because it makes me sad (I think she’s possibly going for the SuBo effect).
The official line is that after being rejected by all four Voice judges (and having Will.I.Am ask her whether she was a trumpet), it knocked her confidence so hard that she didn’t want to invite her family along to watch her again. Do we believe it? I don’t. Not really. Sounds plausible enough, but this is Simon Cowell world – a place where even walking egos like X Factor UK‘s Katie Waissel have to simper and shake their way onto stage like all they want to do is release this pent-up monster of a voice that is clogging up their throat and not have to deal with this pesky fame part – like she couldn’t think of anything more dreadful than making interactive online reality shows about her life sponsored by Sprite, or allegedly trying to sell kiss and tell stories on Apprentice contestants (both of which Katie did before auditioning.)
Quoth Francine: “I’ve been out of it for quite a while, and I just lost all my confidence. Coming back in front of such a big audience, it’s very nerve-wracking – I’m not gonna lie. I just feel so lucky to get this second chance today.”
I’m really happy that Francine has finally found a platform from which to show off her talents to over ten million people. After all of her hard work, she deserves it.