Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Long Time Ago, A Million Years BC...

Seventeen years ago today, Dennis Potter passed away.

Who? You're probably asking.

The man who taught me that song and dance routines are always appropriate.

I wasn't older than eight (possibly even younger) when I first say Potter's Pennies from Heaven six part series and I thought it was magical. I was too young to understand the dark (depressing) storyline of an affair, the resulting baby, the abortion, the fall into prostitution, and the accusations of rape and murder (in short, I got very little from the storyline beyond Arthur was a married travelling sheet music salesman in 1930's England) but I was drawn to the upbeat and cheerful 1930's dance numbers which punctuated the grim backdrop.

Unlike traditional musicals, the numbers in Pennies from Heaven didn't served to move the plot forward but to give an insight to what the character was thinking at that moment; you could remove every song and you'd still have a complete story (albeit even more depressing). The actors would lip sync to original 1930's recordings while dancing around a set only to end up in the same position they started in, as if the number had never happened. I was enthralled; I could do that in my own life!

I was never captured by Dennis Potter's later works the way I was with Pennies from Heaven (which may be the result of the creepy scarecrow in The Singing Detective which still gives me slight moments of panic 20 years later) but the fun burst out in a song that fits my mood and thoughts is a habit I have taken forward into adulthood. So thank you for that, Mr. Potter. And thank you for teaching me to never trust a travelling sheet music salesman.

And also for teaching me that love is good for anything that ails you.

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