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Robert Tanitch

Robert Tanitch on YouTube

Dateline: 27th January, 2010

BTG reviewer Robert Tanitch is also a playwright, theatrical and film biographer and writer (fifteen publications), whose most recent book is The London Stage in the 20th Century. The first professional production of one of his plays was when he was a student at Oxford and he went on to have other productions at Wyndham's and the Cambridge in the West End and at Coventry's Belgrade. He has a channel on YouTube featuring a number of short revue sketches. Philip Fisher looks at these.

In Robert Tanitch's YouTube world, a long film lasts four minutes. This is perfect for a society where attention span has almost become a thing of the past but a couple of celebrity names sell tickets. To satisfy the second requirement, he has recruited Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who clearly enjoy themselves.

What the writer/theatre critic appreciates fully is that it is possible to make significant sociological points or get laughs in less than the time it takes to boil an egg. Like a good short story writer, he also appreciates the value of an ironic twist in the tale and that is what makes most of these tiny pieces so enjoyable.

His first batch of miniature productions, brought to the screen in HD by John Snelgrove, generally feature the redoubtable John Hug., often in tandem (either visibly or not) with the author/director himself. In particular, he is given a wonderful showcase in Why Don't You Try One of These playing an auditioning actor.

Has Anyone Seen My Glasses is a one-joke show, normally a criticism but not when it lasts only 30 seconds and is a good joke, while Cupboard Love has the same strengths and weaknesses in a mere 10 seconds, surely an acceptable length even for the YouTube generation.

There are a couple of fine shorts about gambling games, Find the Bean and the particularly good Bad Loser, at its best in a literary game of cards though the saucer version is also a pleasure.

Tanitch likes to make the most of a good character so having thought up Major Bore, the nursery rhyme clod, he gives him four outings, each worth a look for the splendid performances of John Hug.

In the second season, Tanitch shows greater ambition, if not necessarily duration. Now, he has some large supporting casts to supplement the stars. The good news is that the wry wit and quirky, sometimes surreal, view of the world are still there.

In Book Signing, Timothy West endures the pains with which any author who submits to torture at the local bookshop will be familiar, topped off by a cameo from the belligerent Gillian Raine.

Mr and Mrs West star in the incredibly short but socially meaningful and very funny Silent Wife.

Anna Quayle gets a couple of outings playing an inept medium, Madame Claire, who does at least conjure up the results that she and her clients seek.

Younger actors also feature large in the second set of films. A quintet join the Wests for the delicious Everybody Smile.

Sexual Appetite, featuring Emily Rayner, Laurence Saywood and Alex Moschos, is both racy and funny.

Hug returns in the two-part Exclusive Apartment for Sale, playing an estate agent who has his work cut out to sell an eighth floor flat that is first plagued by debauched party-goers and then more life-threatening problems.

Perhaps the pick of them all is French Hamlet, in which a depressed Gallic non-prince played by Richard Keightley attempts to awake the passions of a trio of unfeeling Ophelias through the medium of a mobile phone.

If you ever have at least half a minute to spare, visit the Robert Tanitch Channel on YouTube Satisfaction guaranteed!

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2010