How To Be Old With Nicholas Craig. Nicholas Craig (Nigel Planer). Copyright: BBC.

How To Be Old With Nicholas Craig

BBC Four sitcom. 1 episode in 2009. Stars Nigel Planer.

Press Clippings

As part of their Grey Expectations season, BBC4 gave an hour of airtime over to Nicholas Craig, the greatest luvvie of his generation, to present an acting masterclass on How to Be Old.

Topics covered included keeling over, speaking in "auldshire", bronchial coughing, creating a doddery walk and dealing with rowdy juveniles, all illustrated by an excellent array of TV drama archive clips.

In between exploring career options for the third-age thesp, Craig rails against such diverse personal and professional bugbears as Strictly Come Dancing, whingeing actresses, having to wear one's own clothes in Casualty and his youthful assistant producers, Lucy and Octavia: "I've slow-roasted joints of pork longer than she's been in the business!"

Craig is a brilliant creation, beautifully scripted by Christopher Douglas and played to perfection by Nigel Planer. Despite this, the subject matter for this particular outing was a little too thin to support an hour and there were occasional tell-tale signs of padding.

But this is a little churlish, given the many moments of pure delight, such as Craig's explanation of how the Spotlight Directories work: "Spotty is divided into sections. There's Young, where you'll find all the middle-aged actors. Leading, for older actors. And Character, for very old, ugly actors."

Harry Venning, The Stage, 27th July 2009

I would have liked to have invested about a quarter of an hour less in How to Be Old, the latest of Nicholas Craig's spoofs on luvvie affectation, in which he shared his accumulated wisdom about third-age acting. An hour was a long time to sustain the joke - though many of the jokes you got were pretty good - and the implicit satire on the predictable way in which old age is depicted on screen certainly struck home. Craig offered advice on bronchial- wheezing techniques, sudden tumbles and doddering ("standards of limping have improved immeasurably recently"), all illustrated with montages of older actors going through every geriatric cliché in the book. I liked his guide to the casting bible Spotlight too: "There's Young, which is where you'll find all the middle-aged actors, then there's the Leading section, for older actors, and Character... for very old ugly actors."

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 15th July 2009

This is a hilarious spoof 'acting masterclass' starring Nigel Planer (Neil in The Young Ones) as the titular, delusional aging thesp. Fresh from his triumph as 'Ebeneezer Tumblewhiskers' in a BBC costume drama - for which he won a BUPA Award - Craig advises actors of "the third age" in the key skills required to play elderly characters, including the development of just the right viscosity of hacking cough, how to handle a walking stick and perfecting your doddering stagger. Intercut with a clips from actual TV dramas that showcase the astonishing levels of ham used to denote age on screen, this provides an insightful satirical comment on TV portrayals of older people as well as some brilliant jokes. Written and directed by Christopher Douglas, creator of the equally superb Ed Reardon's Week on R4 and cricket jobsworth Dave Podmore.

TV Bite, 14th July 2009

In his alter ego of thespian Nicholas Craig, Nigel Planer's brilliant luvvie spoof pitches in to the BBC's Grey Expectations strand with a hilarious masterclass in the art of elderly acting. The clips he uses are mostly ancient, but the combination of the script by Christopher Douglas and Nicholas Craig's impeccable delivery guarantee that by the end of the hour even your teeth will ache from non-stop laughing.

For any actors about to embark upon an old role in a Dickens or a hospital drama, there is invaluable expert instruction here from Craig in all aspects of the craft, from the bronchial wheezing, the limping, the hobble, dirty old men (or women), how to fall over and that particular regional accent they will be required to master known as "Oldshire."

Even on the subject of animals, Craig's advice will be invaluable. "It's very important that if an actress is given a pet, she goes completely mental over it."

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 14th July 2009

Third-division thespian Nicholas Craig is inexplicably given another hour of airtime to sound off on acting technique, a subject where his lack of expertise could not be plainer. This time, the precious gasbag delivers a footling, downright insulting bulletin on how to portray elderly characters, betraying his trivial outlook by advising on coughing, hobbling, falling ("into a coma or under a bus") and playing grumpy butlers. It's hard to know what's most unbearable about Craig: his vain self-promotion (he plugs his dreadful Charming Walks for Older Actors book), his flagrant name-dropping or his evident bitterness at having been written out of Doctors when his salty sea-dog character went mad.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 14th July 2009