The Evil Imp

Alan Yentob is a Plank!


Those of you who don’t live in the UK and don’t indulge in soporific BBC documentaries on the arts may have little or no clue at all about who Alan Yentob is. So read on dear reader and let us enlighten you!

Mr Yentob has spent his entire life working for the BBC in one form or another but his latest outing on the worlds richest, publicly funded television channel is a series called ‘Imagine’. The show, one hour per episode, focuses on a particular artist and their work from an entire range of art forms and it’s here that the trouble begins.

You see, Mr Yentob is a rather fawning individual. ‘Imagine’ doesn’t explore the creative process and the trials and tribulations of the creative types (which might actually be interesting to watch) it just drips huge gobs of saliva all over them as Mr Yentob pontificates about their, alleged, genius and a small army of admirers are brought before the camera to re-enforce that undeniable notion.

There are no contrary points of view, no dissenting voice, no-one to doubt the aura surrounding the target artist is real.

The last programme to air on BBC1, and this is where Article19 comes in, was all about Akram Khan and his new(ish) work ‘In-i’ created with the actress Juliet Binoche.

Throughout the show the problems with arts coverage by the “main stream media” are all to evident. Mr Yentob’s constant voice over during the programme tries, and fails, to create an aura of “artists” struggling with their demons, their creativity and their very existence. We’re not making this up you know!

Mr Yentob starts the programme pretending to look at a map of Paris to find the rehearsal location. Parisian taxi drivers must have been in short supply on that particular day as were GPS enabled cell phones, the internet or researchers with a brain cell or two.

We know they know where the rehearsal room is because another camera is filming Mr Khan waiting for everybody to get there!

Fake issues and “crises” are constructed by the production crew and Mr Yentob but anybody even vaguely familiar with the process of creating a new work will notice these things as nothing more than routine bumps in the road.

It should come as no surprise that Ms Binoche, an accomplished actor but not a trained dancer, struggles with the movement aspects of the show. It’s like sending a plumber to fix a generator and being surprised when he gets blown up!

At one point Mr Khan is shown sitting is his hotel room, playing guitar and talking about how he likes to be alone during the creative process. Except he’s not alone is he, the camera operator is in there with him, the whole scene is a setup, it’s fake and we’re not buying it.

When carefully constructed, a film of the creative process behind a new piece of work can be both interesting and enlightening for those unfamiliar with it. A lot of the time though it’s very boring and very repetitive for those on the outside. Programmes like ‘Imagine’ paint a picture (no pun intended) of artists as completely self absorbed, pretentious wallflowers with little or no connection to reality.

If you are going to film the process, then film it, talk to those involved and ask interesting questions. Leave the voice overs to the wildlife documentaries and the fawning comments to the awards ceremonies.

Anecdotal evidence from those in the know say the Mr Khan is actually a nice guy. Normal, down to earth, a regular Joe. Throughout the show however he comes across as someone you might want to hit with a shovel if you have to spend just one more minute sitting next to him at a dinner party. The rest of the sycophantic serfs in this programme are in just as much danger from the mighty shovel of judgment.

We, here in TheLab™, wold helpfully suggest that should any dance maker be approached by the BBC to make a documentary of their new work said dance maker should run as fast as possible through the nearest door and never look back.

Mr Yentob should retire forthwith and keep his saliva in his mouth, otherwise it’s just unsanitary!