I was asked to write this for a national paper in Ireland, but thanks to Simon Cowells legal team the paper were too scared of litigation. Its here on my blog where I can publish what I choose.
In late September last year Jackie Corrigan sat in my living room and applied online for Britain’s Got Talent. She said ‘It’s just for the experience, it’s no big deal, just a bit of fun.’ A few weeks later she got an email to say she was successful and had an audition in Belfast. There were hundreds at The Hilton that Sunday and as she waited in line to get in front of a producer she felt ill, so when she got a call a few days later to say she was through to the live auditions in Cardiff she was over the moon.
Jackie lives in Dublin and did Drama at University, she has written and performed in her own plays, she also has acted in a host of plays – most recently in The Vagina Monologues. She is confident and self-assured and a little bohemian. She even had a naked performance in one show, so let me be clear Jackie is no wall flower. So with BGT she was up for whatever the talent show could through at her.
She gave a lot of thought to what exactly her act would be and she choose Lady Pennington–Smyth who is a tweed-suited, pearl wearing forty something with a plummy voice. Jackie had used Lady P-S before and was completely at ease when she donned her twin-set. The thing about her posh upper class character is that when she starts to sing it’s to a repertoire of heavy metal.
‘It’s really all about the judges and in particular Simon Cowell and David Walliams, the women are superfluous’ Jackie told me. With regards the Judges its ego, ego, and ego -the two male judges joked back and forth with each other. ‘Some people had great acts, but if Simon or David didn’t get your brand of humour that was it’ She went on to say there was little scope for originality or trying something wide of the mark – everything that was successful, was mainstream.
Ant and Dec were lovely and are exactly how you see them on TV – friendly, upbeat and personable.
As Jackie is a talker she struck up quite a few conversations with staff in her long day there, they told her they started out last season doing registration and hoped by next year to progress to runners and hopefully producers. Jackie said she wasn’t sure how much contact they had with the Judges, as they were whisked in at the last minute and left immediately the last act performed. The ordinary crew members were lovely, chatty and patient.
“As I stood backstage and listened to the judges’ comments re other acts, I thought it was like a bear pit! It’s pretty brutal stuff hearing the buzzer go off, and 2,000 people boo! But I thought, well they’re not my ‘perfect’ judges anyway, my “fantasy panel” it would be Alan Bennett, Stephen Fry, Steve Coogan and Madonna! How scary can this gang be?? “Jackie told me.
One thing that quickly became clear as she waited and waited was BGT is nothing about talent. Jackie saw amazing opera singers perform, only to be axed, but a guy singing ‘Viva Lasagne’ to the tune of Viva Espana got through to the next level! One woman Jackie met from North Wales was a wonderful Burlesque dancer, who gigged every weekend yet her performance was criticised by Simon who said ‘You didn’t get your kit off quick enough’ – surely the whole point of Burlesque is the tease? Unperturbed the Burlesque lady said if she made it into the shows ‘out-takes’ she would be delighted as her bookings would soar. She planned to go home, work harder and be back next year. She was 38.
Jackie spoke to lots of contestants who’d been scouted and invited to perform only to be buzzed off within seconds, she understood why they were frustrated. She witnessed one 23 year aerialist who had studied circus skills walk out without being filmed as David Walliams got up on stage and used her equipment much to the laughs and cheers of the audience, he said “anyone can do it”. Jackie felt that was a cheap laugh, and she had been asked to come on the show only to be mocked, Jackie said ‘I felt like cheering when she stood her ground and didn’t conform but flouncing out in style’.
Jackie stayed in character behind the scenes for the whole day and Stephen Mulhern kept trying to compartmentalise her – asking her is she liked gardening and crocheting. When he interviewed Lady P-S he said ‘Even at 42 it’s not all over’, she replied she never thought it was over as she is a writer and an actress. It was as if you can’t be a certain age and do what you want, they wanted stereotypes and they didn’t like strong individuals.
Kelly Fox is 72 and is an opening comedian for acts like The Chippendales and has worked for years in all the best clubs in the North of England – Simon and crew were so surprised that at 72 a person could be funny they put her through to the next round.
As part of the behind the scenes filming Jackie was asked to interview some of her fellow contestants, and she soon noticed there were loads of professional performers. They made a living out of their act, they are professionals who make a living, pay their bills, looking after kids and family, yet they feel that is not enough. They want to perform for Simon Cowell in front of millions and wait on his every word, craving validation from him.
The question that came out my conversation with Jackie is does a performer have to be validated in front of millions? Surely the audience up and down the length of Britain who experience the performers locally can validate a performer too? Is it fame or success they want? Fame is what happens to a handful of people every year through talent shows. But success happens to people who perform because they love it and because they can’t imagine doing anything else. Success is providing a home for your family while indulging your passion. Jackie at 42, is a playwright, an actress and just about to be a third time mum- we both agreed that is success.
The following Wednesday Jackie met with her writing partner to finalise their two woman play, they have a director lined up and have a venue in mind. It may not be the O2 in London but her success in this upcoming play will be defined by her and not by Simon Cowell.