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Paul Clayton: We owe it to TV and stage actors to credit them properly

Photo: Sakkmesterke/Shutterstock
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It’s a quiet night in. I’ve been allowed to have control of the television remote to indulge my secret passion: the ITV whodunnit.

A group of psychotic nuns has been raising merry hell across Midsomer. The plot has thinned satisfyingly and two hours are hurtling to an almost foregone conclusion.

But wait. Who is that cheeky little sister in the rather fetching habit who just divulged a key piece of information to the redoubtable Inspector Barnaby?

Was she in a production I directed during the 1990s at the fabulous Watermill Theatre? Or have our paths crossed more recently? Did she spend several damp days standing on the scaffold at Anne Boleyn’s execution in Wolf Hall?

No worries. I will recall our meeting when I see her name. Barnaby has triumphed, and the credits begin to roll. I lean forward, eager to find the real name of the sister who played such a vital part in the action. It is at this point in the proceedings that ITV choose to shrink my picture to a corner of the screen in order to fill the majority of it with a teaser for I’m a Nonentity Get Me Out of Love Island 2 – or something similar.

The names of the actors who have given their all so fabulously in that distinctive Midsomer style are shrunk to a font size no larger than the terms and conditions of a major airline. Even on a 50-inch screen, I must kneel on the floor in front of the television and press live rewind to ascertain the actor’s name.

By the time the screen has returned to full size, we are already on to the gaffer and the best boy – vital roles both, but neither were wearing a habit.

One of the most exciting moments in my career was the first time my name appeared in the TV Times. Admittedly it was misspelt, but I knew that I was “Paul Claydon” appearing in Tales of the Unexpected.

Why do we seem to have such difficulty crediting people for their work and allowing those credits to be seen?

Having paid a small mortgage to visit the theatre in London’s West End, why do I have to pay an additional sum just to find out who I’m watching? The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre do a brilliant job with informative programmes well worth the price, but they also provide free cast lists.

Broadway also does it, but allowing actors and staff in a West End show to be known to their audience seems to be treated merely as an opportunity to make money.

And of course, it’s not just actors. Who was the casting director? Who directed it? Who designed it? These details are often interesting and informative for both TV and theatre audiences.

Yet TV companies don’t seem to think so – Auntie Beeb, you’re just as guilty as ITV – and many theatre producers just see it as an opportunity to make more money.

So why don’t we think about giving credit where credit’s due? Clearly and free of charge.

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