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The Jabbing Actor: Does my bum look big in this covid drama?


BRITAIN’S leading crisis thespian, the ‘Jabbing Actor’ Erasmus Demosthenes Hepplewhite, has given us his exclusive insight into the making of Breathtaking, ITV’s chilling new drama set at the terrifying height of the covid pandemic. Erasmus was honoured to play a number of significant roles in the production . . . 

THE day began badly. I had delivered several portions of canjeero to a group of young Somalian men residing in a four-star hotel near Turnham Green. Unfortunately, upon my arrival I found opposing groups engaged in a violent confrontation which I believe was related to the occupancy of the pool table in the games room. Balls and cues were being flung with abandon. The breakfast I had assiduously nurtured during transportation from the local Eritrean delicatessen was hastily weaponised and flung hither and thither across the hotel foyer. I managed to escape the mayhem only by using the dartboard as an improvised shield.

However, I am delighted to say that the day improved when I heard a voicemail from my agent Irene. It was a message that brought joy to my heart.

My endeavours as the premier crisis actor during the pandemic had clearly left an indelible mark in the minds of the more enlightened directors and producers in the clubs of Soho and the coffee shops of Bloomsbury. 

I was instructed to report to the set of a new television production, Breathtaking. The three-part series was to tell the story of a heroic lady doctor who almost single-handedly saved thousands of lives and prevented the collapse of our beloved NHS during the darkest days of the devastating disease.

Because of the requirement to use protective clothing and masks throughout production, I was able to play several roles. 

Of course I was asked to reprise my iconic portrayal of the pathetic intubated covid-ravaged patient struggling to avoid traversing the dreaded Styx. However, when adorned with the uniform of a hospital porter, and being the master of disguise that I am, I appeared in several other scenes.

For example, the programme highlights the chronic shortage of personal protective equipment. You will see me frantically manufacturing masks from discarded copies of The Lancet and Nursing Times, creating surgical robes from used bin bags, and constructing goggles from old Coca-Cola bottles.

In other scenes you will notice the way I assist the nurses as they take PCR swabs from the corpses of tragic road accident victims, and hear my merry banter as I drive elderly patients from the hospital to the refuge of old people’s homes which have been better sourced with drugs such as midazolam which they urgently require. The keen of eye will also spot me amongst those weeping with relief when it is announced that the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved.

My bottom is an important feature of episode three as I lay lifesaving arrows on the floor of the reception area. They point any intruder back towards the exit.

Because of my versatility I was also asked to help behind the scenes, most importantly with the choreography of the ensemble of nurses, registrars and consultants as they performed one of Busby Berkeley’s famous kaleidoscope dances.

I believe that the sequel, provisionally entitled Breathtaking 2: Disease X, is in pre-production.

My success in Breathtaking brought to mind the words of dear, dear Dame Judi when she came to Rada to award the John Le Mesurier Prize for Diffident Charm. ‘Charm is the recourse of the rogue,’ she declared. ‘You can do very well without it, dear boy. Be a honey and get me a Gin and It, and some Skittles.’

Let there be no mistake, in whatever way covid rears its ugly head, Erasmus Demosthenes Hepplewhite will brave any hardship and don any mantle to ensure that the fear is amplified and few can sleep without experiencing the most terrifying nightmares.

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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