Amazing! Incredible!

‘Glorious… extraordinary’

‘Dazzling. Devastating’

‘Miraculous… beautiful’

‘Bursts with life’ 

It could be the back cover of any new novel. They are all stunning. We are all stunned. Understatement is a thing of the past. 

The same is true of comedy. Comedians today talk fast and shout. Double acts, once common, now rare, depend on the interaction between two people, the comic who does most of the talking and the ‘straight man’ who says less, or sometimes, as in the case of Hylda Baker’s Cynthia, nothing at all. 

Dialogue is intrinsically more dramatic than monologue. Two points of view are better than one and more true to life. A stand-up comic stands alone, telling jokes instead of letting the audience see the funny side for themselves. 

Television drama, once at the forefront of realism, has retreated to Victorian melodrama. Playwrights and actors play to the domestic gallery with exaggerated portrayals of the extremes of human emotion, jealousy, lust, murder, violence in all its forms. The old style of writing and acting has made a come-back, in serious drama and soap opera, on stage and on screen. 

Everyday conversation is littered with hyperbole. What used to be good or very good is now amazing. What used to be surprising but true is now incredible. 

I must ask myself, before anyone else does, whether my reaction to these changes is itself exaggerated. Have I merely grown old and resentful of change? I must admit to the former. My only defence with regard to the latter is a love of literature and comedy and drama, the best of which are quiet and honest and humane. Something, I believe, has been lost.

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