Keith Chegwin as Fleance
by Paul Farley
The next rung up from extra and dogsbody
and all the cliches are true - days waiting for enough light,
learning card games, penny- ante, while fog rolls off the sea,
a camera gets moisture in its gate, and Roman Polanski curses
the day he chose Snowdonia.
He picked you for your hair to play this role:
a look had reached Bootle from Altamont that year.
You wouldn't say you sold your soul but learned your line
inside a beating tent by candlelight,
the shingle dark as coal behind each wave,
and its slight restatement.
"A tale told by an idiot..."
"Not your turn, but perhaps, with time and practice...",
the Pole starts. Who's to say, behind the accent and that grin,
what designs you had on playing a greater part?
The crew get ready while the stars go in.
You speak the words you'd written on your heart
just as the long-awaited sunrise fires the sky a blueish pink.
Who could have seen this future in the late schedules, where I can't sleep,
and watch your flight from the big screen; on the other side
of drink and wondering why,
the zany, household-name years in between?
Keith Chegwin was hired by Polanski to play Banquo's son, Fleance, in the film Macbeth. From there he became not a Shakesperean actor, but a DJ and children's TV presenter, before descending further into drink, and eventually washing ashore as aforesaid naked presenter.
I think this poem is about the waste of life, and dashed promise. Fleance who came to be a king, against all odds: Chegwin who started with such promise and did not live up to it. Perhaps something about fate and bad luck. I think the poem is also about the relationship between a persona and the person inside.