Cast: Tom Jones, Alison Steadman, Brenda Blethyn.
Whoever thought of putting Sir Tom Jones in one of Sky Arts Playhouse Presents plays needs to be taken outside the old B.B.C. building and be told, “They would have loved you here in the heyday of drama production.”
In King of the Teds, the fourth one off drama for the digital channel, Tom Jones plays an embittered and recently made redundant bottle worker whose best days are behind him. However, in the eyes of two women, played with such wonderful ease and playfulness by Brenda Blethyn and Alison Steadman, he still has the power to be as charming and loveable when he was the appointed King of the Teddy-Boys.
Unlike the very brilliant, utterly well scripted and message ridden David Tennant play The Minor Character and the unfortunately disappointing Sheila Hancock and Paul O’ Grady production, Nellie, The King of the Teds was charming, warm and full of moments that made the viewer content to believe that a man who had spent the vast majority of his life thrilling women, on stage and off and whose voice could make a woman quiver could transfer his very obvious talent to television and at the age of 71 carve a new niche for himself.
This short three hander benefitted greatly by having two legends of British acting, Alison Steadman and Brenda Blethyn as the objects of affection for Tom Jones. These two women, both delightful in any role they choose to portray, reminisced over the time when the three of them would all go out together causing Brenda Blethyn to recall her father suggesting that they were effectively in a manage- a- trois. Ron, (Jones) was told to pick one, so he did and the resentment he had felt ever since finally burst when Nina (Blethyn) finally came back into the lives of Ron and Tina (Steadman) after 40 years.
The final scene, when Tina believing for a moment that Ron has left her, was touching as for all the faults she may have seen in her husband bubbled over and as the audience sees Ron in his old Ted outfit and he carries his wife up the stairs would make any person dab their eyes just to make sure they weren’t crying.
For his first ever proper acting role, Tom Jones was nothing short of sensational and though largely held together by the two women in the play, The King of the Teds remains an astonishing piece of work that ranks as highly as The Minor Character or almost anything put out on television recently.
Ian D. Hall