Remembering When Shaun Williamson Sang At The World Bowls Championship
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Tonight saw the launch of this year's edition of Celebrity Big Brother.
It's easy to dismiss the show as a carousel of the grotesque. A pathetic grab for relevancy by fame-junkie has-beens and simultaneously a mirror to the public's appetite for debasement and humiliation: the televisual equivalent of a public flogging. And yes, of course, it is those things.
But it's also chance to look back at the histories of the celebrities attempting to give their careers CPR. Namely this year, to reflect on how Shaun Williamson - better known to you as Barry Evans from Eastenders - came to feature in the greatest video on the internet.
For me to explain why this video is so great, first we need to talk through the career of the man in question.
Shaun Williamson was born in Maidstone, Kent, he studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, and I imagine before 1994 enjoyed a quiet and pleasant life. However, it was in that year - the same that Kurt Cobain took his own life and Rednex's 'Cotton Eye Joe' hit the charts - he was handed the poison chalice of featuring in the nation's favourite soap.
At first a bit-part role, gradually as he received more screen time and the character developed, Shaun's on-screen counterpart - luckless, embittered, selling second-hand cars and eventually killed off by his wife Janine - became shorthand for 'middle-aged loser'.
The character died in 2004 but, thirteen years on, we still all know who Barry is and we all know a Barry.
His ill-fitting suits are a caricature of a certain, quintessentially British type of failure. An archetype cut from the same cloth as the divorced history teacher sleeping in his car and showering in the changing rooms, and the never-married uncle who turns up to your 18th birthday and leers at the teenage tits.
After playing Barry in the show, Shaun would go on to star on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy, as well as in various theatre projects. But Barry's entrenchment in the the public imagination was such that he would never truly escape the character.
Sure, he tried to laugh it off through his ironic depiction of himself as an unemployable actor in Extras, in which he was referred to as Barry. But it changed nothing. Despite his self-awareness at being a sad dad caricature, Shaun was typecast as, and in the British public's imagination remains, a middle-aged loser. To the viewing audience Barry is Shaun and Shaun is Barry.
However, It was at the 2014 World Bowl's Championship that the Venn diagram of Shaun's art and life became a perfect circle:
All the questions I have watching the video are whys.
Why would the people organising the World Bowls Tour championships in 2014 select him as their musical entertainment given the baggage of his personal brand? How much funding did the World Bowls Championship 2014 organising committee have at their disposal - and why, if they had a budget, was nobody else available? If he was paid, then what was it worth for him to demean himself in such a way?
Broken down frame by frame no part of it makes any sense. Shaun is at best a half-decent karaoke singer, if he was to turn up at your local boozer and belt-out 'Mustang Sally', he wouldn't turn any heads. Yet there he was.
The former soap star had been booked, his suit ordered and in front of what we can presume was the biggest bowls audience of the year two-oh-fourteen, the anti-Apartheid anthem Something Inside So Strong was re-appropriated for da's around the world.
Image credit: BBC
The brothers and sisters he addresses are the wearers of socks and sandals. The unapologetic watchers of Dave. The unashamed work-out DVD oglers. This was Barry's last stand, on stage that was afforded to him: the World Bowls Tour championships.
Yet, as you watch it, you start to realise how much Barry there is in all of us.
Struggling through life, beaten back time and again, unable to escape ourselves, smirked at by an unimpressed crowd, not quite hitting the notes, singing a flat 'wooahhhhhhh'.
Maybe, the figure we should be laughing at isn't Barry at all, but ourselves.
So go on son, belt it out.
Featured Image Credit: BBC
Topics: Big Brother, Eastenders