Andy Serkis: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked

5 Awesome Performances...

5. John D'Auban - Topsy-Turvy (1999)

Mike Leigh has long carved out a reputation as the king of British realism. His films, derived from lengthy improvisation with a trusted group of regular collaborators, are brilliant at capturing the nuance and bittersweetness of everyday life. So when it was announced that he was making a film about Victorian opera writers Gilbert and Sullivan, many presumed he was mad. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of his most enjoyable films, with a good if brief supporting part for Serkis. Topsy-Turvy focusses on the creative partnership between librettist W. S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) and composer Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) in 1884. Desperate to write more 'serious' music and ill with kidney disease, Sullivan rejects Gilbert's new libretto, causing a stand-off between the famous pairing. After attending an exhibition of Japanese crafts in Knightsbridge, Gilbert is inspired to write a new piece set in Japan, which Sullivan agrees to write since it revolves around "human interest" rather than a supernatural device. The rest of the film sees the production take shape at the Savoy Theatre in London and the various artistic conflicts among the cast and crew. Topsy-Turvy is a period drama that's both poignant and hilarious. It strips away the layers of Victorian society to show real social problems in stark detail, while giving us the chance to see Timothy Spall sing opera and dance around in a dress. Serkis plays John D'Auban, the long-suffering choreographer who struggles to implement Gilbert's wishes for more 'Japanese' dancing. A lesser actor would simply disappear under the ridiculous hair and costume, but Serkis brings a believable frustration and a charming eccentricity to the part. His big scene with Broadbent early on in rehearsals is very witty, and makes it all the sadder that the film failed at the box office.

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast ( and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter ( Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.