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Ken Loach and the Comedians: The Politics of ‘Acting’




This article explores a gap in the scholarship on Ken Loach’s filmmaking, focusing on his casting of comedians in central roles, and the specific impacts of such casting strategies across Loach’s work. While the relevance of such casting to Loach’s project has been anecdotally acknowledged in criticism, this article recommends a more systematic historical and aesthetic approach. After summarizing the theoretical considerations around acting as a practice and its ‘problem’ within Loach’s terms, I consequently look at the broader institutional and political contexts of actor preparation training and casting in British television and film since Loach’s emergence as a director in the 1960s, and the relevance of comedian casting within these. Drawing on a sample of Loach’s films, I then offer a more systematic analysis of how the comedian’s body, voice and action signify, examining how such ‘realist’ performances respond to the cultural conventions of ‘trained’ actor practice, as well as the narrative and broader institutional conventions of comedy performance in mainstream film.

Acceptance Date May 31, 2021
Publication Date Jul 1, 2021
Journal Journal of British Cinema and Television
Print ISSN 1743-4521
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Pages 280-302
Keywords actor training, casting, comedians, Ken Loach, realism
Publisher URL