Grayson Perry Review in Full English – Dangerously Close to Defaming the Artist Brand | the television

tHe is an artist Grayson Perry A lucrative segment has been excavated for a while now, making documentaries that in essence ask the English language to explain themselves. Lucrative in a broad sense, I mean – though I hope and assume he gets a fair wage for his work. Class interrogations (in It all tastes as good as possible with Grayson Berry(masculinity)every man) and other forms of identity (in, for example, divided britain, which interviewed the left and the rest about Brexit), in unhurried programming directed by Neil Crombie, it was all fresh and delightful. It’s full of ideas—offered by the infinitely perceptive Berry himself or by interviews that open up under his warm curiosity and direct, non-aggressive questioning.

In the opening episode of the latest show, Grayson Perry’s Full English (Channel 4), which is produced by Crombie but has a new director, things seem to have gone awry. I suspect this is partly due to a growing sense of stepping back from the old land. Perry’s task is to explore what people mean by “English” by interviewing residents in the North, South and Midlands (collecting their donations for a planned exhibition on the theme he will create when he returns home). Is it an identity that binds us, or a fantasy that keeps us stuck in the past?

These are questions that have been at least partially addressed in his earlier films. Of course it is a fertile field and you can see why they went back to it for a less skewed study. But there’s a hint of overexposure, tainting a brand like Perry that’s based on being an outsider — not part of the usual gang of presenters known as A Thing and ready to squeeze every last withdrawal out of it.

Grayson Perry participates in a ritual with priests
Green and fun… Grayson Perry takes part in a ritual with the priests

There’s also the matter of his dimwitted partner, Kirk, who drives around in a white van and appears to be silenced either by his passenger or by the presence of cameras. What could have been—and should have been—a powerful exchange of opinions (or at least banter) as they go from place to place, instead, involves Perry brainstorming ideas and getting a little cash.

Perry’s first port of call is Dover, where he meets Jeremy’s wedding DJ and what I think Jeremy likes to think of as his flowing white hair. When he’s not DJing the wedding, Jeremy patrols the waters in his boat, keeping an eye on “people who get here who shouldn’t be getting here” and updates his social media accounts with news of what he sees. And he assures us: “They are people.” “We’re not out to drown them.” Berry says that people who come here looking for a home don’t seem to threaten him much. “They have homes,” says Jeremy. “They want better homes.” He patrols and reports, he says, because he loves this country and wants to protect it as generations of his military family did before him. “It’s in my blood. There are people here illegally awaiting trial for rape and murder.” He acknowledges that we have rapists and murderers of our own, too, but we quickly dismiss his objection to “teaching children that whiteness is bad” and so on.

In contrast to his less emotive approach to topics such as class, taste, or masculinity, Perry hardly delves into the issue. But he is certainly there to question what many would call the psychology of a racist, and either deconstruct their arguments or grant existence an occasional kernel of truth (some people come for a better life rather than simple succor — why and how should things change?). If he’s not here to mark the difference between the second option and the frenzied froth that gathers around it, what is Berry’s job?

He is more than happy to meet the modern druids (to me the most beautiful and pure English thing on display is the faint air of awkwardness that hangs about their re-enactments of ancient rites, and the fact that they are led by Greywolf, whose real name is Phillip). The same is true for those trying to re-establish a “culture of the commons” – public access to the thousands of private acres that have been accumulated by a handful of families since the fence’s inception. These moments serve as nice little summaries of history, but then again: They’re the discussions Perry has with ordinary people, not that. He manages a bit of it in the full English, primarily with black football fan Guy, who takes him around Lambeth to show Perry an England, complete with strong Caribbean vibes and West Indian influences, “even if he’s not around the rest of the country”.

I suspect things will improve as Perry moves north, and, as his propaganda interviews suggest, a stronger sense of the region and a less irritating nationalism take over. But the first episode leaves you wanting more – in a less positive sense than his usually outings.

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