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28 October 2014

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The High Life

The High Life

Written by and starring Alan Cumming and Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama sparring-partner Forbes Masson, The High Life was a larger-than-life sitcom set in the smaller-than-life space of the galley of an Air Scotia short-hop aeroplane.

Effete narcissist Sebastian and sex-obsessed Steve are junior cabin crew, longing for promotion to the delights of Air Scotia's long-haul service.

Steve and Sebastian

Standing in their path is "Hitler-in-tights" / "Mussolini in micromesh" / "Goebbels in Gossard" chief-stewardess Shona (played by Siobhan Redmond in what could have been an audition for her role in The Smoking Room), while imperilling their lives is eccentric, not to say partially insane, pilot Captain Duff.

Featuring song and dance, fabulously bitchy asides, occasional flirtations with art-school surrealism and some out-and-out childishness, The High Life could be camper than a field full of tents.

That it succeeded in winning a loyal audience was due to the whole-hearted performances of the cast, particularly Cumming and Masson, who threw themselves into the roles they'd written.

Steve and Sebastian

Episodes covered everything from Sebastian trying to enter the Eurovision song contest to a small-business espionage plot involving biscuits, all mixed with Sebastian and Steve's in-flight antics at the expense of the passengers.

Springing from BBC TWO's "Comic Asides" strand of one-off comedies and pilots, The High Life ran for just one series in 1994.  Unlike many single-series shows, however, it seems that plans for a second series were well under way, with a full script written, when the programme had to be cancelled due to Cummings's increasing commitments across the pond.

With no opportunity to see the characters develop, it's unlikely that anyone will ever cite The High Life as a major comic influence, leaving it to remain a brief slice of mile-high camp... but where's the harm in that?

Cast

Alan Cumming
Sebastian Flight
Forbes Masson
Steve McCracken
Siobhan Redmond
Shona Spurtle
Patrick Ryecart
Captain Duff

Crew

Alan Cumming
writer
Forbes Masson
writer
Tony Dow
director
Angela deChastelai Smith
director
Tony Dow
producer

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