Eyes down for a game of apocalypse bingo with Matthew McConaughey | Rebecca Nicholson

When so many celebrities are reduced to whingeing from their mansions, the actor proves he still has a role to play

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Matthew McConaughey became a bingo caller for the residents of an assisted living facility in Texas last week and I started to realise that it’s all gone a bit 1970s, hasn’t it? I don’t mean that sitcoms are racist again or that bin bags are piling up in the streets, although, for those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work from home while semi-dressed, the concept of a regular work week is starting to lose its shape, like a baggy old pair of pants. Which, incidentally, may also have been deemed a suitable work outfit, not so long ago.

Like seemingly everyone else on the internet, celebrities have begun to put a retro filter on their lockdown activities. McConaughey playing bingo is a big 70s vibe, but the pinched optimism of Good Life potential is everywhere, which might be why banana bread is having such a moment. I saw two members of Little Mix on the BBC talking about learning how to cook, baking and calling their mums. Victoria Beckham is tie-dying T-shirts.

This practical turn marks a shift from the high hopes some of us had for using our time well when the lockdown began. It was all self-improvement this and reading list that. I talked about starting a book club. I signed up for a four-week course in Irish language and culture, but it’s been three weeks and I’m languishing at 15% of week one: Rebecca is ainm dom. Instead, I’m hoovering up articles that say it’s normal to spend entire days and nights refreshing news pages in a state of idle despair, because these aren’t ideal circumstances to do much of anything else, with apologies to key workers, who must be thoroughly over people moaning about boredom and these endless catch-up guides to all the telly you simply must watch.

As hashtag content goes, in the watchability stakes, a low-level hum of inert worry is more Andy Warhol’s Sleep than Avengers: Endgame. I’ll take the chirpy do-something celebrity stories over the ones carping on about mansion life – oh, the horror, which garden shall I choose? – because at least it throws up some curveballs. Would McConaughey have found his calling as a caller if he had not been forced to take time off from movies? Though I think he missed a trick by not doing it all in a True Detective mumble. I’m pretty sure there’s a charity money-maker to be had in a Zoom-able edition of Matthew McConaughey’s Bingo Noir. Severed Legs Eleven, anyone?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge: our living rooms are her stage now

Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Phoebe Waller-Bridge: now you can stream her hit stage show from £4. Photograph: Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP via Getty Images

In more normal times, I go to the theatre on a handful of occasions a year and I always appreciate the ceremony and specialness of it. I think it’s because, coming from a small town, theatre wasn’t an option until I was an adult, bar a school trip to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in glamorous Leicester. The last thing I went to this year was the brilliant Scenes With Girls at London’s Royal Court in January and that’s it, for now.

Still, the internet is finding ways to bring the theatre into our living rooms, while attempting to prop up an industry that is, like so many others, struggling to survive. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has let us stream the Fleabag stage show, filmed at Wyndham’s theatre in the West End, for which you can pay various amounts, and the proceeds will be split between charities supporting the NHS, the National Emergency Trust and actors and theatre freelancers. The National Theatre is into its second week of putting a classic performance up on YouTube, with an option to donate, if you can. Last week, it was James Corden’s slapstick vehicle One Man, Two Guvnors; this week it’s Jane Eyre.

There are few things seemingly less suited to being enjoyed not live than theatre, which thrives on being seen as it unfolds, but in my flat we are turning these streams into a night out, without the “out” part. We’ve got a cheap old projector and, after moving furniture to clear some wall space, with a glass of wine and a bit of imagination, it just about works. I’ve also started to wait outside the bathroom for 20 minutes before I go to the loo, just for the full immersive experience.

Ian Wang: bouncy, chatty and quite brilliant

Ian Wang on University Challenge
Ian Wang, aka Grandmaster Wang, the star of University Challenge. Photograph: BBC

Even though University Challenge is about to air its second semi-final, which means it is getting to the part where, if you can answer more than two questions, you should be given an automatic Mensa membership and a monocle, it remains an essential part of the week. Perhaps it’s because we’ve got more on our plates than usual, but viewers seem to have moved beyond the “bullying the eccentric one” stage of fandom towards a more celebratory tone. Nowhere is that celebration more deserved than when it is directed at the Corpus Christi, Cambridge team captain, Ian Wang.

At first, I thought Wang’s inability to make use of his inside voice might grate, but frankly, he’s turned out to be a star. Grandmaster Wang, as he became known after identifying Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message, in, well, a flash, has captained his team brilliantly throughout the competition. He may be chatty, but his chattiness has purpose. He pushes his team to think logically, to work out the answers; he doesn’t showboat, but encourages collaboration. He’s a team player through and through and he is very, very bouncy. I’m rooting for them to win.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

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