Britain's Got Talent 2019, episode 3 recap: Akshat Singh was utterly endearing but the latest sob story felt fake

Michael Hogan
Akshat Singh charmed the crowd - ITV Picture Desk


There were knives hurled at Simon Cowell and Ant and Dec hit the golden buzzer. But did the talent hunt’s Easter edition unearth any golden eggs? Here's everything that happened in the third audition show.

The golden buzzer act recalled Stavros Flatley

His delightfully simple motto was “To be happy and make others happy”. Akshat Singh, a 13-year-old dancer from Mumbai, certainly achieved that. Busting out Bollywood-meets-streetdance moves, he shook his bottom, wiggled his ample belly and pulled all manner of comedy faces in an infectiously entertaining performance. 

Ant and Dec were so thoroughly charmed, they strode out from the wings and pressed their golden buzzer, sending Akshat straight through to the live semi-finals.

Akshat was like a one-man Indian remix of series three finalists Stavros Flatley. Expect schoolchildren to be copying his moves in a playground near you soon.

This week's sob story felt too manipulative

The episode climaxed with a textbook talent show lip wobble. Brian Gilligan, a 32-year-old music teacher from Dublin, tearfully revealed how he’d starred in the West End stage production of The Commitments but fell into depression and gave up singing after his elder brother Dave died of a heart attack last year.

Inspired to make a comeback by the birth of his baby son, Brian’s was a classic “one last shot at fame” narrative. His impassioned, gravelly  and accomplished  rendition of Lady Gaga's I'll Never Love Again not only got Simon Cowell’s trademark wink of approval but two thumbs up. Cowell said, “I understand what it’s like when you lose somebody” – referring to his mother Julie's death in 2015. 

It was all very emotional but felt over-egged. Gilligan was already a West End star whose mother ran a theatre school that counts Westlife’s Brian McFadden, Boyzone's Mikey Graham and singer-turned-actress Samantha Mumba among its alumni. Casting him as a plucky underdog felt deceptive. This episode would have been better ending with Akshat Singh, rather than this shameless heartstring-tugging. 

Pitching Brian Gilligan as the underdog felt contrived Credit: Syco/Thames

Knives were out for Simon Cowell

We’re sure it was completely spontaneous and in no way pre-arranged when Simon Cowell decided to join in the Gomonov Knife Show from Belarus. 

The crowd had winced in horror as Andrei Gomonov stood on the judging panel’s table to throw blades at his “glamorous assistant™”, before strapping her to a wheel of death for his next trick. “Part of me wants to feel what that’s like,” said Cowell, climbing on-stage to take part. As the knives slammed into the board around his hirsute body, his face contorted into some bizarre expressions. Fortunately, he didn’t move or flinch, which would have increased the chance of injury. 

After the sword-balancing Vardanyan Brothers a fortnight ago and human fireball Jonathan Goodwin last week, it seems that BGT has raised the danger factor for this 13th series. We hope ITV have paid their insurance premiums. 

The Gomonov Knife Show - before he invited Simon Cowell to be a target Credit: Syco/Thames

Nice to see you, Barbara Nice

Comedy character Barbara Nice might not be a new discovery – she’s a stand-up circuit favourite who has made her own Radio 2  series and appeared on Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights – but she raised the roof nonetheless.

Describing herself as an “ordinary housewife, mother of five, keen Take a Break reader and occasional stage-diver”, she burst into snippets of song while talking the audience through her outfit. She was particularly proud of her £4.99 charity shop frock: “Forget DKNY, this is CPL – Cats’ Protection League.”  The alter-ego of Birmingham-based actress Janice Connolly chatted away about carrier bags and broken boilers, before the aforementioned stage-dive. 

Like Mrs Merton meets Victoria Wood, it was an appealing and amusing performance. Judge David Walliams called her a “comedy whirlwind” and added: “Tonight we watched as a star was born”. That was overstating it but Ms Babs was a breath of fresh springtime air all the same.

Barbara Nice was popular with the crowd Credit: Syco/Thames

The rejects were both awkward to watch

Tonight’s first five turns got four yeses and for a while, it looked like everyone was going to get waved through to the next round. Just past the episode’s midway point, though, producers slipped in a couple of duff acts. Sadly, they were cringe-inducingly uncomfortable, rather than entertainingly rubbish. 

Comedian Steve Best died horribly on-stage with his groan-worthy one-liners and nervous patter. Hippy-dippy “sound frequency healing practitioner” (who knew that was a thing?) Eeshi-Ra Hart (not her birth name, one suspects) then jingled a bell, emitted a high-pitched howl and got buzzed off. Don’t give up the day jobs, darlings. 

Amanda Holden irritated once again

“Amanda, you’re annoying people,” said Simon Cowell early in this episode, as his colleague Ms Holden chuntered on to the studio audience about how the four judges has cycled from West London’s salubrious Holland Park to the Palladium for the auditions. 

Cowell had put his finger on it. Holden grated again tonight, as she greeted any mild amusement with a high-volume cackle. I’m sure she didn’t laugh like this a few years ago. 

Talking of that opening bike ride, did anyone else notice how Cowell’s bootcut jeans were flapping dangerously close to his gear cogs? Somebody nip down the Holland Park branch of Halfords and buy him a pair of bicycle clips. He can afford to reimburse you. 

David Walliams and Amanda Holden on their bike ride Credit: Syco/Thames

The steamy harpist was a plucking shock

Seemingly demure 48-year-old Ursula Burns from Belfast took everyone by surprise when she strolled on stage with her harp, kicked a chair away and laid on stage with her instrument for a suggestive rendition of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. 

Simon Cowell’s face was a picture, while Alesha Dixon described Burns’s act as “basically getting off with a harp”. One couple in the studio audience said they were seeking a harpist for their wedding. Burns would certainly make an impression on any grandparent guests, not to mention the vicar. 

Ursula Burns decided to lie down with her harp Credit: Syco/Thames 

Ant McPartlin was back to his best

All eyes were on co-host Ant McPartlin as this series began, since he was returning from a year off due to addiction issues and a drink-driving conviction. It’s already like he’d never been away. 

He jived in the wings, plucked Ursula Burns’s harp, corpsed at the Kermit-alike singer, gasped at the knife-thrower and wrapped young Akshat Singh in a congratulatory bear-hug, while screen partner Declan Donnelley asked: “Can we keep him?”

It’s cockle-warming to see Ant back on form and the reunited duo doing what they do best: being the warmest, wittiest, most natural presenters on primetime TV. Howay, canny lads.

Middle-aged novelty acts shouldn’t have gone through

The show opened with sweet Wolverhampton married couple Dave ’n’ Marg, who started with some sedate Latin dance moves before throwing off their coats and launching into a jive to Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, complete with knicker flourish. 

It was endearing that they’d been married for 38 years and recently took up dancing after their daughter bought them some lessons as a gift. But are they anywhere near good enough for the live semi-finals, let alone the Royal Variety? It’s four nos from me. 

Did Margaret and Dave really deserve to get through? Credit: Syco/Thames

It was a similar story with waistcoat-clad throat singer Jayson Stilwell, whose bizarre rendition of When You Wish Upon a Star reduced Ant and Dec to hysterics, and was interrupted by Simon Cowell asking “Are you doing this as Kermit?” 

He wasn’t but the judges still put Stilwell through, advising him to dress as a frog next time. Instead he should have hopped it home. Not least because of that superfluous “y” in his name. 

Ponderous pace let this episode down

Britain’s Got Padding, more like. In an 80-minute show, we saw just nine acts. That’s nine minutes per performance. 

This episode often felt like it was big on ad breaks and filler, low on actual variety turns. Get on with it next time please, producers, or we’ll set the Easter Bunny on you.