On my mind

Llanelli Star - - Letters - With Gra­ham Davies

AS the pan­tomime season draws near it is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate that such a quin­tes­sen­tial Bri­tish tra­di­tion, which no­body un­der­stands in Europe, is be­ing played out on the na­tional stage.

Brex­erella (sub­ti­tled “Ja­cob and the Hedgestalk”) pro­vides a cathar­tic clearout at the end of the year for a po­lit­i­cal elite that has en­ter­tained us with com­edy, danc­ing, slap­stick, jokes, farce, fable, fast scenery changes, pos­tur­ing, role-chang­ing and back-stab­bing, all es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents of panto and now, it seems, of na­tional pol­i­tics.

Some peo­ple watch­ing be­mused from the stalls are feel­ing a lit­tle marginalis­ed and fed up with the tra­di­tional role of hoot­ing, boo­ing and hiss­ing from a dis­tance. In the best tra­di­tion of pan­tomime, many want more au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

How­ever, they don’t want to shout, laugh, throw jibes and jump up and down like jack in the boxes in the West­min­ster pro­duc­tion; they want a vote on what the prin­ci­pal char­ac­ter is of­fer­ing, if any­one knows. Hav­ing vis­ited both the Welsh and Scottish As­sem­blies I would love to es­cort a group of grunt­ing and guf­faw­ing MPs to show them what re­spect, ma­tu­rity and grav­i­tas is.

Iron­i­cally, pan­tomime as we know it to­day seems to have come out of Europe, from the Ital­ian street the­atre of the Com­me­dia dell’arte in the 16th cen­tury. Set in mar­ket places and fair­grounds, cen­tre stage was com­edy and phys­i­cal­ity.

Oth­ers sug­gest that it has links to the Tu­dor court cus­tom of ap­point­ing a Lord of Mis­rule who was re­spon­si­ble for ar­rang­ing and di­rect­ing all Christmas entertainm­ent, in­clud­ing pro­ces­sions, plays, row­di­ness and em­bar­rass­ing be­hav­iour and the “feast of fools”. I leave you to make any mean­ing­ful par­al­lels but not mean­ing­ful votes.

It seems in Brex­erella the pan­tomime shout of “it’s be­hind you” needs to be re­placed by “it’s be­neath you” for some dames and vil­lains. Boo.

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