Monday, December 21, 2020


A mention in a newspaper article this morning reminded me of our family tradition, when I was growing up, of going up to London's West End for a theater event. There was always Peter Pan, of course, with Tinkerbell and the pirates and the family of boys who lived underground. And the crocodile, and the ticking clock. Magical. But there were also the pantomimes, with British humor at its most raucous and absurd. They were mostly spoofs on fairy tales--Cindarella, Red Riding Hood--and the main antagonist, the villain or the antihero clown, was invariably a man dolled up in outrageous drag. We children must have missed it in all the antics and the slapstick humor, but the adults must surely have been seeing it quite differently than we children, having endless fun with the coarse, bawdy humor and the (to me now obvious) sexual overtones.

It seems to me that what we're living through today is a kind of nightmare pantomime. Everything has the same air of unreality. Everything is wildly exaggerated, a Goon Show enacted in real life. The lead character has all the appearance of an overblown clown, with his protruding belly, his ridiculous hairdo, his overlong red ties, his absurd behavior and his outrageous dialogue. Trouble is, it's not being acted out on the stage for the benefit of a rapt and hugely enteratined audience. It's happening in real life, and there are real consequences to this melodrama. People are truly suffering as a result of his behavior; they have nothing to keep them "rolling in the aisles."

Post-war London needed a good laugh. We need one now. But now I long for the curtain to come down on this endless pantomime. There will be no applause.

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