Friday, January 14, 2011

You Were Real Surreal, Man

We'd just finished dinner when the doorbell rang. George got up to answer it, and Andrew and I earwigged from the dining room. It was Kevin, from two doors down, dropping by to politely decline the invitation to the parish panto, pleading illness of some kind on his wife’s behalf. “What a BASTARD!” we muttered, though Kevin is patently not. He’s just smarter than we are.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the night. George’s warm, sharp and sprightly company and an “adequate” dinner (his word, not mine). A bizarre, surreal theatrical experience in the parish hall. My words, not theirs.

I’d say that it started well enough, but really it was rum from the get-go. Halfway through the third act, a troupe of little boys dressed as dancing bears appeared on stage and began a bizarre meerkattish routine to the sound of some chundering pop music. “What’s happening here now? What are those fellows, do you think?” asked George. “I honestly have no idea” I said, completely bewildered “I thought this was about pirates”. “I’d have them as penguins” he said. I didn’t really know what to do with that, so I stayed quiet til the interval.

The interval was perhaps the most uncomfortable part of the show. The Reverend, who should by rights be playing the baddie said George (and who am I to question church pantomime etiquette?) was instead playing the keyboard. I wondered if he got it as a Christmas present. He certainly hadn’t been playing it long. He launched into a version of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody with a ska backbeat, presumably provided by of the “demo” buttons on his Casio. George was nodding along, or maybe just nodding to friends and neighbours in the audience. I sat stock still, smiling in terror, hoping to fuck nobody would try to talk to me. “I’m going to the loo” Andrew said. “Fuck you, don’t leave me!” I hissed through gritted teeth. The Reverend segued with some effort and not a little irony into The Police’s Sending Out An SOS. George introduced me to a parishioner or two and complimented them on their children’s performances before filling me in on who they were and what they were about. “She married this fellow” he said, pointing to the warm and happy-looking blonde he’d just introduced me to “and almost a year to the day later he sent her a fax to say that he wouldn’t be coming home anymore”. Quite the cautionary tale for the modern married woman. I scanned the crowd in search of my husband and checked my text messages for news of his absconding.

He came back, though the people sitting behind us didn’t. “What BASTARDS!” we muttered. I don’t know if they really are or not. Perhaps I should have asked George. The second half resumed and we were once again immersed in a world of fantasy so fantastic that it felt like hallucination. Some squaws danced for a crone to a techno remix of Whigfield’s Saturday Night and Andrew said “I think I’ve gone mad, Ted”. A large man dressed head to toe in a lurid green velour crocodile suit bantered with a rat and George leaned over again and asked “who’s this fellow, now?” I riffled through the programme to find his name before realising that George was trying to identify his species rather than his bloodline. Zoological confusion must run in the family, I think, remembering a walk in the Phoenix Park with Andrew some months back. “Look at the bunnies!” he’d said, pointing to some Yorkshire Terriers.

The performance finished with a singalong, as I assume all pantomimes must. Andrew sang along, the promise of sweets for the winning side swelling his vocal cords. We didn’t win, but the pirates did a grushy anyway and the night ended in a terrifying hail of applause and Cadbury’s Roses. “Silly entertainment!” said George on the way home, and we agreed. We dropped him off, stuck on Sedaris’ Front Row Center With Thaddeus Bristol and laughed all the way home.

6 comments:

Andrew said...

A more than adequate account, but just a couple of things to clarify:

1. The effete children dancing like meerkats were, in fact, dressed as lions and tigers. Not bears. Zoological confusion may be catching.

2. Father Dougal's famous line, as so aptly appropriated by me, is "I'm going mad, Ted."

Singing at the end of the night felt well worth it when I was stuffing fudge into my maw.

I'll leave it to a lesser wit to make a "Bet you weren't the only one packing fudge there" style joke.

Radge said...

'Bet you weren't the only one packing fudge there' style comment.

Tim Footman said...

When Buttons/Dick/Wishee-Washee said "oh no it isn't", was it?

Rosie said...

it isn't in my notes, Tim. yes, i took notes. i felt kinda bad about it til i remembered a story about Beckett taking notes at a funeral and thought well, if it was good enough for him...

sadly, my notes read "gay teddy bears".

Conan Drumm said...

Had it a name, this theatrical mash-up of Grotowski and the Commedia?

I read "terrifying hail of applause" as a mass exhalation of relief.

Rosie said...

no names, Conan. they might track me down and ask me to review next year's effort.