What no Dick.....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 11 November 2020

The dawter told me to post pictures cos people dont open links, but all you have to do is copy and paste this link into your search engine - https://youtu.be/6fQYhaHngWg - and there I am in my early twenties doing what I do best, shouting.

It's a film about pantomime, made in the 70's from the BBC. There is no need for you to watch it, but Sybil the Soothsayer from Hollywierd, sent it to me, how he found it is a wonder. There's Mr. Jimmy Jewel, Mr. Bob Hoskins, Mr. David Rapperport and Mr. Campbell, all sadly resting in the green room in the sky, whilst the very lovely Zoe Wannamaker and me were the female contingent. There are others who joined in - some discredited and some unknown to me - but all of us 50 years younger.

I sat for an hour, in my dressing gown, gobsmacked that nearly half a century later I was watching my younger self on a lap top in my kitchen. Some memories, like last night's legumes, linger. I remembered Zoe and I standing in the wings being taught comic timing by the legendary Jimmy Jewel. He pushed us on after a count of three. Not three and a half, not four or two, but precisely three. We got the laugh.

Chris Langham, 'Harlequin', would travel to the theatre, on the Northern Line, with David Rapperport stuffed in his rucksack. The diminutive actor would shout from inside the bag confusing the passengers .

I got the gig after living in Newcastle where I was practising yoga, killing rats, making shepherd's pie, and waiting for my two writing partners to complete their award winning scripts. In the end the life of a pest controlling yogini took its toll and I travelled back home. My mother pushed me to call Ken Campbell who had been the very first director I'd worked with at Watford Palace Theatre. I resisted for a bit then picked up the receiver on the mustard coloured telephone under the stairs and twiddling with the ugly wire I waited for Campbell to answer the phone. When he picked up I feigned cool calmness.

"How do you fancy making a couple of films and touring Israel and Germany?" he asked.

"Yeah." I said my nonchalance belying my terror.

And so we made 'The History of Sadlers Wells' and the 'Story of pantomime.'

And for the next few months I hammered nails up my nose on the canals in Frankfurt, put ferrets down Sylvester McCoys trousers in Edinburgh. Cooked food in a wigwam at the Festival in a production of 'Stonehenge Kit the ancient brit in the end of the Woad." and locked myself in my digs away from inebriated actors who dipped their dangly bits in 'Dettol' to kill the germs from too many drunken assignations. So Trump wasn't the first to suggest using disinfectant.

We toured around Europe and when the money ran out we did moonlight flits from 2 star hotels. Standing on stage and calling on the public to give us a bed, or their keys, or both, saved our bacon. I didn't understand the ramifications of a bunch of keys being thrown at me from a male member of the audience, but I was young, and although I didn't know it at the time, good looking, or was it needy? But those geezers afforded me respite from a gang of mad men and offered me extraordinary accommodation from Amsterdam to Munich.

Watching myself listening and watching myself watching I cannot recall the costumes or makeup. Watching myself singing and acting I cannot recall the scenes. I know it happened because it's on celluloid and I've seen it with my own eyes, but the ripping yarn of my life has meant that some memories have been deleted to the trash can of my mind to make room for new experiences, after all you can't remember everything can you?

Ken Campbell set me off on a course of maverick adventures. Something our young cannot do at the moment. I took risks and had opportunity after opportunity, something our youths are missing out on.

I travelled and got paid for it; I worked with experienced professionals who taught me, trained me, and helped me in the art of theatrical communication, something that only a rare few are able to enjoy.

Looking back seems to be the order of our times, since the present is so chaotic and the future so uncertain. Trump's refusal to accept defeat is concomitant with his brazen game-show-persona. His type of cheap theatricality should be abhorred. And whilst I acknowledge that life is a game isn't the playing of it, fairly and bravely, the lesson for the next generation.

Watching my juvenile self, her whole life ahead of her, I would have urged her to be more courageous. I would have insisted she said, more often, to creeps, "No," but 'Yes' to her inner yearnings. If I had known then that the distance between then and now is like the blinking of an eye I would have encouraged her to jump more, knowing that the net would always appear. This year only a few pantomimes are being staged; how could we have known back then that the map of Britain, with all its fabulous theatres, would be redrawn. That a government, with it's fingers up it's arse, could have allowed actors, musicians, writers, stage designers, costume makers, a whole network of creatives, languish. It's hard to believe they dont care, but as so many of us are suffering from a lack of physical contact, from isolation, from something as simple as a trip to their local Repertory Theatre to watch a sparkly Pantomime, you you could be forgiven for thinking that our elected members, and I do mean flaccid members, are thoughtless, heartless, selfish individuals who know nothing of making our society healthy.

They have to be held to account because I think they are an assembly of dunces.

'Oh, no their not.'

'Oh yes they fucking are.'

Look behind you people.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At November 13, 2020 3:53 PM June wrote:

Oh Jeni how I so agree with you. Especially like you, thinking of my twenty year old self!
The past is a country you cannot visit, I believe it goes, that is the tragedy of life.
We had the best of times, so sad the young today do not.
Much love darling girl.
June x

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