Bring the family! Words: Steve Cramer
f you take the filth and fascism out of panto. there‘s
not much left to see. Already you'll know that I‘m
about to go into one of those (post)postmodern (re)readings that (fuck) you off. btit wait. These tales have shown a resilience that has exhausted many historical contexts. so their folk tale origins must be significant. They awaken a deeply disturbing primalin in us. appealing to an unconscious atayism that makes them attractive to our dark side. You don't believe me'.’ Read on.
Now. if only l)r Freud had known of the Czech folk tale that became .Iaek and the Beanstalk. we might now be speaking freely of the Jack Complex. As the hearty boy we‘ll see in this ye;tt“s King‘s lidinburgh panto grows into adolescence. he trades the female. pre pubescent symbol of the milk cow for the masculine fertility symbol of beans. As a result. he notes considerable changes in his beanstalk (surely I don‘t need to explain this one) and when he puts it to use. he scores with the female/mother symbol of the golden eggs. But he has to overcome the giant father figure. who he symbolically castrates by cutting off his beanstalk at the base. A nasty piece of work. btit it earns Jack the 'loye‘ of his mother. This is a tale of 'natural‘ sexuality. the repressed sexualised desire for the mother. You‘re not aware of it. mate'.’ Well. of course you‘re not. it‘s unconscious. stupid.
But other forms of sexuality are not so tolerated in panto. Take the gay—bashing Peter Pan. the product of a self-hating closet-bound Scot. You can enjoy his self- mutilation at Dundee Rep. I know he‘s usually played by a girl these days. but he’s called Peter. for (‘hrist's sake. and we only cast a girl to distract from the homophobic content. Peter. is of course unable to ftilfill Wendy‘s need of a ‘natural‘ boy-girl relationship. and is in the end abandaned in favour of a ‘normal‘ marriage. Peter is left in the outcast land of
70 THE LIST 9/ Nov-1 1 Der: 2003
Once again the uglyiibloodthirst, sexually repessive pant season is upon us.
IN NAZI PROPAGANDA, SLEEPING BEA U TY SAW HITLER REPRESENTED AS THE PRINCE
.\'eyerneyer (a symbolic declaration of the taboo status of his sexuality). hanging about with ‘fairies‘. and other boys who'ye ‘fallen from the pram‘ of heterosexual orthodoxy. A tragic figure. he is.
A more celebratory approach to gayness can be found in Die/t ll'lii'tti'iigtuii. on at the Whitehall. across town from Peter. Based on the true story of the London mayor and probable lover of Richard ll. there's always an added piquancy to the cry of ‘he's behind you' in this panto. lior all that though. there‘s the enforced marriage (which also happened historically) to the daughter of Fit/warren. and the consequent misogynistic subtext. l)ick lits Warren better than you think. and his resentment of his sexual orthodoxy leads him to use pussy as an object of \‘lOlCllL‘C and fear against his worst enemies.
But the misogynism and sexual repressions of other pantos are nothing to that Mother Goose-stepping fascist beast. Sleeping Beauty. at the King‘s. (ilasgow. I know you‘ll argue (won’t you?) that it’s actually about female adolescent rites of passage. whereby penetration (the spindle) leads eyentually to awakening (the kiss) of dormant sexuality (sleep). but actually it's dreadful Nazism. l‘requently used by the .\'a/i propaganda machine in the 30s. this tale saw llitler represented as a prince. awakening the sleeping beauty of the Aryan i'n/k of (iermany against Jewish. communist and gay eyils. The racial purity themes of Show ll'liite and ('iiulere/lu can also be seen this (‘hristinas in Scotland. but not. alarmingly. the anti racist Beauty and the Beast. What does this tell its about current world affairs'.’ Maybe I'll just head for a modern ('hristmas show like Stewart Paterson‘s 'I'lie l’ri'm-ess and the (hilt/iii. (iis‘ a (ioblin at the Lyceum. is what I say.
See listings for details of a panto near you.
Re: Treading The Boards
By the time you read this, it seems likely that an announcement will have been made by the SAC on the future of the beleaguered 7:84 company. Rumours are centring on either a full. or partial withdrawal of core funding at this week's meeting of the SAC. There's no doubt that 7:84 has had its problems over the last few years both in terms of internal morale and some of its work. But is this the time to be effectively closing down Scotland's only purpose-built political theatre company? It would seem that at the most politically conscious period for a couple of decades. the arts catincn wish to retreat from issues that audiences might well wish to discuss.
Whispers spoke with Chris Barter. chair of 7 :84 on Monday about what looks like a crisis that threatens the very future of the company. wondering whether the long delay in appointing new artistic director Lorenzo Mele might have contributed to the problem. 'Weli. we were in full consultation With the SAC as core funders throughout that process. they were very aware of the situation. What seems to be ironic is the fact that just as we've appointed Lorenzo. and come through With a new vision of our work. we reach this point. But as no deciSion has been announced. it's hard to comment further.’
Barter points to 7:84's valuable outreach and education work as SOiiiething that has contributed substantially to Scottish local communities. A recent grant of Lottery money for working with yOung offenders seems at odds with the seeming intention to cut the company's core funding.
Whispers wonders if the core funding is Cut. where precisely the funding Wlll go. This leads to two questions key to the issue. 1. Will the money be used to fund another political theatre company. at a time when such work is badly needed? 2. Will the money be used to build up the infrastructure of the existing Scottish theatre. or be diverted. by circuitous means. to the planned National theatre? Watch this space.
7:84’s Can’t Pay? Won'fiPay