BBC Radio 4:Catherine Pepinster - 23/12/2017


By now many of you will have attended staple events of the Christmas season – the carol service and the school Nativity play. But there’s another event that is just as traditional at this time of year and that’s the pantomime.

Britain is the capital of panto. Nowhere else are there so many produced at Christmas, from am dram versions in a village hall to glossy ones starring soap opera stars.

The ingredients are always the same: slapstick humour, comedy routines, music and dancing, based around fairy stories, be it Cinderella or Puss in Boots. At first it seems a world away from the profound story of Christ’s birth, but I’m not so sure.

Pantomime is essentially a morality tale of good triumphing over evil. And there’s dramatic tension: we know who the baddy is, and we warn the hero, with yells of he’s behind you. It’s the same dramatic tension found in the Bible’s Book of Job, when Job thinks his suffering is down to God, but the reader knows that it’s due to the force of evil. You want to shout to Job about Satan; “he’s behind you”.

But above all, panto is entirely appropriate for Christmas because of what the novelist and Christian apologist G.K.Chesterton called the literature of joy. Joy, said Chesterton, is humanity’s reason for existing. He saw literature, then, which celebrated joy as the most important form of the art, and of all the literature of joy, the one most worthy of reverence is farce especially, he said, its wilder version: pantomime. Its sheer exuberance is there to delight us at the most joyful time of year, celebration of Christ’s birth.

At the other end of the theatrical spectrum is a West End play that seems to me also just right for Christmas. The Ferryman, by Jez Butterworth, has won countless plaudits from the CRItics. There’s humour, yes, but this is no family show, no farce. It’s a tale of family secrets, and lives on an Irish farm haunted by the IRA.

An unusual aspect of the Ferryman is that it features a real, live baby on stage. Not a doll, but a gurgling, tiny infant who by his presence serves to highlight what is all around him – the venality, sinfulness, and traumas of life.

The child in the manger in Bethlehem was, in the words of one hymn, a helpless babe too. For Christians, God became man, and as a baby allowed himself to be the essence of vulnerability, thus fully identifying with humanity. The child in the manger, like the child in Butterworth’s play, represents love, is love. That is a moment for exuberant joy, just as panto is. Happy Christmas!

来自:VOA英语网 文章地址: