There’s dancing and chanting and donkeys on skates
Strange flaming robes and young girls spinning plates
An odd little boy with a bright red balloon
And a pack of wild dogs howling up at the moon
They’re all pointing at me, I just want to run
A knot in my stomach says this won’t be fun
“Dance!” boomed a voice from on high…
A low whirling kicked up from the floor in front of me and a wave of dust edged me further back into my seat. The low grey hum gave way to grinding gears and clanking metal as a huge platform rose up from the ground and towered over us.
My palms began to sweat as six ghost-like figures lined up on the edge of the raised plinth and took turns lighting their hand held torches one by one. Gently they began to sway from side to side, getting faster and more erratic, then darting in between each other like a collective of dervishes, careering round the tiny platform at an alarming rate… before leaping from the ledge with a swirl of togas, capes and spinning flames as they careered maniacally towards the ground.
As they lay there, crumpled and burning, a beat struck up from behind them. The broken bodies began to stretch and writhe to the rhythm. In an instant, they sprang up, patted out their flaming togas… and with blazing torches firmly levelled in my direction, began their slow advance.
Dear Partisans, in all of my 60 years I have never seen anything quite as bemusing as Shakespeare performed in French… nor have I ever been so on edge whilst watching a comedy. But, I guess I’m getting a tad ahead of myself as usual…
It has been well over a year since my wife Victoria and I decamped from our chateau in rural France to make a return to big city living. In that time we have played host to most of our family; two daughters, three sons, their wives, and our grandchildren… but have not had a full on family gathering for quite some time. With that in mind, we organised one back at our French chateau. An extravaganza if you will.
Our eldest daughter, Gigi, lives in Paris and – seeing as we would be using the French country house for the venue – decided that our first night together should be a masterpiece of French theatre: A brand new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I should at this stage point out that my daughter is a reasonably successful actress herself, and is usually well to be trusted in the organisation of such outings. On this occasion, this was not to be the case.
We took our seats in the front row, and for a play so often associated with bright scenery, woodland settings and opulent houses… the barren stage and lack of curtain was strangely disconcerting. However, they were great seats, and who am I to comment on the intricacies of set design and suchlike. Then, in somersaulted the cast followed by a noisy gunfight involving laser beams and spaceships. It lasted four hours with the interval. And none of it rhymed.
That said, it did set us up for one of the finest family holidays of all time. The pure awfulness of that first night brought us all together in a most fantastic way. We were united by the sheer ridiculousness of it all that it became a running joke for the entire vacation. By the time we were preparing to head back to London, our Midsummer Nightmare had almost become the highlight of the trip.
On arriving back home, however, my bonhomie vanished. For the past two weeks we had cut ourselves off. There was no TV, no modern day distractions, no charitable clubs devoted to defending the noble badger, no newspapers and no work… we entertained ourselves, took turns to cook and had the most drama free family gathering I can ever recall. It was bliss.
I was, therefore, astonished when I caught up with the news and discovered that Europe has apparently gone insane. 27% of the vote for UKIP, 25% for France’s Front National, and massive gains for the far right across the entire continent. I read news article after article. There was no mistake. This is real, and there seems to be no shame. People are actively taking to the streets of Paris and openly pledging their support for the far right cause. A lady who once went to court seeking to outlaw her party being labelled as fascist – and then lost – is now the most powerful woman in France. Will they soon cry “Liberté, Fraternité, Antisémite!” from the Paris roof tops?
Dear Partisans I am agog. What is going on? I feel like I have been off fiddling whilst Rome was aflame. Fab Farage now has a platform to yell from for the next year. Marine Le Pen is gathering her powers of darkness and could very well pose a serious challenge for the leadership of France… and over 40 far right parties are sending MEPs to Brussels; one of whom has an actual swastika tattoo.
Was nobody paying attention? Could nobody be bothered? It’s all beginning to smell a bit 1930s around here… and I’m starting to feel extremely motivated again. I may not have a vote, but by Jove, you’re about to see some action.
I’m no Howard Beale, but I’m madder than hell
There’s a pong in this land, a pre-World War II smell
Have we learned so little to open that door?
It’s time to yell: “We’ll not take this anymore!”