Take your seats today for the third and climactic act of this three act pantomime starring Theresa May. “The Governess” was the tile given to this show only after other suggestions had been examined and rejected: these included: “The Stunt” and “The Art of Self-advertisement.”
Acts I and II were hugely enjoyable. The first contained the memorably comic scene in which Mrs May, with the assistance of the Department of Cliches and Political Hand-me downs, is seen composing several articles for publication in national newspapers. How we roared with laughter at her subtle articulation of “Let me be entirely clear.” Then came her side-splitting, “My first priority” – for which due credit was acknowledged in the programme to the Department of Tautologies and the EU Commission on Pleonasm.
In the second act, Mrs May pretended to be a serious politician – the prime minister, no less – and was seen giving an extended television interview. Our theatrical correspondent commented favourably: “This was the most brilliantly effective political satire we’ve seen since the days of that great comic actor Harold Wilson.”
I attended the dress – and what a dress! – rehearsal for today’s final act which begins in total darkness. In mock horror a disembodied voice calls out, “Now then boys and girls, what are the most terrifying words in the English language?”
At this point there was a palpable sense of unease and apprehension. Suddenly the stage was a fountain of light and Mrs May rose from a trapdoor in a gorgeous leopard skin leotard and answered: “Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help!”
I swear the audience laughter continued for all of five minutes.
There were some breath-taking moments of sheer bathos as when Mrs May began to sing the smash hit number “The Shared Society.” It began with the rising chromatic line in parody seriousness: “I’m going to do something about mental illness.” But yet again the tension was relieved quite hilariously as she went on to sing, “Oh no I’m not! I’ve already done that – when I said I want to make Brexit work for the Remainers!”
The rest of the act was the enumeration of all that Mrs May is going to do to make the country better and spread happiness. I won’t spoil it for you by going into details. “”(Actually, Mrs May didn’t go in for details either).
At the end I strolled into the green room which was crammed with theatrical journalists and literary people from the upmarket weeklies. Hieronymus Bosh from The Guardian interestingly denied that what we’d witnessed was a pantomime at all: “It was really a social comment piece – put me in mind here and there of Brecht, particularly in her evocative minimalist phrasing of “The Handouts Song “ and the rousing strains of “immigration, Immigration, Immigration” and its unforgettable refrain, “You ain’t seen nuffin’ yet!”
The Times Literary Supplement’s Jean-Paul Fartre seemed angered by Bosh’s remarks and he screamed back, “Social comment piece my arse! It was pure theatre of the absurd. Didn’t you get the Sam Beckett reference when the demon king character (Boris Johnson) tells her, “You can’t go on!” and Theresa slaps her leather trousers and replies, “I must go on! I’ll go on!”
The editor of The Tablet said, “What really did it for me was at the end of her moving song about all her magnificent achievements, the Theresa May-like-character vowed to make us all love one another and to abolish Original Sin.”
I ventured to ask, Where is the great lady, by the way?”
And the whole chorus erupted, “She’s behind you!”