1990s >> 1998 >> no-1131-november-1998

Enter the Clowns – Stage Left

As the Labour Party circus continues its UK tour in Blackpool it has been able to showcase old favourites not seen under the spotlights for years. First out – stumbling from the old performers entrance – comes the TUC pantomime horse, fresh from a run at the Tribune Theatre. Dazed and confused, it provides endless laughter as the front section tries to go in a completely different direction to the back, in the end falling over itself to please.

Cross-eyed and aimless, it is hampered in its attempt to find the New performers entrance by the clowns, who enter stage Left. Led by Mr Benn, the clowns (Red Ken, Northern Arthur, Tony Trot and Ted Trot) desperately try to climb on top of the pantomime horse, the better to steer it in their chosen direction. But the pantomime horse is so stubborn and confused it never listens to a word they say. “Demand the 35 hour week now!” yells, Arthur, reciting one of his favourite comedy lines – but all the pantomime horse does in response is a big comedy steaming mess in all the sawdust on the floor. How the children – who have never seen it before – laugh uproariously!

But the clowns – who have played to many packed audiences in the past – aren’t finished yet. Mr Benn and the boys rush out to the wings where they pick up big red fire buckets, full of water to throw at the horse so it might come to its senses. In the mad scramble to reach it first, they try to barge one another out of the way. Tony and Ted, now too old for such antics, stand and scream like maniacs at one another. How stark raving mad they appear to everyone – but harmless with it! By now Ken, who is nearer to the slumbering pantomime horse than the others, manages to throw his fire bucket full of water all over it, so as to wake it up. But the bucket is not full of water – it is full of confetti! At this point the other clowns hit Ken over the head with comedy mallets until the big red fire engine arrives and takes them all away, bells ringing and horn tooting.

The audience was delighted – for them it was a real trip down memory lane. So successful was the performance that it is going to be restaged next year and probably the year after that too, with some new clowns called Liz and Mark. The owners of the circus, Mr Blair and Mr Mandelson, said they were happy with how things turned out as it probably meant that profits would be up, all in all, especially for Mr Sainsbury who did the catering.

The only sad note was the man at the back who left disgruntled, saying that it was the same performance they had been trotting out years ago and that it hadn’t even been funny then.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, November 1998)