Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The comedy of menace

THE St Clement's arts soiree took an entertaining excursion into "the comedy of menace" this week with a reading of Harold Pinter's play, The Dumb Waiter.

Reading were former drama prof Pieter Scholtz; Roger Knowles, who produced a Cockney accent worthy of the Mile End Road; and the glamorous Wanda Hennig.

Pinter was a playwright/screenwriter who combined minimalism with atmosphere. In The Dumb Waiter, two hitmen are holed up in Birmingham, waiting for the call to assassinate somebody.

Yet these grisly characters could hardly be more ordinary as they chatter and argue about football, the contents of a newspaper, making tea and the correct terminology for putting the kettle on the gas ring.

They are increasingly puzzled by exotic food orders that keep arriving in their room via a dumb waiter – a sort of mini-lift in the wall, as if they were a kitchen.

Nothing is explained, everything left hanging in the air. It's very funny, yet within an atmosphere of unrealised menace. Vintage Pinter. The London West End comes to the Berea.

More comedy/menace

ANOTHER comedy of menace is being played out in Britain as the government and the Tory party are split wide open over the Brexit issue.

Hardline Brexiteer William Rees-Mogg (who epitomises the Eton-Oxford toff set) has openly threatened a backbench mutiny if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to deliver a clean break with the EU. It's an astonishing and unprecedented challenge.

He's been openly supported by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, so the split goes right up to the cabinet. And this is just as astonishing and unprecedented.

Meanwhile, an absolutely clean break with the EU seems impossible. Quite apart from a company like Airbus saying it will leave the UK in the case of non-agreement with the EU over Brexit – killing 14 000 highly skilled jobs plus another 130 000 in the support industry - there's the issue of the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border.

This "soft" border – no immigration control, no customs - is vital to both Irelands. It's vital to the Good Friday Agreement, which has brought peace. It's been calculated that the use of digital technology to enforce "hard" customs arrangements on an otherwise soft border would cost £20 billion (R362bn) a year. That's a bit of a pickle

Now just imagine the Bullingdon Club – former Oxford hearties who specialise in trashing classy restaurants late at night – leading a lemming rush off the White Cliffs of Dover – hard Brexit.

It provides a good sense of the comedy of menace. The thing could have been scripted by Harold Pinter.

Health services

PEOPLE in Britain support the National Health Service – which has been going for 70 years – yet almost 70% are doubtful whether it can continue in its present form, according to a poll by Sky News.

It would be interesting to know how many people in this country believe the National Health Insurance system envisaged by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has a hope of even getting off the ground.

Don't mess

IT'S not a good idea to hand-feed sharks. You could end up as food for the crocodiles.

In Dugong Bay, north-west Australia, Melissa Brunning, 34, was hand-feeding nurse sharks bits of fish from a yacht that was being circled by them, according to Sky News.

Nurse sharks are pretty harmless. But one, measuring more than 2m in length, sucked at her right index finger "like a Hoover" and pulled her into the water.

She screamed and her companions on the yacht pulled her out of the water without too much harm. Just as well – Dugong Bay is also inhabited by saltwater crocodiles that can grow to 7m in length and weigh more than a ton.

You don't mess with nature.



DADDY takes his little boy to the zoo for a treat.

When they get home, Mummy asks: "Did you have a lovely time? Did you have fun? Did you see the animals?"

"Oh, yes! And Daddy was so happy. One of the animals came in at 30 to 1."

Last word

On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does.

Will Rogers

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