I spent last night at the theatre and was unexpectedly pleasantly surprised – as well as being amused in ways I had thoroughly expected.
A local theatre group was putting on The Vicar of Dibley and a family friend was in the cast, so attendance was obligatory. I was dreading it, to be honest.
The combination of “am dram” and an audience of small town conservatives is never a winning combination for the likes of me. When we saw the bishop going in as an honoured guest (joined, we later learnt, by his fellow colonial klingon, the new Governor*) my pessimism increased. When we entered the theatre itself and saw a sea of white, blue-rinsed or balding heads poking out of hideous, homely knitwear my heart sank further.
But as it happened, the experience was enjoyable. Coincidentally, yesterday I started a book by the acerbic David Mamet in which he noted that if the script is good enough, people will enjoy a local amateur live production almost as much as a professional one with top ranking stars. But if the script stinks, then however many millions you throw away on car chases, explosions and special effects your Hollywood blockbuster is forgotten within a month by all but a few spotty, adolescent male low achievers.
And so it was with this production. We laughed at all the scripted jokes, and didn’t find ourselves sniggering at mistakes.
But after the Brexit disaster, something else struck me. The play expounds a Blairite mix of liberal Christianity and politics. Urban lady vicar comes to rural backwater parish, initial culture clash, frantic comedic goings on before decency finally wins because even dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries are human and love their families. Brian Rix goes all New Labour, sort of thing.
It has obvious Manx parallels, and what was also glaringly obvious is that it was played to an audience mix of ageing born-and-bred yokels and Brit white-flighters, almost all of whom worry about “too many foreigners”, mistrust anyone who can read and write and, given the chance, would have voted for Brexit.
So, do I go along with all this Blairite positivism and believe that, eventually, love and human decency will overcome even the explosion of hatred and village idiocy that is Brexit?
Maybe in the long term we can all try and hope. Meanwhile I take cheap, short term compensation by mocking an audience to dumb to realise that they ARE Dibley Parish Council, and thus the butt of all the jokes they paid to laugh at.
* Incidentally, I have only just noticed that “colonial” contains “colon”, which offers up another interpretation of the term and explains a lot.