Panto season is officially here. After the past few weeks of party dress rehearsals, yesterday the theatre came to town and we saw the full cast on stage for the first time since this General Election began. After all the posturing, posing, sloganeering and prevaricating, it was a pivotal day in this campaign.
As with every panto the main stars are often rather boring when compared to the jostling that goes on around the action, the sideshow as it were. Running to script, we had that in the form of last night’s ITV Leader’s Debate (in big gold letters and zoom camera angles, as if the format was decided before the news that the two principle leaders would not be attending).
Neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn came out particularly well from avoiding this curtain call. She looked as though she was afraid of entering into scenes she couldn’t command, while he looked as if he’d ducked out, scared of fluffing his opportunity to go for the big role.
So, it was back to the ‘other’ leaders. In past elections, these debates have allowed the minor parts to shine. Who can forget Nick Clegg’s Aladdinesque turn in 2010, which ended with a trip to Number 10? And again in 2015 when we had Nicola Sturgeon stealing the show and wowing us all with her commanding stage presence?
Last night nobody stole the show. Perhaps because we knew Nicola, Leanne and Caroline pretty well already and Tim, for all his attempts at decentness, looking down the lens and wide-eyed hope is not another Nick Clegg. Combined, they all did their upmost to ramp up the wicked and villainous qualities of Theresa May who, off stage, was the focus of a collective raspberry for having earlier in the day announced plans to ‘literally take food out of the mouths of children’.
As every parent of young children will know, comedy makes a panto bearable, and at the debate we got this in the form of the hapless panto villain Paul Nuttall, opting for a costume change from UKIP tweed to trader sharp suit, who was scolded up and down the stage by the others. He got all the laughs (unfortunately for Paul they weren’t with him) for making everything about immigration and committing the lamentable faux pas of calling Leanne Wood, Natalie.
In the true tradition of the panto, yesterday’s Manifesto matinee and the evening’s performance of the Leaders’ Debate left us all feeling rather drained and grubby and sighing nostalgically for that fantastic panto moment in Rhyl in 2001…
“He’s behind you!”
Luan de Burgh
Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.