Greenwich Night Pageant (3) Act II

Phew. Just squeaked back into my seat in time, bag of boiled sweets in one hand, cup of Mazawattee in the other. The guy behind me gave me a black look as I squeezed in. I offered him a sherbet lemon. He declined. Huh. Some people…

So. We’ve been feasting our senses here tonight at the Greenwich Night Pageant, having travelled back in time to 1933. We’ve hugely enjoyed the pomp and glory of Act I and we’re just waiting for the next tableau to roll out before our eyes. This one looks a bit grim. It’s entitled The Tragic King, so I’m not expecting much in the way of laughs. Hope it doesn’t go on too long.

Ah – here we go. The announcer’s speaking…

“Somber and rich, the skies
Great glooms and starry plains
Gently the night wind sights
Else a vast silence reigns” etc. etc.

Aha, here come Charles I and his lady wife, attended by multiple gentlemen and ladies of the court. They have young Charles II with them and all is lovely. But what’s this? A ballet! And The Tempest at that. Stormy times are ahead and no mistake, guv’nor. Cavaliers and roundheads march about the stage while the band plays Cavalier songs.

I root around the bag for a rhubarb & custard. The man behind me coughs in an annoyed fashion. A grim bell starts to toll and the announcer speak sonorously:

That thence the Royal actor borne
The tragic scaffold might adorn
While round the armed bands
Did clap their bloody hands” etc. etc.

Cor. I shuffle forward in my seat to get a better view, but they’re not going to actually show the royal decapitation. We just get a bunch of women in black and a snow effect. What a swizz. A horseman gallops into view and announces the king’s death. A woman faints, clearly enjoying her fifteen seconds of fame.

Sundry psalms are sung while The Bad GuysTM ransack the palace.

I don’t quite get what happens next. The urchins of the town gradually take over the roundheads singing rousing Cavalier songs until they take over. There’s a slightly muddled bit where all the people who haven’t had parts yet mill around, playing tinkers, peddlers, jugglers, merry-andrews (whatever they are) and “all the wandering gipsy crowd…”

Comedy stuff goes on. All very colourful and great fun. I suck three acid drops and a bullseye. I’m not getting this at all, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

We are treated to a marvellous morris dance, which sets the scene for that inexplicable character General Monk. For the purposes of this pageant, he’s a Royalist through and through and saves the day. We’re treated to lots of marching and silhouetted pikemen.

Huzzah! Huzzah! King Charles II is back! And history seems to be back on course.

That bullseye was a mistake. Now everything tastes of aniseed. I’m going to nip out and get a cup of tea to try to clear my mouth.

Act III is intriguingly called ‘Pudding Time.’ If I’m going to manage pudding on top of all that whitebait, tea and sweeties, I’ll need to psych-up. Try to contain your excitement. See you tomorrow for a fete galante, a trumpet voluntary and George II’s birthday…


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