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Not Quite There

Escape to (mostly British) humor

By: -Columnist
/ 05:06 AM April 29, 2018

I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed and missed British humor and satire until Vergel and I accepted the invitation from close friends, the Llamas couple, J.M. and Cleo, to watch “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” at the intimate Maybank Theatre at Bonifacio Global Center.

Feeling down and demoralized by the political situation, all four of us were transformed, finding ourselves laughing riotously from the moment the curtain rose until well after it had come down.

I’ve never been disappointed by our local theater productions. In fact, I’ve always been amazed at how well we do just about everything on the stage—act, sing, dance and, yes, sound British. Rachel Alejandro was a special standout. Her timing was impeccable, as though she had been a comedian all her life and not the serious actress and singer we knew her to be.

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The whole cast carried respectable credentials in both local and foreign theater. There were no small roles on that stage; each was a vital part of the whole play and was played in that precise sense. That’s probably why it was such a hit.

Perfect prescription

If the show is extended, I urge everyone who hasn’t seen it to go, catch it. We need to laugh at life, at ourselves, and our leaders, now and then, to let off steam, frustrations, and feelings of helplessness. “Spamalot” is the perfect prescription.

Of course, I cannot guarantee there will be no repercussions. These days one never knows when one might run afoul of the law and land in jail even before the authorities can decide what to charge one with. The worst part is, they seem to like to take their sweet time pondering it, and after deciding, change their minds.

It’s getting harder and harder to find something to smile about, let alone laugh about. But for two good hours the four of us did just that and felt recharged and invigorated, ready again to take real life outside.

The British, bless their hearts, can fearlessly laugh at anyone, including themselves and their royalty, at any time and place, and, for that, their history and character as a nation give writers plenty of material. I guess I’ve always been hooked on British humor, although, until “Spamalot,” I had quite forgotten the special feeling of satisfaction it gives—irreverent but not crude or base, and done in guaranteed freedom.

Royal personalities

And who do the British laugh about with particular delight, but their own royal personalities? It’s a tradition across the ages—from the days of King Richard and his Crusades to King Arthur and his knights and their lovely damsels, to Robin Hood and his gang to Churchill to the present-day royal court. I remember thoroughly enjoying Richard Armour’s literary savaging of Shakespeare.

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I remember, too, laughing to the point of tears watching British comedies on TV. “Fawlty Towers” comes to mind as a special tearjerker. It’s about an English hotel manager, Basil Fawlty, tortured by “that annoying section of the general public who insist on staying in hotels.” In a reversal of roles, it makes fun of the unsophisticated commoner. It gets funnier with the inclusion of a Mexican hotel employee in the cast.

Before that, there was “Black Adder,” starring Rowan Atkinson (today’s Mr. Bean), turning and twisting around Shakespeare’s elegant scripts.

With neither sentimental ties nor bragging rights to justify it, I have myself maintained a fascination for British royalty, perfect sitting ducks for British satires. I was brokenhearted for Princess Margaret. I cried when Diana died, and hated Camilla and Charles. To this day, I delight at every picture of Baby George and his sister, Charlotte. The young royals have become my own teleserye.

Kept away

Yet, for all that, I’ve never set foot in England. Each time I planned to visit London, I had been kept away by a royal wedding—Margaret’s, then Charles’ —and the resultant shortage in accommodations and difficulty in getting a flight booking. Prince Harry’s wedding in May is frustrating me again.

You could say I’m hung up on British royalty and tickled by British satire. I also couldn’t get enough of “Downton Abbey,” which ended all too soon. But I was thrilled enough to have seen the prim and proper ladies liberated from their corsets, so to speak, inside their royal bedrooms, where some very unroyal behavior went on just like in any other mortal’s.

Maggie Smith, in my opinion, stole every scene in every episode she was in. I particularly loved her; she was the embodiment of snooty British royalty who, by the tiniest, subtlest gesture, displayed how truly ridiculous and endearingly funny they could be, trapped as they were in their outmoded rules of behavior and further burdened by layer upon layer of clothing.

If we were anything like the British, our own president might seem a perfect target for caricature. But we are not and he is not. He is actually a walking, talking caricature begging to be set right.

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