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Opinion • January 18 2004

Ghas-serhan tal-mohh

Pantomime, no worries no need to wait for an MADC production, Saviour Balzan explains why

It was twenty-seven years ago when I had seen my last Pantomime at the Manoel Theatre. At age thirteen I was already finding the jokes about hamalli and class somewhat unbearable. Then two weeks ago a kind invitation from MADC led me back to the pantomime. The game play has not changed, but then I said to myself to hell with it.
I enjoyed the Pantomime most especially because of the talented actor Chris Dingli.
One of the jibes in the pantomime referred to the advert that reappears on Super One TV with an Syrian turned Maltese promoting creams that instantly remove pains or make your breasts firmer or something to that effect.
His advertising prowess probably works wonders with the stupid, more so when he raps up his pantomime with the words "Ghas-serhan tal-mohh, Made in America."
The truth is that one need not venture to the Manoel to watch a pantomime.
As my late uncle used to exclaim in Maltese whenever he encountered mediocre happenings; "PantoMINA, killhe farsa."
The first case of real life pantomime, is the reportage of the Meinrad Calleja jury. Read one newspaper and you will get one angle to the proceedings, read another and you will get the complete opposite. There is no beating round the bush, on one side you have those that believe that Meinrad Calleja did it and then there are those who believe the opposite.
Much the same can be said about media reportage on the choice of a foreign minister. The suffering public has to endure carefully worded articles spun and cooked according to whims of the spin-doctors.
Behind the scenes, readers are unaware of the back stabbing and chess games played by those, who not only have vested interests, but are acting like pawns for individuals who are only interested in their own careers.
As we come closer to the issue of who will be the next leader of the Nationalist party or the next President, those who have much to gain or lose will take their ninja* script writers and fill the newspapers with stories that are aimed at influencing decision making at the very top. Anyone in the media business will know that certain names are linked to very well known spin-doctors.
The feeling of pantomime takes us on to another issue, the festivities to mark the 1 May, the day when Malta becomes a fully-fledged EU member. Now rumour has it that the tender for this money-making activity has attracted up to 15 tenderers. Some of the tender bids are joint efforts and others are not.
The news about the event is not who has tendered, although it is worth noting that the media house ‘Where’s Everybody,’ is also making a bid here. The real thing that has attracted my attention, was the idea of getting a rock star of some international fame to compose a musical piece for the 1 May celebrations.
Now as I fill in my tax assessment and VAT return, looking at me straight in the face at home on the sotto-specchio is my water and electricity bill, my telephone bill, my health insurance and a few parking tickets to pay. There are thousands of other people in the same boat, and we have all been asked to be careful with our spending and not to live beyond our means. So one will appreciate that when I learn that a rock star of ‘we do not want education’ fame may in fact be taking a chunk of my tax contribution to make some people’s bank accounts rosier after May, I can only say; "PantoMINA, pantoMINA, killhe farsa." And please give me Philip Vella as a composer any day.
The 1 May merits a national celebration, but it should reflect the country’s budget and solemn financial state and it must have a definite Maltese flavour. The same, I am sure will happen in Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Cyprus and all the other accession countries. On that memorable national day, they will not play UK rock tunes, but national folkloristic tunes and they will not eat Mac hamburgers, but Hungarian sausages, smoked Latvian herring, Slovenian wild boar or Cypriot pickled songbirds.
Perhaps what is really needed is one big Maltese party consonant with our national tastes! So give every Maltese one glass of red dry wine mixed with 7UP or simply a Kinnie and a large ftira with tuna, capers, olive oil, onions, salt and pepper would do. Of course accompanied by some noisy but colourful fireworks and some fanfare from all of Malta’s and Gozo’s brass band clubs and to wrap it up the national anthem. It would cost the government some Lm235,000 exclusive of VAT and would serve to make up for all the Christmas parties we missed and would have alienated us for a wee afternoon from the real world of pantomime.
*Ninja were trained killers selected from the lower illiterate classes in Japan

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