Thought for the Day by Luke Verrall (St Michael’s)
If you’re feeling like you missed something this weekend just gone, you’re not alone… The second weekend of February each year is traditionally when many of us at St Michael’s step into frocks, don our yellow (or yellowed?!) tights, practise a cackle and limber-up those expressive eyebrows (they cater for all reactions!). For yes, it would usually be the St Michael’s Stage Group Pantomime! (Oh no it wouldn’t!.. Oh yes it would!).
The St Michael’s Panto is something that was started by Bill and Peggy Simpson over 50 years ago, and is now under the expert direction of Janet Lewis. The panto takes a ‘break’ every few years to give the cast and crew a bit of a rest, however a panto-less February 2021 was not on the cards, until Covid came along.
2021 need not be a year without some form of ‘pantomime’ though, for nature, and therefore God, is always putting on a show. I challenge you to adjust your settings for a more 4D experience and embrace the show beginning to unfold in your garden or a park as we head into spring. I tried this myself, and had some fun imagining how the story of ‘Cinderella’ could be told…
Our title character (Cinderella), a long-tailed tit (LT), daintily flits through the trees followed by an entourage of courtiers (winter flocks of long-tailed, blue and great tits) at her side. They chatter away and search for food to get them through the last of the winter days. She is a little careless though and her wicked stepmother, a magpie, is watching and seizes the opportunity to catch and lock her up at the top of the tallest tree around. Once hidden away, LT is treated as a servant and put to work by her ugly step-sisters, two more sinister magpies. They can be heard cackling away, rasping their commands at poor LT to clean up their nest. LT’s only friend and confidant, Buttons, is played by a red squirrel who is always racing around the tree trying to cheer her up with his acrobatics and positivity. Suddenly an invitation arrives, loudly announced by a Robin (Dandini), to Prince Goldfinch’s Ball! Excitement ensues, the magpies argue about which of their pilfered jewellery they’ll wear, and of course they tear-up LT’s invite.
LT is visited by a collared dove (Fairy Godmother) who turns an acorn into a coach and enlists six chaffinches to fly her to the ball. LT has a wonderful time but in her haste to leave by midnight, catches a wing between two twigs and leaves behind a delicate pink feather. A decree is sent out to find whomsoever the feather belongs to for Prince Goldfinch to marry, and the search begins. Prince Goldfinch and Robin Dandini scour the trees and bushes looking for the owner of the feather. They visit starlings, dunnocks, blackbirds, but to no avail. The bullfinches and chaffinches were close contenders with their pinky-buff chests, but it didn’t quite match. They made it to the top of the old tree, to the magpie’s lair, where they saw through the magpie’s trickery and found LT. Prince Goldfinch knew he had found his fly-away maiden and they lived happily ever after…
Whilst none of that is true, and very few of the above relationships would play out in reality, sometimes it is good to find an escape, make up a story, and enter another world, just for a short time. God and nature are always putting on a show, and at this time of year, with the trees bare, it is easier to watch wildlife. If you have the space and can feed the birds, that’s even better (now is a crucial time as the winter berries are running low and new leaves, shoots and insects are in short supply).
Have no fear though, the St Michael’s Pantomime will return when it is safe to do so (Oh no it won’t…Oh yes it will!) and I’m sure by then we’ll all be ready to see some outrageous hairstyles, big chorus numbers and notorious villains like Rumpelstiltskin!