The tyranny of the small screen.
Have you ever been to a puppet show? I don’t mean a Punch and Judy at the beach, I mean a real, professional production. There is only one full-time professional puppet theatre in Ireland, that I am aware of, The Lambert Puppet Theatre based in Monkstown in Dublin.
When my contemporaries were children, living in the Republic of Ireland, the Lambert family dominated children’s programming. School-going children rushed home to watch Wanderley Wagon starring Eugene Lambert as O’Brien and a host of animal puppets. For tiny tots there was Bosco, a bizarre, androgynous squeaky-voiced, red-haired, squeaky-clean boy who lived in a box (bosca, in Irish) who thrilled pre-schoolers with tales of derring-do, naughty black crows and friendly ladybirds.
I missed all of this puppet-related mayhem. Living in Northern Ireland in the midst of the Troubles and keeping our Catholic heads down in the town of Portadown—birth-place of The Orange Order—we had no access to the (allegedly) papist, priest-ridden seditious programming offered by the Free State broadcaster. I had to make do with Mr Ben and Captain Pugwash; no sacrifice at all.
When the opportunity came to take my four children to see the Lambert show in The Moat Club in Naas, a scant ten minute drive from home, I hesitated. Today’s kids are so sophisticated, I told myself, so blasé, so horribly wordly-wise. They will scoff at the notion of a puppet show, Bosco will seem like a museum exhibit to them. Tickets only cost ten euro, but multiply that by the seven members of the family and you get quite an investment. Seventy euro would enter a lot of writing contests, I thought, just before I pressed the Confirm Purchase button.
Yesterday, the Moat Club was a pandemonium, a Babel, a rampage in a sweet-shop. I looked at my kids before the tiny curtain was raised, the two young girls vibrating with excitement on the edge of their seats, the two (slightly) older boys flung haphazard onto their pews with scowls on their faces. The muzak stopped, a tiny drumroll, the curtain inched upwards and 75 minutes of mayhem ensued. Screaming, roaring, clapping. “Oh no you didn’t!” “He’s behind you!” And laughing. Laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.
The children’s faces were lit up with a joyful glow, an innocent delight, a mischievous spirit of anarchy. Evil was vanquished. Good triumphed. Bosco finally found his little, lost egg (it was in his weetabix, apparently) and the Seven Dwarfs wished Snow White and her necrophiliac Prince Charming long life and happiness, as they rode off into the sunset.
And all around me, the tyranny of the small screen. Dads, Mums, Grandparents. Rummaging in their pockets. Checking their Facebook pages, writing emails, updating their statuses. “Yes, love, very funny, oh he’s very bold isn’t he…… hold on a minute pet…..this is important.”
Important? If it weren’t so sad, I’d have laughed.