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The Jabbing Actor does panto – oh yes he does!


IT’S pantomime time, and TCW Defending Freedom has heard once again from the leading thespian in his field, the ‘Jabbing Actor’ Erasmus Demosthenes Hepplewhite.

One regrets to report that opportunities for crisis actors have recently been more infrequent than one would have desired. After my bravura performances as a Covid victim during the past two years, the role of someone suffering from a flu-like cold or tickly cough would be something of a comedown. Consider, if you will, dear Larry Olivier having played Hamlet at the National. Suddenly, he is required to do a commercial for incontinence pads. How do you think he would feel?

However, I am pleased to tell you that Irene, my agent, has a contact with a panjandrum high up in the Department of Lived Experience at the Department of Health. She has assured Irene that there are several deadly pandemics in the pipeline.

In my noble profession there is no time for introspection. The public demands that we take every opportunity to display our unique gifts. For the past few weeks, therefore, I have been thrilling the public with my performances in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Oxford. Sadly, it has meant that the gentlemen from Angola who arrived recently on the south coast will have to make do with an inferior delivery service for their Muamba and Kizaka.

The panto is sponsored by the local council. It boasts that it is the greenest and most diverse ever staged. On pain of a hefty fine, cast and audience members alike are required to travel to the theatre on foot, by bicycle or on public transport. The snacks are composed entirely of insects and the interval drinks have been provided by the city’s thriving vegan community.

The part of Widow Twankey was to be played by my friend Benny Cumberbatch but sadly he had to withdraw following a nasty accident when the magic carpet went haywire and took him a considerable distance in the direction of Banbury. David Walliams was prevailed upon to take his place but he had an unexpected call from Hollywood. Shortly before the date of his first rehearsal he announced that he had accepted a lucrative part in a new film called Predator. He is to play Donald Rumsfeld in a story about the frantic efforts of a rogue CIA agent to stop a drone from colliding with the Pentagon. 

Princess Jasmine was scheduled to be played by Cara Delevingne, but the council insisted that the part should be given to a member of the local trans community. A bricklayer formerly known as Dave Ramsbotham, but now goes by the name of Davina, Countess Fondo de Carneros, accepted the role.

I have the essential part of the Sultan’s assistant. When one devotes one’s life to the call of Thespis one becomes aware that there is no such thing as a minor role. I shall always remember the wisdom that dear, dear Dame Judi imparted to me when she came to Rada to present the Michael Caine Award for the Best Enunciation of the Word ‘Oi!’. ‘Darling boy, take my advice; when life gives you lemons, slice them up and pop them in your gin and tonic. Be a sweetie and find some butter for this malt loaf. It’s terribly dry.’

Like many in my profession I look forward to the day when the boffins declare the arrival of the next terrifying pandemic, and three wise men stand enveloped in gloom and solemnity behind the podiums in Downing Street. 

Be reassured, Erasmus Demosthenes Hepplewhite stands ready to don the garb of a distressed parent, a diseased pensioner, or a harassed doctor, to do whatever is required to put the fear of God into the hearts of the British public.

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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