Emily and Phoebe

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Puppet show

This year, the local council has been organising theatre shows for young kids at the town hall, and today it's my turn to take them to see a puppet extravaganza called "Nikos and the Wolf".

The whole thing is performed by two young women, one of them very pretty, and is full of inventive puppetry and performances that would undoubtedly work in a smaller space such as a classroom in front of a quiet and appreciative audience. Unfortunately, the performers don't seem to have the skills necessary for playing to a hall full of raucous five-year-olds: there is even infant heckling at one point, which they are quite unable to deal with, and Pretty Puppeteer looks on the verge of tears.

I can barely follow the plot what with all the tinies screeching at one another, but if I'm not mistaken it involves a donkey (called Nikos) and a wolf. The wolf has a friend who is a fox. I am not sure why the fox does not appear in the title, as he appears no less important to the plot than the wolf. Perhaps foxes don't make for good box office. Anyway, the fox and the wolf try to eat the donkey, he tricks them, and they don't. Eat him, that is. And that's it. There is a boat trip at one point. I'm not sure why.

The whole thing lasts about twenty minutes, and the very sparse smattering of applause at the end gives the performers a clue that the five euros a head we've paid to get in does not represent great value for money. The less pretty puppeteer, clearly fearing a mini-riot, suggests that all the children might like to come to the front of the hall and play some games with the puppets. This the children do, but it soon becomes clear that there is a Lord of the Flies situation developing, and that fox, donkey and wolf will not feature meaningfully in any further performances unless swift action is not taken, so they are hastily withdrawn.

Phoebe meanwhile has decided that she doesn't want to join in the puppet sacrifice. This is mainly because she has a streaming cold and I have to be on hand to wipe her nose. I hoist her up onto my shoulders and she strokes my hair as we stand watching.

Pretty Puppeteer looks over in our direction and I give her an encouraging smile. She smiles back at me. The children are all pretending to row boats on the floor (linking fairly tenuously to the performance, I feel, but it is keeping them quiet). I point out Emily to Phoebe, who continues to stroke my hair.

Is it now my imagination, or is Pretty Puppeteer paying more attention to me and Phoebe than to the rapidly-tiring oarspersons at her feet? It seems not. Ignoring the incipient mutterings of mutiny, she is very definitely looking at us and smiling. In all modesty, I should say that this is not an entirely unusual occurrence. When I have the kids with me, attention from women who are, if not actually out of my league [reminder to self: you married one], then certainly very attractive, increases exponentially. (I suspect that this last statement may not, strictly speaking, be true. Can there be an exponential increase from zero to anything?) Anyway, Pretty Puppeteer is unusually attractive, and this is quite an unexpected ego boost, so despite my aching shoulders I'm quite happy to keep Phoebe up there stroking my hair.

After about five minutes the fun and games on the floor come to an end, and Emily saunters over to us. Pretty Puppeteer is again looking in my direction and is now smiling quite broadly. Laughing, almost. I take Phoebe down from my shoulders. "Daa-aad!" Emily's tone of voice makes it clear that I have done something embarrassing. "Why did you let Phoebe mess up your hair like that? It's sticking up like a clown's. And it looks like it's got- oh my god, urgghhh, it has - you've got Phoebe's snot in your hair." Ah. On reflection it seems possible that Pretty Puppeteer's attention may have more to do with the mess Phoebe was making of my hair than my deviilish good looks. I hurriedly flatten down my sticky quiff with my hand, which I am am then forced to wipe on my trousers. Pretty Puppeteer and Less Pretty Puppeteer are watching me. And laughing. Oh yes. Most definitely laughing. I wipe Phoebe's nose and we leave. Quickly.


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