Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Pantomime

Christmas Pantomime

‘Let’s go to the Christmas Pantomime!’ said Sara.

‘What’s on?’ I asked. Cinderella? Snow White?’

‘No,’ said Sara. ‘Its called the Trial of Father Christmas.’

‘At the Lusaka Playhouse?’

‘No,’ she sighed, ‘the Theatre Club died years ago. Nowadays all the theatrical entertainment is staged at Kamwala Magistrates Court.

And so it was that, at 9 hours on Christmas Eve, we were sitting on a hard bench, squeezed in with the expectant crowd, waiting for the fun to begin. Finally the magistrate arrived and took his place on the bench. ‘Bring in the prisoners,’ he commanded, as into the dock filed the three accused: Father Christmas, little Kafupi Mupupu, and lastly the mighty Sir Dread Membo, editor of the Daily Blast.

‘Hurray!’ we all cheered.

‘This is the last episode of this Christmas Pantomime,’ announced the magistrate.

‘Booo!’ we all shouted.

‘This series has been running for seven years,’ he continued, ‘and in this last episode it is my duty to read the final judgments which will conclude this long-running Trial of Father Christmas.’

‘Stand up, Father Christmas!’ ordered the clerk of the court.

‘Father Christmas,’ said the magistrate sternly. ‘You are charged with neglecting your duty of distributing presents to poor children. Instead you have spent all your time in Shoprite, selling expensive toys to rich parents. I find you guilty and sentence you to…’

As he was talking, the pantomime villain slithered like a snake behind the magistrate. ‘Look behind you!’ we all shouted.

‘Who’s he?’ I asked Sara.

‘That’s the evil Minister of Injustice,’ said Sara. ‘He exerts his corrupt influence by moving around the stage, hissing into the actor’s ears, in order to put wicked words into their mouths.’

As the snake finished whispering, the magistrate continued, ‘…I sentence you to visit Mfuwe with a truck load of expensive presents, and to give all of them to the rich little children staying in the royal suite at Chiwelewele Lodge.’

‘Booo!’ we all shouted.

‘Stand up Kafupi Mupupu!’ ordered the clerk of the court.

‘Kafupi Mupupu,’ said the magistrate with a forbidding frown, ‘Father Christmas has been let off lightly because you are the real culprit. You are charged with theft by public servant, in that you used your position as king to steal all of Santa’s toys, thereby depriving all poor children…’

‘It was the policy of my government that the rich should get richer and the poor should get poorer,’ said cheeky Kafupi.

‘Silence during the reading of the judgment!’ shouted the magistrate angrily. ‘You also stole Santa’s toy factory at the North Pole and sold it to the Chinese, and then roasted his eight reindeer for a Christmas Feast at State House. Therefore I find you guilty and sentence you to…’

But again the snake appeared and hissed into the magistrate’s ear.

‘Booo!’ we all shouted.

‘However,’ said the magistrate, ‘I note the evidence that you have a long record as a rotten little common thief, starting from long before you became king. The evidence therefore strongly suggests that you stole these toys in your long-term substantive capacity as a common thief, and not in your temporary capacity as king. Therefore I find you not guilty of theft by public servant, and acquit you of all charges.’

Immediately the Director of Prosecutions rose to his feet. ‘Your Honour, I give notice of appeal against…’

But already the evil snake has slithered behind the Director of Prosecutions. ‘Look out!’ we all shouted. ‘Behind you!’ But we were too late. The snake had already sunk his fangs into the ear of the hapless Director of Prosecutions.’

‘Correction, Your Honour,’ squealed the Director of Prosecutions, ‘I give notice that the state will not appeal, and may I congratulate you on your excellent judgment!’

‘Stand up Sir Dread Membo!’ ordered the clerk of the court.

‘Hooray!’ we all cheered.

‘Sir Dread Membo,’ said the magistrate grimly. ‘You have been charged with contempt of court, in that you wrote an editorial explaining why both evidence and law pointed clearly to the guilt of King Kafupi in stealing toys from Father Christmas.’

‘And I was right,’ said Sir Dread.

‘That’s the problem,’ sighed the magistrate sadly. ‘It is against the law for a newspaper to influence a magistrate! That was why I had to find Kafupi innocent, just to show that I hadn’t been influenced by your explanation of his guilt!’

‘Then the error was yours and not mine,’ said Sir Dread.

But the dreaded snake was rising up behind the magistrate’s ear. ‘Behind you!’ we all shouted. Too late! The magistrate’s ear was already full of the snake’s poison!

‘The magistrate’s voice now changed to a very severe tone. ‘Dread Membo, you are also charged with the further offence of assuming the position of editor without having been appointed by the Minister of Injustice.’

‘There is no such requirement in law,’ said Sir Dread, calmly.

‘Quite right,’ said the magistrate. ‘Therefore this farce has been extended for another episode. So come back next Christmas, after we’ve changed the law, and then we’ll find you guilty!’

‘Booo!’ we all shouted.

‘Don’t worry,’ Sara laughed as we walked out of the theatre, ‘we’re going to change the cast long before the next episode!’

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