24 January 2014


Tom Edden as Fagin
On Wednesday evening, Shirley and I went to The Crucible Theatre to see a production of Lionel Bart's "Oliver". In front of us, there were two rows of Muslim schoolgirls in their obligatory headscarves - which they kept on even though they were indoors under warm theatre lighting. Where in the Koran does it insist that Muslim girls should wear headscarves when they are out and about or am I being Islamophobic?

Anyway -  "Oliver". Frances had given us two tickets for Christmas and the show was a delight. It's amazing what a group of human beings can do in the theatre. From absolutely nothing, they plan and plot and rehearse, make contacts, inject new ideas, apply make-up, add music and lighting - bringing it all together with a magical kind of energy and shared vision.

"Oliver" is a fine musical with several strong and memorable songs. It has already passed the test of time. And it has a special resonance for me because in 1982 when I was a young English teacher at Rowlinson School in south Sheffield, I was selected to play the part of the dark and menacing Bill Sikes in the annual school production. It was a role I relished for it seemed entirely in tune with my fearsome disposition:-

Strong men tremble when they hear it!
They've got cause enough to fear it!
It's much blacker than they smear it!
Nobody mentions...
My name!

But the star of Wednesday night's "Oliver" was not Bill Sikes, Nancy or even soppy little Oliver Twist himself but Fagin played by Tom Edden. He was brilliant and his rendition of "Reviewing the Situation" was truly memorable as he danced and strutted semitically around the stage - making each action serve the song - so thoroughly "into" his role that it wasn't like acting at all. Marvellous.

Lord knows what the Muslim girls thought of it all as they filed out - still in their headscarves. I have a natural antipathy towards any kind of religious garb and I wondered if their daughters and grand-daughters will still be clinging to that inherited medieval creed in years to come - still in their headscarves. I hope not.


  1. You just know that with their heads all wrapped, evil ideas that the rest of us have can't get through. I resent being seen as an evil influence. If you don't like the people around you, stay in your own country. Oh what? Don't like them either?

  2. The only passages that I can find in a translated Qu'ran that mentions the covering of women are these.

    "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty......And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms...." (Quran 24:30,31).

    "O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that they should be known and not molested" (Quran 33:59).

    Would I wear such coverings even if I was a believer? Absolutely not! Muslim men of power require women from the beginning of their puberty until death to wear the hijab. They preach that it is for their modesty and protection and safety. Balderdash, I say!!! It is to keep women as second class persons and to keep fathers, brothers, uncles, and husbands in charge of all aspects of the lives of girls and women. I wish they would, instead, teach boys and men that they may look upon a woman's face or hair or body without automatically thinking that they need to rape or perpetrate violence upon these women.

    In saying all this, I must and do respect those women who CHOOSE the hijab as a garment of modesty and as a symbol of their faith. Choice is the operative word regarding this issue as in many other issues.

    1. Mama Thyme...I doubt that those girls I saw really had "choice". Social and family pressure mean it is extremely hard to break with the norm.

  3. I mean no disrespect toward you, Pudding, but -- your obvious Islamophobia regarding the Muslim schoolgirls aside -- "he danced and strutted semitically"?

    How does one do that, exactly? What are the signs of dancing and strutting semitically? Wearing a yarmulke? A star of David on the sleeve? I'd really like to know.

    Making remarks about females wearing headscarves pales in comparison to your not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitism.

    Is there anyone you like besides natives of Yorkshire and perhaps inhabitants of Bangkok and certain islands in the Pacific?

    My rant is ended.

    1. Isn't fagin flamboyantly Jewish?

    2. Mr Plague regarding my very deliberate and measured reference to Fagin, please see John Gray's comment above. Lionel Bart's Fagin and indeed Dickens's Fagin are to a large extent caricatures of The Jew in exile. The dance involved obvious reference to the expressive Hasidic-style of dancing common at Jewish weddings.

      Regarding the accusation of "not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitism", I see this as a very distasteful joke. I went to high school with several Jewish boys, played rugby and cricket with them, laughed with them, visited their homes and of course I love Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I am most definitely not anti-Semitic in any shape or form sir and I am astonished that you would even think such a thing.

      With regard to your rather insulting question concerning who I like, may I say that I take each man or woman as I find them irrespective of nationhood, wealth, ethnicity or religion. I don't like to generalise in such matters but could I just say I have met many affable Americans and equally some American assholes. The same is true with my own breed. There are some lovely Yorkshire people but also some despicable fools. However, on the whole I like to think that most people have goodness inside them and if you mine deeply enough you will find treasure.

      My response is ended.

    3. Can't say I found this post even slightly anti- Semitic !! It's strange the way some people interpret things.
      Agree about the Muslim dress but hope that education and the huge numbers living amongst us will change the willingness of the women to conform.
      Glad you had a nice night.

    4. I take you at your word that you are not anti-Semitic, and as I said at the beginning, I meant no disrespect toward you. But since my mother was Jewish I am probably a bit hyper-sensitive. I do prefer the sentence in your comment, "The dance involved obvious reference to the expressive Hasidic-style of dancing common at Jewish weddings" over the one in the main post, "[H]e danced and strutted semitically around the stage."

      You did make me laugh with "[O]f course I love Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen."

  4. Well......I will steer clear of everything except the crucible itself....I do so miss the theatre....I practically lived there for years....

    1. I think I used to see you huddled near the entrance under a holey blanket with your scraggy black dog. Occasionally, I tossed you coins..

  5. It's been so long that I've last seen a play at the theatre that I can't even remember what it was. Somehow, after my late teens, I stopped going to the theatre and focused more on opera and ballet, which I still love but go to see nowhere nearly as often as I'd like.
    Your description of "Oliver" made me want to go to the theatre again. Maybe I'll have a look at the Spielplan later today.

    1. ARIAN - I am delighted that my review has stirred you - to perhaps visit a theatre once again. I hope you will soon find a performance that attracts you. I know that I should make the effort to go rather more than I do. We must support regional theatres or they will surely die.

  6. Anonymous11:44 am

    Young British women, usually educated ones that are independent, visit the theatre etc, deliberately wear headscarves as an act of defiance towards islamaphobia that is rife amongst British society and most of the world.

    Jihadism hasn't just created problems for us wasps, it has Muslims more.

    Good on them for wearing what they want. In a multi cultural country like Britain, despite the hate the right wing media whips up, the tolerance Brits have is our only lasting example to the rest of the world. Which is a good job because our upper classes, followed by the merchant classes caused all the problems in the first place.

    1. One again thank you for your interesting response disv2002. Your take on things is always well-considered and thought-provoking.

  7. And was the food, glorious food, Halal?

  8. Of course it was kosher!


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