This week in The Review we consider pantomime season, deliberate imperfections in Islamic art and footballing manoeuvres named after animals.
We firstly, and very briefly, shall consider the pantomime we all watched at Bournemouth on Tuesday evening. Football is drama, in both the classic, Aristotelian sense and in its modern form. We all know this. There are characters (apart from Michael Owen, who doesn’t have one). There is a plot. There is a theme (“Arsenal kicking themselves in the Jingle Bells once again”). There is dialogue. There is convention. There is a genre (“Farce”) and there is certainly an audience.
Pantomime developed from the 16th century commedia dell’arte tradition and is normally based on an age-old fairy or folk tale. It employs as its conventions songs, jokes, slapstick and dance, all of which were in plentiful supply at Bournemouth. Early in the “performance” we had plenty of comedy and a healthy dose of slapstick as our villains, Evil Giant Eddie Howe’s Army overwhelmed Arsenal early on when Mr. Daniels cut inside Harry Bell (“He’s behind you!”).
Our defenders, playing the part of the Pantomime Horse, were nowhere to be seen. Mr. Wilson (“boooooo!” scored a penalty to extend Bournemouth’s lead and Mr. Fraser then induced the slapstick with a goal through Harry the Helmet’s legs. Cur much heart booing from the stalls from the travelling faithful. All seemed lost!
To the interval then, whereupon drinks are traditionally taken, if ordered in sufficient time from the theatre bar. No gin and tonics here though, as Mr. Windsor served up trebles of PULL YOUR BLOODY SOCKS UP all round.
At the beginning of Part Two, enter stage left our Principal Boy, Whizzbang Saunders. Dressed in tightly fitting attire, and played by a young lady, he came flying in at the far post to at least get a consolation. The classic Act 2 – Act 3 turnaround. Could this rag tag bunch of multi-millionaires defy the odds and come back? Normally a hitherto minor character will discover inner strength and save the day. Enter the Principal Girl, Lady Luke Perry and Her Shorts of a Proper Length. See how sweetly she strikes the ball (“Oooh! Aah!”) We are at 2-3, with only moments until carriages.
Enter… The Dame of all people! Oliver Goring-Hildred with a noggin-bobbler for three a piece! Cue an overly elaborate celebration, and the orchestra strikes up. What a load of cobblers. Oh, for a 1-0 Pinteresque win now and again.
The aforementioned celebration referred to A Very Good Goal scored against Crystal Palace in the South London Derby at the weekend. I wish not to enter a debate about whether The Scropion Kick was the Best Ever, or In The Top Five, or Goal of the Season, or Goal of the Century, or As Good as That Similar Goal for Manchester United Which Was Offside. It was a beautiful thing to witness, and its imperfections make it even better.
According to Quranic art of calligraphy and illumination by Martin Lings, “All Islamic artists make a deliberate error in their work on the grounds that only God Is perfect.”
The very fact that the cross to Number 12 was in the wrong place elevates the goal from merely wonderful to exceptional. Then the slight ricochet off the bottom of the bar emphasises how close the wondrous piece of balletic improvisation was to missing the goal entirely. And this from a player still derided by certain elements of the support. He may run like a fat chap on his first run of the year in which he turns his life around, but can’t ‘alf score ‘em when he wants. Like a scorpion.
It may now be timely to consider other famous Arsenal footballing feats named after animals. Some you may recall, some you may not.
CLIFF BASTIN’S POLECAT KICK
A vicious, swerving shot scored by the Arsenal legend when he hadn’t bathed for a month.
WEE ALEC JAMES ELEPHANT KNEE
The Arsenal great had knees held together with copper telephone wire and bits of wire wool. This caused him a huge amount of pain every time he kneed the ball that he roared like an elephant.
ROBERT PIRES’S BADGER SCAMPER
One of our best ever, but his strange, shuffling run resembled the gait of a badger being chased through the woods by a Dachshund.
TED DRAKE’S BILLYGOAT HELLO
The high scoring Woolwich legend often greeted opposing defenders with a smart back kick to the shins.
WILF COPPING’S HONEY BADGER DEATH ATTACK
Which speaks for itself.
To the north then, and to a club which has achieved great things in the past, but sadly is now quite the spent force. Not Manchester United though; Preston North End.