Page 12 - The 15th Percy French Festival: French Awakenings
P. 12

we are in private audience with Queen Elizabeth I, at breakfast in the back
           parlour of Buckingham Palace! He begins by taking a swipe at the press,
           ‘I have been read ing the Dublin Evening Mail and The Telegraft, for some time
           back, and sorra one o’ me can get at the root o’ how things is going, for the
           leading articles is as contradictory as if the wor husband and wife’.  The play
           is laced with anachronism (Buckingham Palace was built a century later) and
           cynical contem po rary resonances. Again the court jester is having a !eld day
           in his regal setting.

           And remember, the role of the Jester, the Jester was a serious commentator,
           and in the royal court he had special privileges; he was allowed to talk out of
           turn, sing, mock, parody, and revile freely without being punished. The Jester
           was a fool who was allowed to tell the truth and the truth can come out in
           all forms and all sorts of ways and people can laugh, but it is deadly serious.
           And the irony of it is, someone with a greater role or higher ranking in the
           King’s court, could !nd himself hung for saying less. Indeed, in its original form
           the court jesting was the only channel through which tyranny could be con-
           fronted, through which wrongs could be addressed, and here at the Festival
           we would argue French did it for democ racy through his wide variety of writ -
           ings and especially in The Jarvey week by week.

           The Jester is the person to counter sycophancy, to counter  cultural acquies -
           cences, nominal privileges, and it is a very interesting time in Irish history to
           be writing and singing all this stu$. French also wrote comic operas and what
           is the comic opera but only a musical form of the Jester.

           ‘It would be wrong then to conclude that P.French was disinter ested in politics
           or the political challenges of the day, in fact he displayed a consistent interest
           in the larger questions of Irish history, Irish society, and the political life of the
           time–it was just that his take and approach were rather di$erent and such
           was French’s comic genius that they were misunderstood and mis inter preted
           as condescending and roguish’.

           The Jarvey failed, according to Dr Travers,
              ‘Partly because it did not have a receptive audience among the Catholic
              middle class who were increasingly dominating Irish life at the time;
              Percy French’s reception continued to be dog ged by a perception that
              he was a partisan and con de scend ing to the Irish, especially the strug -
              gling every day Irish man and woman. Which is regrettable as he had

     •&'•                                                FRENCH AWAKENINGS
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