Thursday, 18 December 2008

205: Jeremy Thorpe 23

“Entirely A Matter For You” by peter Cook
“The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, 29 and 30 June 1979

Although only performed for the final two dates of “The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, this monologue by Peter Cook is rightly acclaimed as one of the high spots of 20th century English satire. “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” was a benefit performance in aid of Amnesty International from 27-30 June 1979. Most of the Oxford and Cambridge-educated comedians of the last twenty years gathered to perform their greatest hits for charity. However, a review printed on the morning of the third performance by the “Daily Telegraph”asking where was the satire, stung Peter Cook into writing this stinging parody of Justice Cantley’s summation at the Thorpe Trial. Cook attacked Cantley’s obviously biased and systematic blackening of the prosecution witnesses, and the typical egotistical but cack-handed self-regard of a judge who finds he has the stage. The Trial had only concluded on the 22nd of June. In an age before constant 24 hour commentary on numerous multi-media platforms the case was still relatively fresh news, and Cook encapsulates a moment of outrage at Establishment privilege in the best immediate manner of live cabaret. An edited version of it was printed in the 6 June, 1979 edition of “Private Eye”. To cash in on its notoriety it was also released as a mini-disc “Here Comes the Judge”.

Cook’s performance of a clapped-out judge allows him to weave senile confusion and bigotry with his own distinctive wordplay. So the matter of homosexuality causes him to confuse “he”s with “she”s, “mr”s with “mrs”s, husband with wives, and impute effeminacy all over the place.

Peter Bessell becomes “Bex Bissell” a brand of vacuum cleaner. Cantley had described Bessell as “a humbug”.

Norman Scott becomes Norma confused with Norman St John Stevas, a Tory minister. Cantley described Scott as “a liar”, “a crook”, “a fraud”, “a sponger”, “a whiner”, “a parasite”. "Pink oboe" is supposedly a piece of slang from Glasgow donated by Billy Connolly who was one of the performers, although there is 1959 episode of "The Goons" entitled "The Spy, Or Who Is Pink Oboe?". “Chews pillows” refers to when Thorpe first sodomised Scott back in 1962 - it was so painful Scott had to bite down to stop himself shouting out. An occasional piece of graffiti from this time read “Norman bites pillows”. “Gleadle” is a very Peter Cook-type name, but he was indeed Scott’s physician for a while

Andrew is confused with Olivia Newton-John, a bland female pop singer of the time. Much of Cantley’s summing of Newton was devoted to damning him for his incompetence as an attempted murderer.

Jack Hayward = Haywire, and Nadir Dinshaw = Rickshaw and opportunity to use blatant racism to sway Cook’s fictional jury

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