Shifting images:
theatre, film and politics

Recent political events conjure up scenes from film and theatre

By Byron Toben

June is really busting out all over, not just as in the song from Carousel, which opened my last article, but in my head with the rapid-fire events of the past few days.

As I am, I hope, like Chekov, an observational viewer, I would like to share a few thoughts that went through my mind as Donald Trump, preceded by tear gas and rubber bullets to clear an avenue of peaceful rabble, walked across the street to hold high a black book, presumably a bible, to pose silently (!) for photos, before retreating back to the White House.

… a few thoughts that went through my mind as Donald Trump… walked across the street to hold high a black book, presumably a bible, to pose silently (!) for photos…

This triggered thoughts of Molière’s classic play Tartuffe wherein a hypocritical opportunist stressed his overt religiosity to his advantage. My unfettered mind then wondered what informative message could have been highlighted had that good book been opened?

Matthew is my favourite of the four gospels because he begins “in the beginning was the word” which, as a theatre reviewer on behalf of all playwrights, I heartily agree. Flipping through my digital copy, I came upon Matthew 6:5, part of the Sermon on the Mount, wherein Jesus advised:

“When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the street, that they may be seen by men.”

Stratford’s King Lear - WestmountMag.ca

Scene from King Lear – Image: courtesy of the Stratford Festival

My disorderly mind then flipped to the 1979 Monty Python film The Life of Brian, wherein, as Jesus was reciting this Sermon on a high mountain, a woman standing in the far back row shouted “Louder, louder.”

As these shifting images in my mind revolved around events in Washington, D.C, my rampant synapses then morphed into George Washington, the first president of the then infant United States, and recalled his comments back in 1790…

“Happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens…”

Sorry to digress so much, dear readers, but them’s my thoughts. Told you they were shifting.

I earlier had posted how Trump had been presaged in other famous plays:

Ibsen – Press as Enemy of the People.
Shakespeare – Actor Bottom as best player in any role in Midsummer’s Night Dream; dispatching rivals by Richard III; demanding flattery in King Lear.

Now to add Molière, as above, to the list. Any other suggestions?

Feature image: detail from the poster for F.W. Murnau’s film adaptation of Molière’s TartuffeBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.ca

Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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