I’ve been musing these last few weeks about Covid19. Masks. 'Social ‘this and social that.’ Politics. Health. Daily briefings: Do this and Don’t do that. Etc. Etc. But I’ve been musing especially about Masks! The masks which have become a fashion statement as well as a good earner for some! Masks which have come to define so many of us. Masks which have already become a sort of secular version of the hijab, for both men and women.
All this got me thinking about the funny community comedy theatre of C16th Europe: ‘Commedia dell’arte.’ We need a new version of this theatrical tradition for 2021. One for amateurs of all ages to join in with – with the help and support of as many professional actors as possible.
This kind of theatre broke-down all kinds of social distancing by bringing people of all backgrounds together. It highlighted the importance of ‘the street’ or the community in people’s lives. It celebrated life. It celebrated humour.
We urgently need this kind of ‘Comedy’ as a powerful creative tool for a national catharsis. To this end I am asking creative children and grown-ups to join me in launching a new N.H S. A National Healing through Humour Strategy.
I’m inviting health-professionals, business people, actors, writers, religious leaders and politicians to support this initiative.
Together we can make sure that a Mask of Apathy doesn’t become an integral part of national life.
Individuals and families, communities, schools, streets, youth groups, etc, produce your own over-the-top characters and masks. Adapt existing masks or better still make them from paper mache: funny ones, honest ones, sad ones, happy ones and scary ones. Let masks help you tell your own Covid19 story. Let masks help you get back to your own ‘normality.’
This is also an ideal opportunity for many to develop the creative skills they might only use in private, as well as involving existing Arts & Crafts people in their own wider community.
Your mask may be an original creation. Scary! Then again, it might be based on a TV, film or mythical character that has empowered you at this time in your life. It may be based on your favourite – or not so favourite – politician. It might be based on your own grotesque monster. Scary!
Teachers and healers, story-tellers and artists are ideally placed to help and encourage all age-groups to deal positively with their own ‘demons’ – and believe me, there’s plenty of those around at the moment.
I’m suggesting three stages for our post C19 national catharsis:
1. Making the masks. Communities can even arrange competitions in order to help celebrate some of the masks it has created.
2. Performing the masks and their narrative on street corners, shopping centres, places of worship, make-shift theatres if none are available etc. This is when an army of actors – professional and amateur – can get involved with groups to help them with their performances. Remember, many actors are healers, both individual and communal. And some actors also need our communal support at this time.
3 A ‘Bonfire of Masks’ festival at the end of the year, when individuals, groups and communities can finally let-go of their C19 selves and watch them literally go-up-in-smoke. (A small percentage of masks can be set-aside and preserved in community archives, schools etc, as a record of a challenging time in our history).
In the original ‘Commedia dell arte,’ only women actors were allowed to perform without masks. Only they were allowed to show their own beautiful faces. While many of the original Italian ‘Comedy’ masks were truly grotesque, we appear to have made the act of covering our beautiful faces into something equally grotesque.
Our infants, children and young people deserve better.
Many of the original ‘Comedy’ actors wore masks in order to deceive and manipulate. We need masks – albeit on a temporary basis - to let honesty and humour back into our lives. Mass masks to help us let-go of our inner monsters.
The late Italian actor, Dario Fo, once said; “With comedy I can search for the profound.” With a ‘National Humour Strategy’ we can search for, and discover, once more, the profundity of every human face.
The beauty of the original face with which everyone of us was born.
Please. Help me in setting-up a new N.H.S. And let’s get it done asap …
A much-needed National Healing through Humour Strategy (NHHS).
Geraint ap Iorwerth