The trouble with being a Phantomime is that one has to exude a certain image in order to succeed in accomplishing even the most trivial of despotic plans.
This is the opening sentence of 'Crawford's Encyclopaedia of Phantomiming - A Definitive Guide' which has been essential bedtime reading for the Phantomime of the Trompe L'Oeil Theatre ever since he decided to rock the theatre world, oh, about 10 days ago. So important is this tome that he has put aside his other essential bedtime reading material of 'How To Catch a Snake,' 'Lacrosse for Laughs,' and an unauthorised biography of Count Duckula in favour of a) mastering the whole Phantomime gig and b) world domination.
And he's not the quickest of readers, either.
So, having worked his way through the A's - Artistry, Archways and Aardvark, and the B's - Balcony, Backstage and Ballet - he is now on the C's - Casting, Chandelier and Costume. He reads...
'Costume is probably one of the most important, yet confusing aspects of the Phantomime persona. In order to succeed as a Phantomime, garb must be neither too strict nor too flowing (see footnote re: the Calamity of the Flapping Cape 1927, The Pfapfel Streudel Theatre, Austria.) Sartorial elegance is encouraged. Pointy shoes are not.'
The Phantomime glances down at his feet. 'That's a bit disappointing,' he says to himself. 'I rather like my pointy shoes. Good for impaling mushrooms on early morning sojourns into the countryside. Still, needs must,' and he kicks them off and continues his reading, ignoring the fact he has just impaled his favourite boudoir cushion in the shape of a flamingo to the wall.
'Natural fabrics allow the Phantomime to ooze his true nature,' continues the Encyclopaedia. 'Think velvet, silk, wool from the rare angora sheep of the Pookie mountain range in Outer Innerhall.'
The Phantomime stops reading at this point. There is something about the word 'ooze' that makes him feel ever so slightly nauseous. He takes a sip of his lemon and ginger tea, a little nibble of his multi-seeded Ryvita crispbread, and soldiers on.
'The Phantomime must also consider carefully his colour palette. The nature of his work demands a powerful, yet subtle range of hues. Of course, one cannot go wrong with black yet one must also consider the nature of shadow and depth of darkness in the wings and underground passages of the theatre. One wants to blend in to avoid detection, but not vanish completely into oblivion (see footnote re: 'Whatever Happened to Gareth Gates, Pop Idol 2000 and something or other.)
The Phantomime nods. He stands and gazes at his reflection in the mirror on his wardrobe door. 'Maybe the acid lemon waistcoat and day-glo orange cummerbund are a little ill-advised,' he says. 'But I think I can get away with the cravat printed with tiny chihuahuas. Just.'
There is a knock on the door. It is Dame Hamlet. She is carrying a massive cardboard box.
'Kenneth,' she says, 'the Yodelling people have just delivered this. At least, if you can call chucking it over the back fence and into a puddle 'delivering.'
'Ah!' says Kenneth. 'My new Phantomime costume. Just in time for my first mystical appearance.'
Dame Hamlet lets out a cynical harumph, and not just because she's over-indulged in the brussel sprouts at dinner time. 'Why can't you get a proper job,' she says. 'Accounting, maybe - or dog grooming. You liked that dog grooming job you had, remember? What was the name of that poodle with the poo-balls?'
'Mother!' says the Phantomime. 'Do you not realise I am bound for greater things? My Fate is beyond the confining remits of end-of-year tax returns and detangling matted fur...'
'But the skills are so interchangeable,' says Dame Hamlet. 'How are you going to save for a pension and a Ford Focus doing this ridiculous Phantomiming?'
The Phantomime drew back his shoulders so they were both at the same height. 'I AM the PHANTOMIME!!' he roared, well, roared as loudly as someone with a bit of a cough can roar.
Dame Hamlet rolls her eyes and tuts. 'Don't take that tone with me, young man,' she says. 'And don't be too long with that parcel. Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. Cauliflower cheese and hoisin duck fritters.' And she sweeps from the room in all her velour lounge suit glory.
The Phantomime watches her go with a dismissive curl upon his lips. Actually, it is a stray piece of multi-seed Ryvita, but I'm not going to tell him. Are you?
'How am I supposed to fulfil my ceative genius in these circumstances?' he mutters under his breath. But once he has opened his parcel and seen the contents therein, he trots down to his cauliflower cheese and duck fritters a much happier Phantomime.
('What part of a duck are its fritters?' whispers Primrose from the behind the safety of the safety curtain.
'Trust me, you don't want to know,' says Mrs Miggins.
'And why are there people hiding behind our sofa eating sausage rolls and mince pies and quaffing mulled wine?' says Primrose.
Mrs Miggins shrugs. 'Surfeit of madness, I think,' says she.)