Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi

"Joey Grimaldi, the greatest clown of the 19th century, made his debut at the age of four in The Triumph of Mirth. The triumph was hard-won. His father, a fine and original clown himself, was a monster Dickens would have been proud to have invented, a savage brute (known as the Signor, but more generally referred to as Grim-All-Day) whose idea of training children for the theatre was to put them in the stocks or suspend them in a cage 40ft above the stage. He routinely beat his wife and terrified the household with his obsession with his own death. The devil had informed him in a dream that he would die on the first Friday of the month, whereafter the Signor kept vigil on that day, every month, in a room filled with clocks, gibbering till dawn. His favourite reading was The Uncertainty of Signs of Death; his dread of being buried alive led him to stipulate in his will that when he died his children should sever his head from his body, a task duly performed by his daughter, who kept a hand on the saw worked by the surgeon hired for the purpose."