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Sunday 13 October 2013

Sunday Rest: tableau.

Is tableau really a horrible word?

It's quite gluey, and the spelling isn't easy, but there is a chance that the mixture of disappointment and horrified disbelief this word evokes in me stems, as so often, from a childhood trauma.

The thing is, I was tricked. I was told we were going to see a performance in which several old friends of the family were involved.

Now, naturally this appealed to me not at all. I'd seen them too often, their wrinkles filled in with Max Factor, carolling away lustily in some gay chorus.

My protests were stilled, however, when I was informed that one of my own friends was also to feature in the evening's entertainment, as, if I remember correctly, a water carrier.

This didn't sound much of a part, but obviously a lot of fun can be had with a large pot of water, and so I allowed myself to be dragged along quite hopefully.

Well, we arrived, found our seats, waited for ages, and then at last the curtain rose on a crowded scene of, as I recall, Biblical-era peasants. It was all rather colourful. So I settled down to wait for the action to start.

Well, I waited. And waited...

...and then after a few long minutes of watching all these people pretending to be statues the curtain fell again.

What? I demanded of my parents. What the...

Shhh! my parents said.

A long rustling interval. The curtain rising again on another crowded and slightly wobbly scene...

...and the curtain falling on it again.

It is still a matter of absolute outrage to me that I should have been dragged along to spend a whole evening watching a whole load of people doing absolutely nothing.

And it is still a matter of wonder to me that for weeks afterwards we were still having to tell old friends of the family that they'd been very good at it.

The way you held that jug, Sarah...


While I'm here, I might as well mention that a semantic tableau is a way of proving whether or not a set of statements is true. You do it by drawing a diagram.

And I can't say that sounds a barrel of laughs, either.

Word Not To Use Today: tableau. This word is French. The full description of the kind of entertainment inflicted on me above is tableau vivant, which means, laughably, living picture.


  1. When my daughter was around 10, they did a tableau concert of sorts at her school.
    They would freeze in a middle of a scene, and then resume after about 30 seconds.
    It was very entertaining to watch them 'freeze'.
    Some were very good at it, others, well, not so good.
    But they all had fun.
    Way more fun than watching Sarah holding a jug! :)

    1. I think it's a bit like a doughnut: good fun as long as the hole isn't the only bit you have.


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