Saint George and the Catalan marionette

Let’s have a Tozer Street!

A piece by “Arcadi Espada” in the Catalan supplement of El País recalls the crucial role of the Paraguay-born Briton, Harry Vernon Tozer (1902-99), in introducing proper marionette theatre to Barcelona in the 20s and 30s. He introduced classic British storylines like Punch and Judy and George and the Dragon to local audiences, echoing the borrowing of Catalonia’s nationalist San Jordi cult from the English in the 16th century.

This is not something that has gone without comment in England. According to Doug Camilli in a Montreal Gazette piece last year, Ken Purchase, MP for Wolverhampton North-East, once filed a motion denouncing St George:

“The legend of St. George and the dragon records that many working-class people were sacrificed to appease the dragon and that it was only when a royal person was to be sacrificed that St. George decided to act.”

He also criticizes George’s “divided loyalties” as he is also patron saint of Beirut, Catalonia, Lithuania, Malta, Palestine, Portugal and “many other countries.” Purchase says the country needs somebody better, “a national hero dedicated to a classless, secular England.”

I’ve read xeroxed and published (sorry, the local library has disappeared the book) scripts for the some of Tozer’s Catalan work–all of it swamped in dire copyright warnings to puppet pirates–and I’d be interested to know whether his Catalan George and dragon are actually direct translations of existing English plays or whether they changed in transit or on arrival. Whatever, it seems strange that a city that has named streets after an anarchist terrorist, a bad economist, and a man who at best can be described as a bloody fool, has not bestowed the same honour on Mr Tozer.

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