With a plot straight from the pages of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, there have been all the usual pantomime jokes, but it seems that no-one is laughing.
Buccaneer Andreas 'Hook' Whittam Smith has crossed swords with Banker Jonathan Ruffer-Pan in a feast of ducking a diving, with cries of "Oh yes it is!" and "Oh not it isn't!" over a £15 million pound deal for the famous Zurburan paintings.
In the background Andrew 'Smee' Brown has played the conscientious side-kick whose pedigree in selling the Octavia Hill Estates down the river established him as the indispensable batman for the sword-wielding Captain.
According to Jonathan Ruffer, first the deal was on - then it wasn't. Promises were quickly made, and were as quickly broken. With so many twists and turns, poor Ruffer has been constantly having to watch his back with the audience crying "He's behind you!" And in the end, the whole deal has fallen flat with tales of good eggs gone bad, and a decidedly unpleasant smell.
For those who have dealt with the Church Commissioners before, this is nothing new. The Captain and his side-kick have been running the good ship Ecclesiastica like their own private fiefdom for some time as Jonathan Ruffer points out in his letter to the Church Times. A combination of economic necessity, business confidentiality and complex legal winds have enabled them to tack against the wind of public opinion more than once in recent years. It is not up to the Church of England how the Commissioners conduct their business. Bishops are powerless, General Synod can only 'take note' of the Commissioners activities, and the church at large has to pick up the moral tab.
But this time, it would seem, when the music stopped the Commissioners have been left holding the baby and lost £15m in the process. All that is missing is a Pantomime Dame - but then with all the Church of England clerics in their black and purple cassock dresses, perhaps there is no need for one.
So the Pantomime has turned into Tragedy with no-one smiling, not least the people of Bishops Auckland whose pride and joy is once again up for grabs to the highest bidder. And this time it is the Banker who has come first in the ethical league table with the church falling some way behind.