Oh Shillings!

Original creative and critical writing by Scott Morris

Category: Plays

The Right to Protest is a Marvellous Thing

The Right to Protest is a Marvellous Thing

Advertisements

OEDIPUS, AGAIN.

Oedipus and Jocasta, hands joined. They are still, firm throughout. Apollo is frantic about
them.

Apollo You sowed the loins your father sowed – you spilled his blood too, if only your mother had spilled blood instead of spilling you, her husband.
Oedipus What do you mean?
Apollo The same wide harbour served you son and father both. Sometimes a jigsaw fits but that doesn’t mean it’s right – two pieces the same should never be pressed together.
Jocasta Nonsense, what are you saying, nonsense.
Oedipus I think we’ve found the Sphinx.
Apollo Mummy, daddy, son. Mummy, son, divided by daddy. The son subtracts daddy and adds himself to mummy. But son plus mummy equals a double daddy and a half son and a mummy too terrible to count.
Jocasta What do you mean?
Apollo Look to your children. They shall be cannibals, inbreds, deformed, rutting beasts. Have you counted the fingers on Antigone’s hands recently?
Oedipus What do you mean?
Jocasta Counting, nonsense.
Apollo There are laws, laws that can never be broken –
Oedipus Laws like love.
Apollo There are kinds of love.
Oedipus And the law respects all.
Apollo But when love does not respect its law it can only be lawless. Break apart, look away, don’t hold hands – someone might see. You have to learn this Oedipus, to be out of all of this. Break apart.
Oedipus What do you mean?

HALF A FRUITLESS HOUR: A Play (an extract)

ADA, a middle aged woman.

ENOCH, a man, in his early twenties.

Stage dark. The only thing illuminated is a grubby radio, downstage left. As the audience enters the auditorium, it is playing – crackly – the sound of elephants. This sound grows in volume and is combined with the noise of a herd moving. This lasts for over a minute. Finally, the noise stops (though the gentle sound of elephants chewing, groaning, yawning plays in the background throughout).

A dead, orange light suffuses the stage. It is dominated by colossal elephant legs, though the herd’s bodies are lost in the darkness. The stage is cluttered with broken bricks, fragments of buildings, the general waste of centuries. Two sacks, formed from plastic carrier bags – one empty, one containing a spherical object – rest downstage.

ADA sits centre-stage, clutching stomach, staring blankly into the audience. ENOCH is collapsed, seemingly asleep, downstage right.

ADA       And now the sun is coming down. How late it is. It is very late. The sun has gone up, disappeared, and now it’s back again. And not a clock to be found in this place. How long since the last clock? (no answer) We’re done here, my love. We should think about moving on. I mean, we should be giving it some real thought. It’s late, and quite soon it will be too late to do anything. There’s nothing for us here. (pause) If only it would rain. (pause) Trowels and pots and God knows. They’ve stopped over a gardening centre, or God knows. (pause) I’m hungry. We’re done, we must go. This is no time for sleeping, my love.

ENOCH I’m trying to sleep.

ADA       It’s late. We’re worse off than we were before, and can you remember. There’s nothing to be had and my stomach is in so much pain. I have been listening to it. Do you think you might hear, if it began to eat itself? Would your body let you in on that? (pause) Do you think –if you’re going to lie – that you could lie with your head across my stomach? If you put your ear to it, do you think you could tell me if it has started? (pause) I’m ever so hungry. (pause) I think we should move out. We should widen the search. (pause) You really should have slept on the journey, my love. There was plenty of time for sleeping then. Travelling is so completely exhausting, so completely boring. Could you not even manage a solitary wink? I can’t help myself. (pause) Please. Let’s go..

ENOCH Completely exhausting. Completely boring. I’d really rather not.

ADA       Don’t sulk now.

ENOCH I’m mourning.

ADA       You’re moping. (pause) I’m sorry. Let’s go. We need to see what else is out there. It’s all tubes and terracotta here. Look. Nothing to eat. I really am starving. You must be too. (pause) I’d be quite happy to go by myself, you know I would, but someone needs to carry the eye, and now there’s only the two of us-

ENOCH (sitting up) You truly are a disgusting, wicked woman. I am disgusted by you! Listen to yourself. I told you to listen to yourself.

ADA       I’m listening, my love.

ENOCH Good. That’s a start. Now let me sleep, woman. (he returns to his supine position. Three seconds. Sitting up) I am designating this a day of mourning. There is to be no work carried out today, do you hear me? Are you listening to me?

ADA       I’m listening, my love.

ENOCH There is to be only sleep and reflection and as little talking as we can manage. (pause) In fact, there is to be no talking. God knows we have had enough of that rubbish. (lies down)

ADA is still, head down, attempting reflection. She looks up, at the radio. She tiptoes across to it, turns down the volume. Returns to position, reattempts reflection. Winces. Moves across to the empty sack, made from plastic carrier bags. She tries to lift it without making much noise.

ENOCH (warning) Hmmmm.

ADA shoulders the sack. Moves to sack containing the eye. Attempts to lift, underestimates weight, it hits the floor with a sound.

ENOCH (jumping to feet) Oh you are a monster, you could hardly disgust me more if you tried!

ADA       I am sorry, my love.

ENOCH Oh you are callous, oh you are, and on top of it all, you cannot even allow a young man his sleep. Well, you shall not have a say when it comes to my tears, when they come, oh no. (sits far from her, back to her, face strained)

ADA       (pause) I don’t think that I have it in me to mourn, today.

ENOCH Oh yes, yes, you are callous, you are disgusting. You are a wrinkled and a heartless and a disgusting beast. You are a callous, fat elephant, for all I care. (pause) If you’re really hungry, eat what all the other elephants eat.

ADA       Concrete? Steel?

ENOCH I don’t care.

ADA       But my love, I shall smash my teeth. It doesn’t bear thinking about. (pause) There is nothing else here. I’ve even been through the droppings, there’s not a thing for us. And it’s getting ever so late. The sun’s come, gone, come back again, it will go again soon. And my stomach. (pause) One less won’t make much of a difference, by this point.

ENOCH (rising, violent) One less, you say! Oh very devious, very cunning, I applaud how disgustingly cunning you can be at times, woman. Give your hands a good clap while you’re washing them clean. (moves to stereo, turns up volume).

ADA       (moves to stereo, turns down volume) I’m sorry, my love. But we haven’t even a body to bury.

ENOCH God knows you’d eat it!

ADA       (winces) My stomach.

ENOCH A subject to sensual appetite, disgusting.

ADA       (pause) Take it from me. Take it from your elders. There used to be churches and incense and pyramids and undertakers and epitaphs. I would not dispute that, I promise you, my love, but nowadays – (pause) I’d be happy if you didn’t think I was to blame. I would be happy.

ENOCH Will you sink any lower, hideous wrinkled woman? Nostalgic when it suits you, why are you never consistent?

ADA       I deserve a fair trial.

ENOCH You deserve your head smashed in, smashed in by one of those bastards. An eye for an eye, and the rest.

ADA       Oh, my love.

ENOCH I’d wipe my hands clean of you, cleaner than yours, than your disgusting stubby hands. A pair of murderer’s hands! (pause) It’s the two of us. My God, and if it’s just the two of us.

ADA       My statement is as follows. I am accused of murder, but I am wholly innocent. My hands are clean. Though you might have faith in the way you think things happened, you were not there, your back was turned, your eyes were closed, you cannot know for sure. I am damned by a lack of witnesses, as it shall always be, from now on, but this is the truth. (pause) The truth is this. (pause)

ENOCH This is a day of mourning, woman. I have little patience with talking. I have little patience with the truth. (pause) There will be rain, tonight.

ADA       (now positioned at the far back of the stage, ENOCH at the front) My back was turned too. It is surprising how fast these things move. (pause) How old would he have been?

ENOCH What?

ADA       How old was he when?

ENOCH When he? (pause) I don’t know. It’s not something that matters.

ADA       Oh.

ENOCH I said it’s not something that matters. It doesn’t matter how old he was.

ADA       What was his birthday? Do you know that?

ENOCH Of course not, we don’t remember stuff like that anymore, remember?

ADA       Not his birthday?

ENOCH No (pause) There are no birthdays anymore, that’s why.

ADA       Not to celebrate, no. But I remember mine. (pause) I remember yours.

ENOCH Yes?

ADA       The year, the month, the date, I remember it all.

ENOCH How repulsively nostalgic.

ADA       You cannot mourn a man you do not know the age of, my love. Without an idea of beginning, there’s no big deal in the end.

ENOCH (not savage, like before; frustrated) Disgusting, despicable. You’re the voice of the end of us all, that you are. It’s the human curse, this compulsion to measure ourselves, to talk about ourselves in numbers, to turn ourselves into wicked bar charts. Age, height, eye colour, bra size, blood pressure, IQ, allergies and turn-ons, these are just fossils now, smashed to pieces and eaten up along with the libraries, the dental clinics, the shopping centres. Are you listening to me? (no answer) And while we picked ourselves apart, our numbers dwindled, others took advantage. The elephants marched right in. (pause. Energised) And while they can still kill a man with a footstep, we should hold our heads and mourn.

ENOCH gets up, turns to ADA, they exchange charged looks. He walks a step towards her. Stops. Hesitates. Attempts another step. Turns away.

ADA       How old am I?

ENOCH Are you listening to me, woman?

ADA       How old are you? (pause) How old are you?

ENOCH You said you knew, for God’s sake.

ADA       I do. (pause) Strange, my love. It doesn’t matter, all of this. Age, blood type, the way things were, the way things aren’t. Strange, though. We can’t explain ourselves without returning to them.

ENOCH Enough.

ADA       God knows how long since the last dentist died, God knows how long since the last shopping centre was chewed away by the elephants, God knows. But we can’t stop ourselves from returning to them. (not in the least consolatory) They still matter, my love.

ENOCH Enough of this, this disgusting tripe nostalgia.

ADA       And whatever would tripe taste of?

ENOCH The same as everything else. Are you hungry, still?

ADA       Yes. Can we go now? Please.

ENOCH Soon, soon. Now that there is just the two of us, we must exercise extreme caution.

ADA       Extreme, my love.

ENOCH The problem is this. We are left without a lookout. If the both of us were to leave this patch, together, who’s to know when the herd will move on. We could be metres or miles away, you said yourself how fast these bastards can move. We’d miss the migration, we’d be stranded here.

ADA       In Newport.

ENOCH I beg your pardon.

ADA       It’s written in the plastic. All the carriers say it. ‘Newport Shrub Centre.’ Look.

ENOCH I’m not interested. As an endangered species, we have far greater concerns than that. (pause. Moves towards ADA. Close) For that is what we are, now. Our status has been upgraded from vulnerable to endangered. And when you go, why, we shall be critically so. Does the thought not make you nauseous?

ADA       A little bit sick.

ENOCH Good.

ADA       Will you mourn for me, the minute I’m gone?

ENOCH The preservation of our species is down to us. It’s up to us.

ADA       A tear?

ENOCH It’s down to us. Who even knows if you’ll still be here in nine months’ time? (pause) We’ll have to take it as it comes. Even if it comes a little early, it will be better than nothing. It will have to do.

ADA       My love, I can’t.

ENOCH We’ll have need of twins. Two girls. At the very least, one boy, one girl, but then we’re in a similar situation. If just the one, it has to be a girl, or there really isn’t a point. It’s down to you.

ADA       My love. This – appetite…

ENOCH I would love to reproduce with you.

ADA       We’ve said it all before. What have I said. (he presses himself upon her) We can’t.

ENOCH (breathing heavy) Oh you are a selfish, a wicked, such a wicked, disgusting woman. (ADA cries out) Who are you shrieking for? (pause) What woman would place themselves before their kind?

ADA       (limp) It’s not an option. There are still – ways of doing things. Ignore them and we’re not a species worth preserving.

ENOCH (dropping her, moving away) Today is a day of mourning. There is to be no fornicating. There is to be nothing of anything. (long, sulking pause) It should not be up to us to conserve ourselves. Who would have heard of it? When roles were reversed, when we could look these bastards in the eyes, stare them out through the bars of their cages – cages that we built, I should clarify … Built to save them from ourselves, it’s amusing to look at it in that light. Are you listening to me? Are you listening? Don’t you find that amusing? We did our best to hide them from gunmen and tribesmen and dwarfish little Eastern herbalists making penis-glutting medicines from bits of their wrinkled bodies, grinding down their teeth and sprinkling them on their own trunks –

ADA       So we’ve heard, we cannot know for sure. These could all be lies my love. Passed down to us, twisted out of truth, we shouldn’t give them –

ENOCH (raised voice) There is to be no answering back. There is to be only talking – me – and listening. That is your task, to listen. (pause) Are you listening? (no answer) I am pleased. I shall let you in on another amusing little irony. We, the human species, as long as we have known the elephant, we have ridden upon it. We have used it as a vehicle, when we have not been killing it. This is perhaps the only thing not to have changed between us. We still rely on these bastards to carry us from point A to… Newport. But we rely on these bastards in extremis – Latin, a language as dead and useless as French – in extremis now. Whereas, once upon a time, should our elephants disobey us, refuse to lift us upon their backs and carry us to the shopping centres, to the dental clinics, and should recourse to whips and sticks and electric currents have no effect upon the stubborn bastards, why, we would simply melt them down for glue and take the Vol-Vo. (short, spasmodic laugh) Should the elephants decide not to carry us in this century, we must content ourselves with starving to death.

ADA       I’m happy you’ve come to your senses, and –

ENOCH Hisss. What a brutal way to go. Once upon a time, castles were built upon the backs of elephants to house the kings and queens and emperors who would choose these beasts to conduct them on their royal visits. Gold and emeralds and God knows. Now, we must be content to hang from their bellies in our plastic sacks as they sweep this ravaged land, nothing more than extra testicles, and treated as such. (pause) As we travelled, last night, last week, whenever it was, I was filled with fearsome thoughts. I could not close my eyes, they troubled me so.

ADA       My love.

ENOCH Why, I thought, must I be content to hang, useless, like this, and let the bastards get away with it. Event perverse! I shook with temptation. I was tempted to crawl up their hides, to reclaim my rightful place above them. To be on top, again.

ADA       And then what?

ENOCH And then.

The sound of the elephants swells to uproar. Panicked, ADA dashes to radio, attempts to reduce volume.

ADA       It won’t budge.

ENOCH joins her, attempts the same. Fails.

ADA       (shouting over noise) They heard you, they heard you, we’re done for.

ENOCH Be quiet woman, there’s enough noise as there (elephants suddenly quieten) is.

ADA       That was a warning.