An Arabian Night’s Dream

There is a cast of six.

Place: the stage.
Time of actual action: 30 minutes.
There are no sets.
Number of characters: almost forty.
Theatrical time: now.

The six wear differentiating clothes.
Five never change them.
One must, twice.
The eye mask, half helmet, straightjacket, skates, clerical collar, and rubbersuit with accessories, are additional, not instead of.

Other stuff:
a freestanding doorway, with door with STAGE on it.
a chair
a yellow packing case,
assorted placards,
a pair of shackles connected by a slim chain,
a long sheet of paper,
an ambulance stretcher,
top-hat and tuxedo,
a sheaf of paper,

and two toilet rolls:
one with some paper
and one with none.

Till FIRST WOMAN goes through door, only a third of the stage is lit, on stage left.

FIRST MAN, stage left:
Get on.

FIRST WOMAN, stage left:
No way.

FIRST MAN, stage left:
If you don’t, you realize you’ll never work again. Nobody will want you. I’ll see to it personally.

FIRST WOMAN, stage left:
Go on yourself, instead of making silly, stupid threats you’re bound to regret. I dare you.

Go on.

Nah. You stay there.

FIRST MAN pushes FIRST WOMAN towards the door so that she bursts it open and its STAGE is seen, and she falls on the middle of the stage which lights up as she falls and leaves all but the middle in the dark. She gets up, dusting herself off, and smoothing herself over. Door and doorway are invisibly and noiselessly spirited away.

A MALE AUDIENCE VOICE in mock commiseration:

FIRST MAN unseen, exacerbated:
Go on.

THREE MALE AUDIENCE VOICES. Each says a sentence in turn:
Go on. Nah, don’t. Look what he’s done to you. Poor thing. Shall I get an ambulance? The brute. Come on out if you dare. I’ll fight you. No, I’ll show him. Oh, you wanna go outside?

A FEMALE AUDIENCE VOICE accustomed to putting the kybosh on further argument:

FIRST WOMAN looking off, but not towards FIRST MAN, and vowing venomously to herself:
I’ll get you.
Turns to audience, and coolly and collectedly walks to the front of the stage where she smiles professionally at each side of the audience, and then speaks in a conversational tone:
I’m here to tell you about the play.

Meanwhile FIRST MAN has entered and stays behind her; and as she finishes, steps beside her.

WOMAN in a fierce whisper:
What are you doing here? Don’t try to apologize. You’re too late. It’s over between us.

FIRST MAN whispering back:
I’m the epilogue.
To audience: I’ve come to say
That I hope you’ve enjoyed the play,
And we’ll be glad to do it again some day.

WOMAN: fiercely to FIRST MAN:
We’ve not done the play. Get off.
Explaining him to audience: Idiot.

I can’t.

Why not?

Because my part’s the only part that’s been written so far.
Pointing out FIRST WOMAN to audience. That’s why her mouth’s opening and not saying a word. This is so,- but on her part, it is speechless indignation.


Who are you?

I’m the writer.
Looking around: Looking for inspiration.

Nobody here like that.

There is. Look at me.

WRITER [SECOND MAN] looks, staggers and sings:
Oh what a sight.
Why am I reeling?
Why! I’m in love.
How bad I’m feeling.

He’s feeling bad.
Swaying, singing and commiserating. So sad, so sad.
Spoken: So this is love.
Spoken, in search of a rhyme: Dove, shove, above.

If you’re in love with me,
Imagine what I can be:
Scheherazade, Aladdin,
Sinbad the sailor, or a bad’un -,
One of forty thieves...

You’re right. Left third of stage lights up simultaneously, so now only one third is dark.
To FIRST MAN: Sit tight.
FIRST MAN sits down fast on chair pushed under him by the WRITER with the speed of a conjuror.

WRITER [SECOND MAN] to audience:
Yes, yes,- spring is here,
Sniffs empty buttonhole in his lapel appreciatively:
I can smell it.
Flowers everywhere
Spring to attention
In a stiff breeze.

There are other anomalies.
Leaves, leaves.
And other sheaves.
Dresses on girls are lighter now.

What’s this to do with the play?
I go. You stay.
Fifteen thousand more employees are laid off:
Shareholders make more
Than ever before.

It’s crazy: it makes sense.
Preparation H.

Exaggeratedly swinging their hips, two women file across stage. Each holds up a placard which says: KEEP OUR HUSBANDS OUT OF WORK.

WRITER [SECOND MAN] to audience:
So, as you can see,
In spring, one’s thoughts turn to love:
He chases after the remaining placard carrier and scampers off fondling her, and immediately reappears holding a whip.
To FIRST MAN and FIRST WOMAN: Wait a minute.
To audience, posturing heroically: "That strain I heard was of a higher mood".
Stops posturing: "But now, to interpose a little ease,
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise."
In other words, what I’ve been saying was socially responsible.
But now let’s get back to mere entertainment.
Cracks whip at FIRST WOMAN and FIRST MAN: Get on with it.
Cracks whip again: Wait. I’m not gone yet.
To audience, with a radiant smile: I’m in control here.
Then he smiles formally at audience, bows, and is going off when he turns, cracks whip as a warning to FW and FM to keep quiet, smiles at audience and tells it: You may wonder how the actors know what to say and do without a script, or any leeway. Improvisation: only, by order. It’s all in my head: I use telepathy. I hear their voices.
Smiles artifically, bows, and goes off with a "go-ahead" nod to FIRST WOMAN.

FIRST WOMAN acknowledges this with a movement of her head, then addresses the FIRST MAN:
O magnificence
Beyond the significance
Of ...

Enough. As the caliph:
the beneficial, munificent,
more than significant,
who is to be obeyed
and of whom you are afraid,
tell me
a story
that will amuse me
or die.
And don’t cry.

I hear, and obey.
Some time ago, O ruler of the mighty (she shakes her slim wristshackles ironically) two beggars climbed into the top of a palm-tree to be safe from lions and tigers while they slept. Making themselves comfortable with a rag here and a palm-frond there, they saw a gigantic genie rise out of the sea and head straight towards them. Imagine their consternation. Shaking all over, they clung to each other for support. But when he reached the tree, he at once shrank to the size of a man, leant against it, and fell asleep. A box chained to his waist opened, and a woman, so beautiful that a stone unmoved for thousands of years would be aroused to dream of the most unimaginable sins with her, climbed out, stretched her arms out voluptuously, and then saw the beggars.

Suddenly the right third of stage lights up (so all of the stage is now lit) on a box with two BEGGARS on it, a scrawny little GENIE sleeping with his back against it, and a voluptuous SECOND WOMAN beside it.

FIRST WOMAN motioning to all this:
An explosive situation, in fact. She is about to take revenge on the genie for kidnapping her, as you’ll see. The caliph has not quite gotten over his surprise at this sudden manifestation.

What follows is in dumb-show.
The SECOND WOMAN motions the beggars to climb down, come to her, and have sex with her. Astonished, then eager, they look at each other, then reluctantly conclude they cannot. They point out to her that their climbing down might wake the genie up. At this point, the genie snorts and moves, and they cling to each other in fright, knees knocking, and faces and arms begging heaven for help. The SECOND WOMAN again urges them to come to her. They look at each other, consider doing so, then shake their heads, agreeing not to, till one tries to bolt off the box and go to her but is held running in place by the other’s grip on a handful of his clothing. The runner desists and they have a tearful and affectionate reunion, pointing out to each other some of the possible awful consequences to him if he had succeeeded in escaping and the great generosity of heart, becoming greater with each reference to it, displayed by his alternately boastful and modest saviour. They then sit down marvelling, sometimes to themselves and sometimes to each other, at this narrow escape. The saviour now looks over the edge at the genie and the SECOND WOMAN. She makes lascivious movements to entice him. He starts to climb down. His friend holds onto him for dear life. The downclimber remonstrates. His friend is adamant. The genie snorts. The downclimber shoots back up and as a result his friend starts to fall off the other side but is again saved. Their mutual congratulations are cut short by the SECOND WOMAN who has been showing impatience and now threatens to wake the genie and let them take the consequences which she demonstrates by picking up a piece of seaweed and tearing it very deliberately into tiny pieces which she disposes of by scattering, blowing away, grinding underfoot, and so on. At each demonstration, they wince till, like exhausted boxers, they end up supporting themselves by hugging each other. Then they signal their surrender, and almost wake the genie twice as they climb down. Once they’re on the ground, she and they motion to each other to be extremely careful. They each take one slow tentative step, and then rush and disappearbehind the box.
End of dumbshow.
From now on, when it seems appropriate, nude arms and legs, alone or together, appear and disappear from beyond the edges of the box till the end of the play. Their appearance is announced by one of several musical notes each time.

Very interesting.
Gesturing to box and coming to the point. Now, did you do all that? Made it appear and so on.

No, not me, not really. I telepathize what he’s to do.
Pointing to genie: But he’s the genie.

FIRST MAN [CALIPH] in disgust:
Genie! Did you say genie? You call that a genie?

Everyone knows
That even in repose
The muscles of a genie
Ain’t no ordinary joe’s.
Everyone knows.

Spoken: Hey, genie. You, yes you.

GENIE, waking, not yet with it. In a weak voice:
What is it?

Spoken: You see.

Sings: Everyone knows
He’s not got a baby’s voice
And that his slightest whisper’s deeper
Than the Mississippi river.
Everyone knows.

Spoken with rising indignation: And his bottle, where’s his bottle?

Sung: Doesn’t everyone know
That he comes out of a bottle
When you’ve taken out the stopple?
Spoken: Oh yes. Sung: Everyone knows.

Regaining his composure: Besides, he conjured up that yellow box instead of the palmtree you said was there? Even if he were a sort of genie, that shows he’s low grade, inept at handling the simplest requests, an imposter in fact.

Palm fronds hide things. The box let you see everything. So, you see, he’s a very smart genie.

We’ll see. Claps hands.

From each wing a guard jumps onstage, ready for anything.

Arrest this man.

The guards move towards the genie. He points his pinkie at them. They stagger back. He points again and curls it downward. They fall down. He twirls the tip of it and then flips it up dismissively, and they roll around till they roll offstage.

CALIPH [FIRST MAN] impressed, changing his tune and turning on the charm:
Ah, my dear genie, you’ve just passed my Personnel Selection Test with full honors. Passed by the Selection Board in person, I might add. You see the point of the method? No offence, I hope. How would you like to work for me? All the usual. And when you retire (he makes a throat-slitting sign with his forefinger), you’ll want for nothing. Just a joke. What d’you say?


Did I ask you — to butt in?
To GENIE: Go on.

GENIE, pulling, from the hem of his robe, a sheet of paper that coils up his body like an anaconda. He holds the top in one hand.
According to my contract...

CALIPH interrupting:
Whatever she gives you, I’ll give you a better deal.

He’s mine. He has no choice. And if he had, why should he choose to go with you? All you’re good for is pushing people around, and threatening them, and epiloguing them before they’ve had a chance to know what’s going on. Epilogue! You an epilogue! More like a dim-in-fog. Or a dog that’s got lost. Or a shot in a forest.
She forestalls the CALIPH who is about to burst out in wrath and indignation: And don’t you meddle with me either. I only let myself be used by you. You see. Throws off shackles. Ha ha! That surprised you. And this’ll surprise you even more: the fact is I won him in a game of poker. Genie looks sheepish. Just the two of us playing, months after he’d come into my dad’s house in the guise of a lampstand, and stood around for a while, then kidnapped me and kept me in that box you saw, and took me out now and then for his eyes to gloat over like misers. He’s a connoiseur of beauty, did you know that? Anyway, we played strip-poker, and his eyes were so busy staring at me slowly peeling off first this and then that, that I managed to slip in a card I had palmed, and won, and won control of him, and of something else.

CALIPH: You’re the woman near the box? Ha ha.. You don’t look like her.

Because you see me through your eyes now, but then you saw me the way the genie sees me, — oh you who are master of the colossally obvious, but in other ways miniscule.

May I ask — without your heaping any more titles on me, wha...?

He is stopped short by the short first note and prolonged second note of a horn. They announce the arrival of the QUEEN OF THE NIGHT. She is wearing an eye mask. She chants in a loud growl that is not unfriendly nor monotonous.

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT to audience:
I am the Queen of the Night
Come from the sky
To this blue planet,
A fugitive from a chain gang,
I’ve come to lead my life
Among humans, who short-lived
And blind as insects, stumble
Through life to death,
believing, and believing
in their beliefs,
Living not by bread alone,
And harming others
As they harm themselves,
Here I shall feel perfectly at home,
As if in prison,
Except for one thing -
My powers, useless at home,
Can do wonders here.

Oh the hills and the valleys,
And echoing rooms
Of the palace I lived in,
Are now become tombs,

And the voices so lively
That there I once heard
Have been silenced forever,
Have long said no word,

But become somehow louder,
They ring in my ears
Till the voices around me
Are drowned in my tears.

Your Majesty, I couldn’t help overhearing what you were saying. May I ask wha...?

He is interrupted by the sound of horns and motors. SPACE RANGER enters. He is dressed in a half helmet (and other clothing). The CALIPH throws his hands up in despair of ever completing a sentence. FIRST WOMAN, from the time of the QUEEN’s entrance, stares at her, transfixed. The QUEEN stares at the RANGER and, arms akimbo, awaits developments. The GENIE, whom she has not noticed yet, is staring at her.

SPACE RANGER sings to audience:
I am a jolly space ranger,
Where none have gone before, I go,
I sing in every opera,
And sell some soap where’er I go.

They are a dirty lot in space,
I clean it up as best I can,
Hot on the track of Nightie Queen,
I’ll get her yet,
(puts hand on heart, languishing): though I’m her fan.

He turns and sees her. Spoken: It’s been a long time, kid. D’you remember that sleazy hotel room in the Black Hole of Calcutta Galaxy?
The others turn towards them in attitudes of curiosity into which they freeze.
Mutineers all round us in the corridors. People dead in their rooms. And nobody knew we were there. We looked pretty dead ourselves. And you had spirit. I didn’t know you were on the Most Wanted list: you were just wearing a nightie. I’d come fresh in from, was it Vega? gambling hell of the universe! And there you were, a sight for sore eyes. I just walked into your room by mistake, and you thought I was a mutineer. And if you hadn’t injected me with that truth serum while I was struggling with that pet anaconda of yours and trying to explain,- I’d be a piece of dead meat, and eaten up pretty soon, some people were that hungry, they’d a-beaten the anaconda to it. And what were you wanted for? Breaking out of prison. And why did you break out? To release the spirit. And why were you in there? Who cares? The main thing is I’ve found you.

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT in an ordinary voice:
Sweetie, you haven’t found me. You’ve found your nemesis. They’ll drum you out of the force if you don’t take me back with you. And you know I can’t let you do that. So what’s it gonna be?

While you’re considering that, could someone tell me if I’m the only one here with no magic powers? Can’t I be allowed to lift a chair a mere six inches off the ground, from a distance? Or chant some little spell to change things around a bit? I mean, wouldn’t it be fairer? All these goings-on are an intrusion on my privacy, you know? And in my own place. Have I ever done anything wrong? Other than killing a few people or torturing others in defence of my human dignity. You don’t see a monkey doing that. Besides, what’s done is done. Let bygones be bygones. You’ve got to start afresh somewhere. Forgive and forget, that’s my motto.
Appealing to GENIE: Now how about a spell? So’s I can have privacy. You don’t have to do it. Just tell me how to.

Sings: I’m really a fellow who likes to be alone.
A little bit of privacy, and I’m soft as any bone
That’s been ground into a powder and afterwards is thrown
Together with some make-up and made into skin tone.

Sings, and does a silly dance, at times using the other actors as props:
I go around and hug the flowers and tickle every thorn,
And then I kiss them all goodbye, and dance upon the lawn,
And when I’m tired, I just lie down, and think about the corn -
Nice thoughts,- although its on my foot and rather overgrown.

At other times I get to think, what if I leave the throne
And wander round and see the world and have fun on my own?
But I get the heebie-jeebies then, because if I’m unknown,
[sung]: Who’d do what I want them to?
Spoken: So I hop back on my throne. Does so, lightly.
Spoken: And that’s my point. I only want a little bit of privacy. Every now and then. Without having to tell people to leave me alone. A sort of unobtrusive vanishing act. Just leaving people wondering. "Am I in my right mind? Pinch me. Ow. I’m crazy. Get me a doctor. This is scary. Help. Is this a dagger that I see before me. No? What is it then? A fork." And so on. A little mayhem. Someone committing suicide perhaps. Nothing obvious. Someone going out of their mind, but quietly. Just a hint here and there. And then, POW! They’ve died of heart failure. A sudden stroke. No long lingering disease. That would be NASTY.
I’ll tell you what. You can have my throne for a day. Just tell me the spell first.
To audience: Ha ha. They can have the throne as much as they want. It’s the small print in the contract that counts. And that says "Having the throne does not include the power of the reigning Caliph". Got’em there.
To cast: So what d’you say? They show a lack of interest, ostentatiously yawning, etc., and go off, leaving only the FIRST WOMAN who starts to go off too.
Appealing to FIRST WOMAN: Don’t you go too. She stops. You’ve come a long way, baby. All that power at your command. But I know, the problems that come with it. Ah, you and I are alike under the skin. The stories I could tell you. It would make your hair curl. Free of charge. But, we listen and we suffer. That’s why I have them dragged away when they start to protest their innocence. I’m too sensitive. Of course they’re innocent, but that’s no reason why they shouldn’t die, They’re gonna die anyway. I save them a lot of trouble. All sorts of illnesses when they’re older. Save on government health-care costs this way too. Fewer taxes. They ought to be grateful. But are they? Always trying to lead rebellions. Say I’m encouraging the selfish. Me? I’m always telling the rich to get richer, and telling the poor to help them and not be selfish. The rich are already unselfish because being rich doesn’t make them FEEL happier I notice, though they’re unhappy enough when they get less. Because then they have difficulty paying their expenses which they’ve built up like a snail’s shell around themselves. I’m not boring you, am I? So it’s to help them find their true selves again that I’ve set up the White-collar Crime Division to strip them of their wealth. But are they grateful? As I’ve said, no. And so I’m forced to take on the burden of all that wealth. If you could see the spiritual effect of it, you would see I’m bent double under it. Ah, but I’ve let my tongue run away with me. Do forgive me. You were saying? FIRST WOMAN indicates that she wasn’t. You weren’t? Then perhaps you won’t mind me asking what brought you here in the guise of a storyteller, slave category five. It concerns me personally, I know; otherwise I wouldn’t ask you. I’m all ears. He gestures her to begin.

A steam train of the old days was going along a street This was no dream. The train was in the middle of the street as it always was at that time of the day, every day, year in and year out. But this time my mother was on it, and on the street there was a celebration, and the street was so jam-packed with people that the train had to stop, and because it didn’t start again, my mother got off, so did my father,and they both bought some food at a stall, and that was where they first met.
After each paragraph, the CALIPH makes a movement of encouragement or sympathy or appreciation, as appropriate.
Some years later, there was another accident, and I was conceived.
At that time you were rising to power.
I grew up wanting to be an actress (illustrates this), but there was no point, because before I could study for it, my parents were both killed by the scimitar of the leader of a band of tax collectors who had failed to extort from them what indeed they didn’t have.
Soon after, you became the new caliph by taking the place of the one you had murdered, as is the custom. I recognized you in the street as you were riding by one day in procession. The street was the same one in which my parents had met, and you were the same man who had killed my parents. My wish for revenge, long unfocussed, now had an end in sight, and my meeting with the genie, which I had at first thought of as an unmitigated disaster, became the talisman by which I insinuated myself in your presence, wishing to see with my own eyes my revenge and wanting to feel its full sweetness in your awareness of who I was when I told you with my own lips.
The CALIPH is no longer appreciative.
There remain now only when and what is my revenge to be.

Dear me, what an unpleasant story. You really ought to consider other people’s feelings when you’re venting your own in public.

I did. Now don’t distract me: there are elements of my revenge I’ve not quite finalized. I must think about that now.
She turns her back on him. He creeps up behind her with arms and hands stretched out to strangle her. She turns round, and with a ghastly fixed smile he pretends he is exercising his fingers. After considering him for a moment, she says "Hm" as she turns again and moves away.
He again creeps up, but before he can grasp her neck she again turns round, and he puts his hands together as if praying, and with an anguished look at heaven says "Forgive her sins against me as I forgive mine against her". She looks quizzically at him, and turns back again.
He now approaches her by treading warily backward with exaggerated steps, but when he whips round with outstretched arms, she has just casually sidestepped, and his hands coming together forcefully, he explains "A fly. Got him this time," and pretends to flick its corpse off his palm with his forefinger.
They resume their positions. He walks frantically back and forth behind her, twisting his hands in anguish. Then he makes a desperate rush at her which he can’t stop when she stoops to adjust a shoelace on a foot she has stretched out, so that he trips over it and falls to the ground, where he groans and cries with frustration, and beats the ground with his fists.

FIRST WOMAN: Now don’t be a baby. Crying just because you fell. Who ever heard of such a thing. A grown-up, and crying over nothing!
She turns away, and goes off as two stretcher-bearers come on. His convulsive sobbing subsides as they pick him up and carry him off.

A placard bearer hurries on, busily displaying the placard to the audience and grimacing with approval of what it says as he or she hurries across the stage. It says: END OF PART ONE. Midway the placard is reversed, to show


and is hurried off.

MANAGER bustles on:
In accordance with our policy of openness, the management wants me to say that the playwright indicated an intermission here for aesthetic and other reasons, and to give you an opportunity to decide what you feel about the play so far, before it changes direction, (not director), as it’s about to do. However, experience has taught us that some people might leave, and we can’t afford to give them their money back, and we don’t want any acrimonious arguments about it. So we’re going on to the next scene. Imagine the intermission of twelve minutes has passed, and the playwright, absorbed in drinking his tea or coffee, doesn’t know we’ve cut it out.

Enter SINGER, always on the move, singing:

Ya coulda fooled me.
I’d no way to know.
A low body blow
Left me all at sea.

My lover left me.
Oh what shall I do?
Where shall I go?
My lover left me.

He sits down on a chair backstage in a corner, facing the audience, quite still.
Enter the QUEEN OF THE NIGHT,- beginning to talk as she enters, in a thoughtful voice, to herself and the audience:
What is old age? Diminishment and disappearance. That which grew in abundance, abandoned, then neglected. The sprawl of that which was upright.
But the desire of others makes my old body young, and the lovelorn lie about like shavings in my track, like curled leaves in autumn, like woodshavings curled along the track of a snail, like white woodshavings stuck to the sticky glistering silvery track of a snail.
The white sun of winter is cold. Ironically: Yes I am old.
The white sun! Could I bring back the nurturing warmth of the air, and the invisible elan — of happiness, and have the optimism of the plants and their trust in the future, what choice would I have? I would do it.
But the young traveller believes in eternal youth, till youth is dispelled,
and expelled from its eternity, and no longer young, travels into the perpetual dust-storm of grownup actions, and from there is shot out into the eternally existing and transmogrifying state of old age, and then drags the second foot into the grave, to be expulsed from there into the next eternity, and all along there are truths without ifs and buts that are believed in, eternally grown and then shed in eternity as trees shed their leaves in the fall,
The pronouncements of futility,
And the generations of belief.
Changing subject. And now SPACE RANGER, genuinely young, is pacing up and down in delirium, torn between duty and desire.
She becomes quite still. SPACE RANGER, who has just entered, wheels about frantically several times, muttering and intermittently uttering varying unintelligible syllables and vowels as if trying out their intensity. Suddenly two words ring out.

SPACE RANGER exasperatedly:
Duty, duty.

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT with grudging fondness:
Now what’s he saying?

Diminution and disappearance of life,
desire in exchange for a system;
to sustain the life of duty, to sustain life,
to stamp out the desire of life, for life, by life.
Abraham Lincoln.
A mutated church flown off into space.
Gr, br, a, conquest.
Contessa, will you come?

Argumentatively: Or again.
Most universal.
An appeal above the mass system.
No-one will know what you are talking about.
Vow. Nightie Queen. Gr. Br.
At least
Resignedly: At least one.

Yet after all.
Grr, brr, a, song, ong, o.
No one.

Oh no. I’ll go to him.

She does. He keeps moving and wheeling. She keeps up with him. It’s a sort of dance, with her doing all the variations. Neither speaks.

Meanwhile the SINGER sings:

It’s a maddening life.
Full of strife, as they say.
You can’t have your way.

But I’ll tell you this, for free
If you listen to me:
It won’t go away.

He goes off. SPACE RANGER and the QUEEN OF THE NIGHT continue to dance in silence. She gets closer to him, till she dances them off, at which, holding a placard up to the audience, a man with his back to the audience crosses the stage. The placard says END OF PART TWO. As he goes off, he hands the placard to a man who is coming on and who turns it round to show the words PART THREE: IN THE MADHOUSE. He stands still a moment, then goes off as FIRST MAN comes on in a straightjacket with a huge identification tag with CALIPH on it.

CALIPH confiding to an apparently imaginary listener:
It’s only when I’m in a straightjacket that I act sanely. When I was free, I just kept myself busy executing people. Come again at nine. Butter and crumpets.

A booming bass voice answers out of nowhere, with modulations:
Thank you, but as you know, I’m not at liberty to come and go. Let me tell you about my life, in a more suitable voice of course.

Sung by invisible GENIE as a tenor:
The life of a genie is no fun at all,
Always running around at the beck and the call
Of whoever he’s owned by,- and for taking a stroll,
Bottled up underseas, awaiting a trawl
Thous of years at a time,- or a storm that will roll
Him onto a beach where, bottled and all,
He’ll be found by a drunkard with no sense at all,-
Or gulped up by a fish that gets caught after all
By a fish that’s still bigger that swallows it whole.
The life of a genie is no fun at all.

Sung by chorus of invisible sopranos:
The life of a genie is no fun at all.
He gets into scrapes that are past his control.

Sung by GENIE:
I’ve had years that sped by without any thrall
When I did what I pleased and was pleased by it all,
But then I would do what was past my recall:
Some damned silly thing that, looking back, overall
Was the stupidest, silliest thing of them all
Till the next thing I did outdid it and all
And I once again found I was once more in thrall.

Sung by sopranos:
The life of a genie is no fun at all.
He gets into scrapes that are past his control.

GENIE reverting to bass voice:
So as you see, I can’t go. My mistress told me to watch and report on your decline to her.

CALIPH nearly frothing at mouth:
Decline! Decline! I’ve never felt better in my life! Decline indeed! I am the resurrection and the life. Beyond me there is no other. Wait till I get my hands on her. I’ll show her decline, I’ll...I’ll...

Sung: I’ll rave and I’ll rant,
Jump up and jump down,
Gnash my teeth and run down
(lightly) With a hey derry down,
(drawn out) Till she be-lieves me.

I’ll bite like an ant,
And I’ll pant and I’ll pant
When I’ve no breath to rant,
And weep tears that are frant-
ic,- till she re-lieves me.

Spoken: Now what d’you think of that?

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT, who has entered, unseen by the CALIPH, in time to hear the last sentence. Her words are to him:
What I’m thinking about is my lover boy. He has genuine goodness and genuine inexperience. Two things that are bound to get him into trouble.

Ye elves and ye hills,
Ye fishes and chips,
Beyond all the ills
That I know

I would like to hide my true love
Away in a bin
And give him a shove
If he tried to get in

To the worst of all possible worlds
Where the world’s
All over
And no one’s to know.

GENIE booming:
That’s a true love song, if ever I heard one.

CALIPH buttering him up:
And if anyone knows, it’s the cloud-capped one.

The Queen and I go back a long way. We first met in — ah, I remember, how I remember:

Sung, sotto voce: In a sampam in Siam.
Spoken: We were both passengers then, and when the boat began to sink, I shed my disguise and carried it to safety, and she at the same time had taken on the likeness of a very old lady, light as a cork, who in her spread-out skirts would have floated on the water to safety. So we both knew the other one was special. It was love at first sight. A pounding of...

A blinding of...

There were two swans in the sky.

Flying the same way.

Heading the same way.

CALIPH to audience:
Ball-erinas. Sounds like old hat to me.
Squirming his hips and in a different voice: Tutu, doncha know?
In previous voice. Reminds me of the time I went...

We were in love.

We were on a mountaintop.

All around, everything looked beautiful.

Even evil, trying to look inconspicuous in broad daylight: a cat pretending indifference to the birds beyond its reach.

Enter someone dressed as a ringmaster, in top-hat etc. RINGMASTER, with hands in the air, and often splitting multi-syllabled words into single syllables:
Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to announce that our author has just had an heart attack. Its gravity is such that he cannot proceed. We beg you, therefore, to be patient while we decide on the appropriate action. We may decide to give you back your money. Check your pockets and bags. Our expert pickpockets were busy in the foyer as you were coming in. How else are we going to make a living?

THE FROZEN ACTORS ARE CARRIED OFF while a placard is jerkily lowered from above. It says: THE EMBODIMENT OF THE VOICE OF GOD. The EMBODIMENT enters during the jerking, and uses the placard to identify himself as THE EMBODIMENT. The placard begins to wriggle its way up. The EMBODIMENT addresses and reacts to Satan who remains invisible throughout but whom the EMBODIMENT obviously sees moving around and reacting in turn.

Slurring and slurping, you’re at it again, eh Satan my boy?
distorting...distorting my message.

The placard disappears.

Only through me will you get to heaven, and everything and anybody has a me. What’s it mean? You work at the me, the I, that prison, till it no longer imprisons you; and if it’s too much for you, you must be incarnated again, be born again, be a baby again. Why not?
I am the Lord your God, whether you want me to be or not.
Enter PORKY in a clerical collar and carrying a sheaf of papers.
Ah, Porky, my dear secretary. You need some more signatures, eh? Takes the papers.

Very soon after the signing begins, A WOMAN enters, followed by someone who looks and breathes through slits in a close-fitting rubbersuit fastened, along its spine and head, to an upright steel rod that prevents any movement above the closely fettered legs, and who clumsily shuffles forward as if trying to run and then stops and waits, again and again, having covered an equal distance at each run, in instant obedience to the gestures of the woman who faces the rubbersuit as she walks backwards and keeps a fixed space between them. She does it all as if doing a repetitive job on an assembly line, with no special emotion or exaggerated movement, and is dressed in a teddy, shoes with tall stack heels, and sheer stockings to mid thigh. RUBBERSUIT is trying to please her. After their first three stops, A MAN comes on with his trousers down to his ankles, and his shirt threatening, only threatening, to show his genitals. His gait parodies the rubbersuit shuffle [without trying to] and he holds a used up roll of toilet paper with which he demands more paper from ANOTHER WOMAN following him. The toilet roll she is carrying unrolls as she follows him till there’s none left on the roll. When he stops, she stops; and vice versa. Neither will go to the other.
After the latter’s first three stops, someone skates on and swoops round the four, and then more slowly and at varying speeds checks them out visually without ever quite stopping, first as couples and then as individuals, and goes off, stage left, just before PORKY exits.
The signing ends and PORKY exits, stage right, with the signed sheets.
As if nobody else existed, neither couple interacts with the other couple, or anybody else, nor tries to. Throughout, THE EMBODIMENT (as PORKY has done) acts as if A WOMAN and the others weren’t there.

Sung: Love is a thrill, a fixation,
With so many ups and downs
You can’t be aware of it
Till you take care of it
Sung and danced: Hey nonny no, hey nonny no.
Spoken quickly: Om, om, om. Amen, amen, amen.
To the invisible Satan. What’s the matter? You’re shocked. So Satan’s the only one with a sense of humour? I’m not allowed to have one, God the omnipotent?
Waves Satan off and reacts with satisfaction to his exit.

Spoken: Now if you go up a hill
You’ll come to it,
Throw the glamour of it all around
And pronounce the score.

That’s one of my weirder sayings. Until I figure it out, I won’t put it in a Dead Sea scroll.

Now to solve the problem of who really wrote Shakespeare.
Spoken while going off. Followed by thunder and lightning.

Both couples go off as the ANGEL OF DEATH tiptoes in, unnoticed by them, and speaks to the audience from stage centre:

Listening to the silence with hands at ears.
Sounds like my cue. Drops hands. I’m the ANGEL OF DEATH:
Not quite Judgement Day, but
Earthquakes, floods, twisters, and volcanic ashes.
Millenial, you might say.
No Second Coming. Sex once a day.
Stocks and shares tumbling. Resurrections
Of gold and silver and a girl’s best friend.
What had been gradualism
Gets topped with catastrophe.
"I told you so’s" preen like righteous peacocks,
Drunk on the acid of self-satisfaction.
Complacency comes back again,
Connecting here with there like a spreading stain.
Then the next catastrophe. People never learn,
But are dragged around by the unknown,
For better, for worse. Ah, here’s the playwright. Whom the audience sees coming to the stage entrance from offstage before the audience sees him.
I’m off. I’ll see him soon enough.

I had hoped there’d be calls of "Author, author", but you can’t have everything. But if I may be allowed to point out a few things? For example, the exquisite proportioning of the intermissions to the rest of the work — two men have come on and are trussing him up in a straightjacket.

Hey, what’s going on?

We have to make a slight adjustment to you.

You’ll be alright.

The WRITER does not resist but gets on with what he wants to say, which is more important to him even while being dragged off the stage:

I had at first thought of a vast panorama of characters and events, but the limitations, of the stage at my disposal, the lack of funding, and the end ...
Exit all three.


© David Kozubei 1997