DANCING IN BALHAM

                                                                                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PLAY FOR TWO VOICES


A)  
You know I’ve noticed something.

B)    Something?

A)   You used to talk.

B)    Talk?

A)   Yes talk…you know…how the weather was…how you felt about what was happening in the world.

B)    The world?

A)   Yes you used to converse about a range of topics.

B)    Topics?

A)   All of that was before you saw ‘The Dumb Waiter’!

B)    What waiter?

A)   The dumb one or was it ‘The Homecoming’?

B)    I don’t know.

A)   Whatever…before Pinter. Yes…before Pinter. B.P. Not B.C. but B.P.

B)    British Petroleum.

A)   (ANGRY) Not British Petroleum. Before Pinter!

B)    Harold Pinter

A)   Exactly. B.P. Before you got caught by those Pinter two handers, three handers…whatever. Yes, before Pinter you could hold an interesting con-ver-sation. Do you remember?

B)    Last year in Marienbad.

A)   (ANGRY) That was not Pinter. That was the Robbe-Grillet frog marching off to nowhere…set within a sumptuous baroque vanishing point.

B)    French pomp!

A)   Yes you may be right. Robbe-Grillet may have indeed contributed to your minimalist behavior. You are right…Pinter could have got the bug from Grillet. (PAUSE) Does it matter?

B)    No.

A)   No. Perfect. Perfectly expressed. No. Like ‘No’s Knife’. Ambiguity highly atmospheric. Highly uplifting…some think! Waiting for crap! No, I’m not waiting for any more crap. Do you get it Godot?

B)    You’re tired?

A)   Tired! Tired? You may be right. I may be tired. Tired of waiting for years…

B)    Years?

A)   Yes years! Don’t you get it? You haven’t spoken a whole sentence for years. And I’m not meaning a long sentence. Just a sentence. A beginning, a middle and an end. A proper English sentence. No clipped Gallic crap. An English sentence saying something that you mean. Something which makes sense. Something that you want to say. Not just yes…no…O.K….when? A sentence. It doesn’t have to be that arresting. Or even interesting!

B)    No?

A)   (ANGRY) No! Look are you pretending you’re not purposely torturing me with your laconic comments?  As you can see, I’m not laconic. Not like that trio of language stranglers. Beckett, Robbe-Grillet and Sartre!  I love language. Even when it is excessively flowery… Rococo…Baroque. Did you know that linguistic pessimism leads to fascism?

B)    Possibly

A)   Yes you rather like living within uncertainty. Uncertainty drives me up the wall! (PAUSE)  Was this Sartre’s real purpose? Wanting everyone to share his HELL? ‘Huis Clos’. No exit. Perfect. Beckett makes the philosophical proposition—‘No God is coming to get us out of this HELL.’ And Sartre rubs it in. Hell is other people. Other people’s state of mind. Becket exposes this concealed inner bullfight on the stage… and Sartre becomes his matador…and you, yes you like nothing better than acting as Sartre’s picador…and with increasing relish hurl your cold sharp pointed darts into my screaming mind!

B)    Long speech!

A)   Another dart. Saint Sebastian is all-ways on hand. Poor blighter. Not the ending he anticipated. No way. Not the ending for a Captain in the Roman Praetorian Guard.

B)    Saving Christians.

A)   Exactly. Tortured for saving Christians from torture and death!

B)    Ironic.

A)   Well spotted! (PAUSE) Well spotted! You’re awake! I’ve noticed that. Yes… despite everything… you still want to give the impression that your eye is still on the mental ball. That you’re still mentally awake. Still in contact with the human dilemma.

B)    Dilemma?

A)   O there’s no dilemma in the human world? No atrocities in Syria? No starving children in Africa? Dilemma? Haven’t you heard that this glorious planet’s hidden name is ‘Total Dilemma’? Look, is it really getting hotter or not?

B)    Greenhouse effect?

A)   YES!!! YEEEEEES! Are we going down inside a greenhouse or not? WHO can I trust to tell me? TRUST? Tell me, for God’s sake, in a series of sensible sentences. They don’t have to be well crafted. Just honest. To the point, without any uncertainty. Hotter or colder? No… what’s the word…?

B)    Equivocation.

A) Equivocation! Yes! Yes! Now there’s a word. A word not heard every day of the week. Not every day. That’s exactly what I want. NO equivocation. No whiff of any political jargon. No bad smell from any politician. I’d rather a good old fashioned safe-breaker tell me the score!

B)  The score?

A) Yes the score concerning this notion of global catastrophe… whether from too many people, too many floods or not enough fresh water.

B)  Nuclear pollution.

A)  Yes, well that’s the cherry on the top of the greenhouse fantasy.

B)  Fantasy?

A)  Yes it’s a story. A STORY! No one really knows what’s going on any more.

B)  Any more

A)  YES. (SHOUTS) ANY MORE! I know, I know, did anyone ever know what the real point is of our existence? Did they?

B)  They?

A)  That’s the point isn’t it? Who are they?

B)  Hidden persuaders!

A)  Vance Packard! Yes, we can’t say we haven’t been warned! You notice I said ‘we’?

B)  Yes

A)  Well then there seems to be a question of sides. Divisions. Us and them. The persuaders aren’t just office boys.

B)  No

A)  We don’t know who they are. If we did they wouldn’t be hidden would they?

B)  No

A)  Exactly. They could be gods…or magicians who…

B)  Walk through walls.

A)  That’s right. They’re beyond our ken. We postulate aliens operating in different dimensions.

B)  Higher vibrations!

A)  Or lower vibrations. Don’t forget that possibility. Lower demonic vibrations. Hellish worlds.

B)  Invasions.

A)  Exactly. We’ve been invaded…and are STILL being invaded from demonic worlds. And what are they trying to do?  They are trying to drive me mad!

B)   Mad?

A)  O give over. The darts! Your verbal innocent darts! Thrown at me! ME! And your feigned innocence is a major factor in driving me around THE BEND! And don’t say bend!

B)  Trolley.

A) Am I off my trolly? Very clever insinuation. Is the Earth a trolly being pulled round the sun? Dave Tomlin suggested it was. Sun Trolly was the name of the band he formed.

B)  Music?

A) Of course! A band of musicians…not a band of trouble-makers…or winkle-pickers…irate protesters. Yes…those were the days. The days of bright colours and endless rhythm. This is the funeral.(PAUSE) Yes I feel sorry for the young.

B)  Unfair.

A)  Unfair? When was fairness ever a light in human worldly interaction? Of course it’s unfair to be blown up in your pram!

B)  Iraq. Syria.

A)  Libya. Egypt.

B)  Balham High Street.

A) Now you’re talking. Balham High Street. You’re closing right in. It’s where I live. Out the door…down the road—the very busy road—and just round the corner…157 Balham High Street. And right outside my door…a bomb could go off in a pram or a van…at any moment.

B)  Or never.

A)  Never is too loose. I can’t focus on the notion of ‘never’. I need a point to focus on.

B)  Potential explosion.

A)  Well that’s what’s being pushed down my throat. Greenhouse gas explosion! Where’s the fun? Real fun. Human warm fun. Not idiotic T.V. gags and falsity. NO! I don’t have one. You don’t have one.

B)  We’re quits.

A)  On this score, yes. Yes, we’ve quitted the dumbing down enclosure.

B)  Dis-ease.

A) Willful suicide.

B) Computers?

A) That’s a point. Computers. They’re actually different.

B) Screens.

A) Yes, T.V.s and computers both have screens. True. But there’s more you can do with a computer.

B) Addiction.

A) Of course! You know what? You’re getting more…helpful. I’m feeling less like a Saint Sebastian dartboard. Like I’m feeling less like a class enemy. In fact I’m convinced that you’re making an effort to be more friendly.

B) More friendly?

A) Yes…more friendly. Of course you’re right on the money. There’s no question of ‘more’. I should have said, ‘now you’re being friendly’. Not MORE…since you were decidedly un-friendly  before this…this…what shall I call it? Before this welcome thaw?

B) Let’s dance. (HE PUTS ON AFRICAN DANCE MUSIC) (THEY DANCE)

A) (WHILST DANCING) You know, I have never got used to dancing with a man. I don’t know what it is? As you can see I’m not against it. It’s …what shall I say…slightly un-nerving. Definitely un-nerving. Perhaps it’s in my blood?

B) Not English. (DOES A TWIRL. BOTH STILL DANCING)

A) Exactly! Well of course (DOES A TWIRL) the old school frowns down on such past-times. Don’t you long for the fun we once shared? (THEY BOTH STOP DANCING)

B) Shared?

  (PAUSE)

A) Yes I agree. Was anything ever shared?

B)  Longing.

A)  Ah! Longing. Yes… I see it! … Like those spell-binding sunsets…on the Nile… near Luxor. Would ‘longing  for Godot’ be an improvement?

B)  Different.

A)  Only different? Longing and waiting. Longing for what one is waiting. Perhaps waiting for the end of all longing. That longing for love.

B)  Suffering

A)  Waiting for love.

B)  Never comes.

A) Then the sudden shock!

B)   Illness.

A)  No… The unexpected arrival of love.

B)  Normality.

A)  (TRIUMPHANT)  YES! Love is normality!

B)  Acceptance. (BOTH START DANCING AGAIN)

A)  Real life.

B)  Real life.

A)  Is real life the same as perfect life?

B)   No.

A)  Exactly. Someone to bestow grace upon us.

B)  Female presence.

A)  Of course. You remember those days? Those days when one felt so light hearted… so light hearted—it seemed one lived inside a dome of golden liquid light. Now almost …

B)  Forgotten.

A)  Absolutely.

B) The Golden Forgotten.

A) You say it so calmly as if you hardly care that we are no longer alive inside that life-giving eternity of golden light. You must understand… that for me, as it appears to be NOW… this condition we’re in NOW… is as close to Hell… that I want to come. I can hardly breathe inside this fog of lies we seem forced to inhabit.

B) Dependency.

A) Now you’re talking. How have I become dependent on what poisons my soul? How have I become dependent on LIES? Even afraid to come clean about the lies I manage like circus animals. I disgust myself… my un-nerving weakness. That’s it isn’t it? Supporting lies with one’s soul… makes one’s soul weak… and a weak soul succumbs to ingesting more lies.

B) Responsibility.

A) Exactly. It is I who is producing this noxious horrible fog I inhabit. O.K. (PAUSE) I was going to call you ‘Mr Smart-ass’. But I saw…just in time… that would indeed make this gruesome atmosphere which I’ve been breathing… absorbing, even more dark and poisonous. So, my dear friend, your quiet steadiness has uplifted my soul. Please forgive me for projecting on to you my twisted assumptions. I can see now that your laconic engagements with my sleeping soul were a form of medicine.

B)  Necessary medicine.

A)  Yes, very necessary… but when we were in love wasn’t that a marvelous medicine?

B)  Yes… marvelous.

A)  But now neither sister graces our endless aloneness. We have been forced to learn something I find very, very difficult. Hard. But slowly, an odd moment  here… an odd moment there… I find myself able to appreciate life without being supported by love.

B)  Without her.

A)   Yes of course… appreciating being alive…without her hand in mine.

B)  Heart breaking.

A)  One could cry. Crack up. Fall to pieces. Give up. Give in. But no… that won’t do.

B) Opportunity.

A) YES! Exactly I am ALIVE! Now is the opportunity for a completely different approach to my daily existence.

B) Faith.

A) Yes… that could be it! Living by faith! Faith in life. In this miracle that I exist. And you exist. EXIST! How I’ve overlooked this miracle of my own existence.

B) Embroiled in views.

A) Exactly to the point. Instead of enjoying being alive I put my life into my views on existence. Of course I was heart-broken. Lonely. Desperate. And I tried one way after another to escape my aloneness. I didn’t want to be alone. It seemed so unfair. So deadly. Of course I never gave myself a chance to find out what aloneness actually is. I just re-acted to my fear of what I thought it was like.

B) Self defeat.

A) In a nut shell. And inside the claustrophobic smallness of a nutshell I existed. In fear. Yes my friend, I’ve been suffocating inside an empty nutshell… for a very long time. Suffocating ‘inside a sense of injustice’. A sense of being un-fairly abandoned.

B) By love.

A) Yes! Yes! Yes! Abandoned by love. Did I deserve that? I say no! I didn’t deserve to be abandoned in hell! But…

B) Yes?

A) There’s something not right in what I’m saying. I was abandoned because I projected my hellish fear onto her. She couldn’t take my mad fits of paranoia and anger. I could see it coming and tried to convince her that she would be making a BIG MISTAKE if she left me. That convinced her that it was time to take flight. Being a night bird she left me in the dark… for ever.

B) Tragic.

A) Yes… very tragic.

B) Very tragic.

A) But you too. Yes you also were left bereft. But like the good boy scout… you already were prepared for your fall from grace. You’ve always seemed to cope with adversity. No bewilderment like Hamlet … but like our dear friend Sebastian… you’ve taken every arrow of outrageous fortune like a real man… standing  upright … with even a hint of a smile. Now at last I understand what it is… you always know more than your assailants… you always understand more deeply… more profoundly… than your enemies. Even when she left you for dead on that battlefield.

B) 1124

A) Carnage. The mind-numbing horror of a losing battle. Of course she was a man at that point. Your bosom friend… riding off at speed… on your horse.

B) White steed.

A) Of course. Of course.! You no doubt were brilliant. The hero in shining armour. Was I there? That’s the issue isn’t it? Was it I that made the cowardly escape and not her? How could I be sure?

B) Want to be.

A) Yes of course I would have to have a burning need to know the truth of this.

B) Yes.

A) Do I want to know? Want to? Do I want to know if I was your wife one hundred years ago who abandoned you then…as I had done long before when I was your soldier companion… a fellow Crusader?

B) A fellow Crusader.

A) Quite frankly enmity is arising in me again. Everything felt so much better when we were dancing. How have we come to this?

B) Marienbad.

A) Of course! I’m not sure about my identity. Not sure about who you are. Different  memories. Does it matter?

B) Yes.

A) I shouldn’t have asked. It matters because It seems I’m blindly—that is unconsciously—going round and round on the same infernal dementing carousel. Going from the tiger to the elephant to the horse to the cockerel … but always staying on board… and getting nowhere. Why don’t I jump OFF?

B) Stuck!

A) Thank you. Well I can’t refute that assessment. Yes it was my own words. On board an infernal dementing carousel. And the real point is—I must be on it NOW! And you’re a wounded spectator watching me whizz by every now and then.

B) Yes.

A) No wonder I can’t change.

B) Can’t change?

A) Yes! Yes! I see it. It’s not I can’t change. I won’t change.

B) Addiction.

A) Yes I’m an addict. A junkie hooked on tomorrow.

B) Yesterday.

A) Guilt… of course. I took your horse and left you to die with your guts hanging out…and then… when I was your wife… I left you for your best friend.

B) In France.

A) Yes. Yes. In France. Of course I remember. Did my unconscious influence Rob Grillet? It should have been ‘Last Lifetime In Marienbad’. Where was the battle?

B) Aleppo.

A) What is it like to be so clear? So calm? Why don’t you hate me for being such a bastard to you?

B) Forgiveness.

A) Jesus Christ… of course. Saint Sebastian is a different kettle of fish. In all those sexy paintings where he’s penetrated by one arrow after another… you would imagine he’s at death’s door. Wrong! He didn’t die! Helen—I think that’s her name…

B) Irene.

A) Yes of course! Irene—bless her—The dear woman got him back to her house—and somehow he recovers.

B) The healing power of love!

A) Exactly! Exactly so…But then… that bastard Emperor went riding by Irene’s house accompanied by his retinue of thugs. So, determined to let the bastard Emperor know what he thought of him… Sebastian stood on the step outside Irene’s house and not feeling full of forgiveness… but feeling raging anger… screamed pointed insults at the Emperor!!!

B) Death wish.

A) Perhaps. Perhaps. Well yes…the boss immediately dispatches his louts to beat up poor Sebastian… who ends up a sorry mess… dying in a sewer. Bastard Roman Emperor.

B) Forgiveness

A) For they know not what they do.

B) Mindless

A) Yes. Exactly. The true human being endlessly crucified by the mindless robots. Love trampled under mindless swine.

B) Our story.

A) Endless betrayal.

B) Animal Farm.

A) God we are trawling beyond the common comfort zones. Time to dance again. (THEY DANCE TO MORE AFRICAN DRUM MUSIC) You know, I’m definitely getting over my shyness. Feeling more alive. You look… amused. Why shouldn’t you? We’ve crossed a few barriers today.

B) WE?

A) I was afraid you’d say that! Look I’m dancing. And so are you!

 

Neil Oram 2013

Pic: Dave Cooper

 


This entry was posted on in homepage and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *