WAYS is a play about two boys who inadvertently summons some great Australian literary figures - novelist Christina Stead, poet Christopher Brennan and two surprise characters - while doing their homework. Confusion reigns.
WAYS CHARACTERS TOBY BREGOVIC - 14, SUBURBAN PRINCE TALON O’SHAUNESSY - 14, LESS COMFORTABLY A SUBURBAN PRINCE CHRISTINA STEAD - FIFTY, WORLD WEARY COMPUTER - CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN - SIXTY, MOUNTAIN OF A MAN, DISHEVELLED IN BLACK VELVET, SILVER HANDLED CANE DOT - 12 YEAR OLD GIRL IN A TORN AND DIRTY 1890s DRESS KANGAROO - MOTHERLY POLICEWOMAN - INDIGENOUS, SAME ACTOR AS KANGAROO POLICEMAN SCENE AN OPEN SPACE LIVING AREA WITH DARKENED COMPUTER STATION UPSTAGE. TOBY IS STANDING OVER TALON WHO IS PATTERING ON A COMPUTER KEYBOARD. THE REST OF THE SPACE IS OCCUPIED BY ARMCHAIRS, A SOFA, COFFEE TABLE, DRINKS CABINET, FLATSCREEN T V ... THE COMPUTER SCREEN THROWS AN EERIE LIGHT OVER SET. ACT 1 TOBY You’re useless, that’s no good. TALON You wouldn’t know how to get in. In any case, you told those guys at school you watched Hot Babes Do Live Sex like all the time. Talon shoves himself away from the screen. Stands up, moves off. Toby takes his place at the keyboard, patters furiously at keys. Screen flickers. TALON (CONT) Hot Guys Do Live Sex more like it. TOBY (While still pattering) Have they got that? TALON How would I - (know)? Probably, they’ve got everything. Prinzina said she watches this site where these guys dress up as cuddly toys - like kangaroos and things ... TOBY That’s not sex! They’re fetish guys. God you’re a virgin, that’s ... I bet that’s ... Anyway, she’s in America. I bet that isn’t even her talking. TALON It is. Who else would it be? She’s talking .. (for Pete’s sake). Who else would it be? 2. TOBY It’s probably her older sister and she just writes those messages. Or some old pedophile out to trap you. They ask you to meet them in - (McDonald’s or somewhere). TALON Tobster, it’s Prinzina, she talks, she hums, she sings, she walks the walk. She’s coming to visit me. I’m going to take her to the formal when I’m in Year Twelve. Toby laughs. TOBY You crack me up. You’re so ... What’s that word, we did it in English? It means you believe everything they tell you. TALON Gullible. TOBY You’re so gullible ... How do you spell it? TALON G-U-L- ... Toby patters the key board. TOBY Got it. Toby patters keyboard some more. COMPUTER GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent, credulous person. Someone who believes everything they are told. TOBY That’s so right, that’s you alright, innocent. That’s the word I was trying to think of before. It means you’ve never had sex. TALON It does not, it means you’re ... holy. TOBY What? TALON Innocent means you are washed clean of your sins by the Lamb of God’s blood. You don’t even have filthy thoughts. God can trust you. TOBY Oh my ... (God). Sure. Whatever. This is embarrassing. Toby patters keyboard again. 3. COMPUTER GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent, credulous ... TOBY What’s ‘credulous’ for ... (fuck’s sake)? Toby patters keyboard again. TALON You’re ... Are you adding these to your vocab list? Toby ignores him. Keeps pattering at keyboard. TALON (CONT) I don’t think that’s very fair, Mr Tszinsky will think you found them for yourself. COMPUTER CREDULOUS - C-R-E-D-U-L-O-U-S. A believing person, the quality of accepting information unhesitatingly without doubt or proof. TOBY That’s what you are. I’ll think of you and that will help me to remember that word. Credulous, Talon O’Shaunessy, a guy who believes whatever they ask him to swallow. TALON I feel sorry for you. TOBY Really? Why would that be Talon my friend? TALON Because you have no faith. Pastor says it makes people cold and when the Rapture comes - (you will be left behind). TOBY Here we go. Pastor says. TALON I’m not that bad, I have scepticism. (IMITATING COMPUTER VOICE) SCEPTICISM - S-C-E-P-T-I-C-I-S-M someone who thinks about things in a way for himself to see if they are true. And Prinzina is true. TOBY I didn’t say she wasn’t true, dude, I just said she mightn’t be the one who is talking - she mightn’t look like that way cool black chick who is too old for you by the way. You are so credulous Talon, you really are. These old guys are always pulling these scams on the net and ... What’s that other word? COMPUTER GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent ... 4. TOBY How did that ... (happen)? Talon rushes over, pushes Toby aside and patters at keyboard while ... COMPUTER .. credulous person. Someone who believes everything - TOBY Hey! Who’s computer is it, gullible man? Talon keeps at keyboard. TALON We’ve got to do this now so we can play Amazing Car Theft. TOBY Chill dude, there’s plenty of time, it’s only ... (CHECKS TIME) seven thirty. So who do we have to look up? TALON We can choose. One each. So long as it’s a famous Australian writer. Computer screen flickers. TALON You’ve got power failure. TOBY I didn’t till you took over. (POINTS AT SCREEN) What’s that you’ve brought up? TALON I didn’t ... TOBY Oh. Right. Australian Literature. O K so who are we going to research? Um ... John Marsden, or what’s the name of that dude who wrote Looking for Alibrandi? TALON This is weird. I didn’t ... The computer just ... You’ve already been searching, right? TOBY Searching what? TALON Looking for your great Australian writer. Who did you choose? TOBY No-one yet. I don’t know ... (who to choose). Look, it says CELEBRATED PRACTITIONERS. That must be it, like celebrities, get it? So who was that guy who wrote Looking for Alibrandi? 5. TALON Melina Marchetta. Toby starts to type. TOBY How do you spell it? That guy shouldn’t’ve committed suicide. TALON It’s against God’s will. So is anorexia. TOBY Is it? How do you spell it? M-? TALON M-E-L-I-N-A M-A-R- Toby types. TOBY M-A-R go on. TALON M-A-R-C ... is it H? Or just C? Italians just write C when they sound CH. TOBY Whatever. Toby types. TOBY It’s frozen. TALON Let me. I think it’s ... Talon types. COMPUTER M-A-R-C ... C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-A Christina. S-T-E-A-D Stead. 1902 to 1983. Celebrated Australian author spent most of her life escaping her native land but was forced to return for financial reasons ... Christina Stead emerges from the darkness behind the computer station. The boys do not see her. She stares at them and the screen. CHRISTINA STEAD That’s not entirely true. 6. COMPUTER She was more celebrated overseas than in Australia. Her reputation was particularly high in the United States where she set her thinly disguised autobiographical novel The Man Who Loved Children. CHRISTINA STEAD Hmph! TOBY Yeah, I don’t really want to do her, she’s not celebrated enough. I don’t want to do someone who - (wrote about peds). TALON What? This is weird. What’s this got to do with ... TOBY What was the name of that guy who did Raw? TALON Scott Monk. Did you ... Christina Stead is puzzled about where she is, manoeuvres to see what the boys are doing. TOBY I might do him. It was O K. He shouldn’t’ve got so mixed up with that chick though, she was too good for him. What was the name of that guy who wrote about the horses - Banjo Patterson. I’m going to do him! That movie was cool. Who else is there? CHRISTINA STEAD Henry Lawson. He was pointed out to me once, I had - (just got off the ferry at Circular Quay and ...). Boys gasp and leap away. TOBY Mum’s not here. CHRISTINA STEAD I see. So you’re alone? TOBY Yes, we’re doing our homework. No! Christina Stead moves downstage looking around. CHRISTINA STEAD How strange. TALON You better go now, his dad will be here any minute, we’re expecting him ... 7. CHRISTINA STEAD I’d like to go. What time is the tram? TOBY TALON Tram? Tram? TOBY What tram? TALON We don’t have trams. CHRISTINA STEAD I’ll take the ferry then. What time is it? It can’t be so late that I’ve missed the last one. TOBY Ferry? CHRISTINA STEAD I wish I’d never come back, I knew it would be like this. I must leave before David gets back. What time is he expected? TOBY David? TALON Right away. Christina Stead becomes agitated, paces up and down. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh good grief. I cannot abide the idea of running into him. This is most unfortunate. You boys ... Who are you? Has someone had children? Are you neighbours in here to get one of David’s gimcracks? A cotton reel ferry? A puppet head made from a sock? Take it and go. No. I’ll come with you, you can take me to the tram ... Did you say there are no trams? TALON They’re very environmentally friendly but ... CHRISTINA STEAD I see David has been filling your heads with his ideas. Oh dear, nothing has changed. King of the kids. Did he just leave you here, watching television? Television. Does he really have television? TOBY No. Dad will be here soon - now! CHRISTINA STEAD Dad? Who is your father? Which of my brother’s ... I’m your Aunt Christina. I’ve been ... away - in America of late. Surely he’s mentioned me. 8. Don’t tell me David had more children? Poor Thistle. Women rush into marriage with (anyone) ... heedlessly. TOBY I don’t have an Aunt Christina, you’re in the wrong place. CHRISTINA STEAD So I am not spoken of. Surely Thistle told you about me, I write to her religiously. TALON Who‘s Thistle? Christina Stead strides towards side of stage. CHRISTINA STEAD I must get out of here before your father, my father - which - who is your father? - before David arrives. I have nothing to say to him. TALON My father’s in Aotearoa. Christina stops. CHRISTINA STEAD What’s he doing there? There’s no more work there than there is here. TALON He manages a marae, he’s ... important. CHRISTINA STEAD A marae? What is that? TALON A Maori meeting house. TOBY They’re very environmentally friendly. CHRISTINA STEAD What next. How typical of a Stead to go off and interfere in the lives of some native people. TOBY My dad’s coming home. He’ll be here any minute. He’ll throw you and your mates into the street and call the police. CHRISTINA STEAD Police? Why would he do that? TOBY Home invasions are against the law. Anyway we haven’t got any jewellery or drugs - there’s no money. 9. CHRISTINA STEAD No. There never was. And I have none. Bill left me nothing except the rights to his book and no-one buys it, interesting as it is. No-one is interested in Marxist economics anymore. (Looks around) How strange it all is. (TO TALON) Your father has changed everything. Did he marry Maria? TALON I don’t live here but he married (NODDING TOWARDS TOBY) his mum and then ... he’s got a girlfriend. TOBY You don’t have to tell everyone. Dad married Mum and had us and then ... he got a girlfriend, Toula. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh. TALON And I’m just visiting. I’m just here to do our homework on a great Australian writer. I’m staying over. They don’t have any money on them. Or drugs ... I think. His stepmum took all the credit cards with her. TOBY My parents are coming home early. Now. CHRISTINA STEAD I must get away. How terrible that I am here and ... I have the old familiar feeling of ... I knew I’d feel trapped. I should never have returned. (TURNS AROUND) I recognise nothing. And there are no trams. Christina Stead goes and sits in an armchair and weeps. TALON Would you like a glass of water? CHRISTINA STEAD Oh you may as well make me a cup of tea. And I am starving. Does Thistle bake? Or this Toula? Some bread and butter will do if - (you have no cake). TALON I don’t know how to make tea. CHRISTINA STEAD Good grief. Coffee then. TOBY He’s Seventh Day Adventist. CHRISTINA STEAD What? 10. TOBY Seventh Day Adventist. It’s a religion. TALON A lot of Maori are. Mum makes me go to this special chapel. (TO TOBY) I’m not SDA, it’s different from SDA, you get closer to God with the singing and the ones who talk in tongues. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) We can’t understand them but that’s our fault. TOBY They’re waiting for the Rapture. TALON We’re not just waiting. CHRISTINA STEAD The what? TALON The Rapture. It’s the End of Days. CHRISTINA STEAD Well that’s one for the books. And what does David have to say about that? He raised us all to be rationalists. TOBY Who’s David? CHRISTINA STEAD Your grandfather. What do you call him? Surely not ‘Grandpa”? (LAUGHS) I can’t imagine him allowing that. Your grandfather, my father, the distinguished marine biologist David G Stead, author of - Fishes of Australia A Popular Study and Systematic Guide to the Study of the Wealth within our Waters. TOBY My grandfather’s in Noosa. Talon checks the computer screen. Taps a key on the keyboard. COMPUTER C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-A Christina Stead. S-T-E-A-D. 1902 to 1983. Celebrated Australian author spent most of her life escaping her native land but was forced to return - (for financial reasons ...) CHRISTINA STEAD I wish you’d turn that tape recorder off. It’s inaccurate. Why are you playing that? Who’s that talking? TALON I get it. You’re a Guide, aren’t you? 11. CHRISTINA STEAD No. I was never a Guide, Father - David thought they were an Imperialist plot, which they were. Besides, I would never have subjected myself to the uniform - not that David could have spared the cash. I was not that sort of girl - grilling chops on open fires while being jolly, tying knots and ... well I would have liked to learn semaphore, then I could have signalled to the sailors ... TALON I think it’s begun. TOBY What? TALON The Rapture. TOBY You’re kidding right? This is going right off the screen. TALON I told you it was coming. She‘s here. She came from the internet to ... guide ... us. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) You can save Toby, Miss, he just ... his parents didn’t take him to chapel. But he’s been good ... sort of - he didn’t mean to look at those porn sites, did you? TOBY Shut up. You looked at them too. Christina Stead begins to pace again. CHRISTINA STEAD I must leave this awful place. You boys have been listening to the Argonauts ... or is it those serials with The Air Adventures of Biggles and the Cisco Kid and ... My brothers were the same. David put a stop to that. I want to leave, I do not want to be here. I starved myself to get away, I barely bought a thing ... I walked miles to save a penny, I endured my father and the poisonous atmosphere of this house ... (LOOKS AROUND). No wonder they changed it so completely. TALON We will all be leaving soon, right? CHRISTINA STEAD TOBY Will we? Oh good. Where is my Will we? Where to? purse? TALON To our eternal reward. CHRISTINA STEAD I suppose it was inevitable that someone in this madhouse would get religion. Did one of my sisters marry a Maori? Probably Kate. (TO TALON) What is your name? 12. TALON Talon. CHRISTINA STEAD What ... (did you say)? Not your nick name, your Christian name? TALON Talon is my name in Christ. TOBY It is Miss. CHRISTINA STEAD I hope you boys are not being cheeky. (TO TOBY) And what is your name? TOBY Toby. CHRISTINA STEAD Hmm. TALON Are you the angel? What is your name? CHRISTINA STEAD Christina. TALON I thought so. TOBY I’m going to call the police. TALON There’s no point. They can’t help. No-one can help. The blessed are called and the damned are lost. There might be some blessed police but ... why? TOBY My parents wouldn’t like this. I’m getting worried. Talon goes over and puts his arm around Toby’s shoulder. TALON You’re Mum might be saved, she goes to church sometimes but your stepmother is a ho. Toby shrugs him off. TOBY Get off! What are you doing? They’ve just gone out with the Duvices. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) I’m going to ring my parents. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh that’s a good idea, they can ... Where are they? 13. TOBY I don’t ... (know). At a restaurant. They’re going to ring me and - (I’ll tell them you’re here). TALON (To CHRISTINA STEAD) Maybe you’re a saint. Did you feel the Spirit coming into your body? What did you do that pleased the Lord? TOBY (To Talon) Stop it! You’re bullshit. CHRISTINA STEAD Watch your language in my presence! Christina Stead goes downstage and peers into the audience. TALON You’ve got to be holy now, mate. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) It must feel funny. How long were you dead? Was it good? What’s ecstasy like? Fade up harbour sounds - very, very low sound of waves lapping, ferries hooting. CHRISTINA STEAD I can’t see anything. How quickly night came. All I wanted was a glimpse through these windows again out at the bay, with the ships waiting for the pilot to take them down the Harbour or out through the Heads to the wide world. I am half sick of shadows. (CHRISTINA STEAD TURNS TO THE BOYS) Be careful what you wish for. (CHRISTINA STEAD TURNS AWAY FROM THE BOYS). I longed for ... it cannot have been to smell the salt air of Sydney Harbout tinctured with iodine emanating from rotting kelp at low tide, it cannot have been to be back in this hateful, sordid house. For one foolish, desperate moment in my loneliness, sitting at my desk in that freezing Catskills house with a view of a frozen pond, puzzling over the strangeness and yet the urgency of yet another novel I was compelled to write ... something - was it the need of money? I was longing for something, always. Why was I writing another of my novels? I hardly understood the need. Was it an impulse towards catharsis? Was it a longing to impress Bill and others? To show David I was not just a useless expense ... Just for a moment I longed for the warmth ... to be by the window, looking out at the bay with the steamers from London and Cochin, at night their lights blinking indecipherable messages and enchantment, a figure for a moment in a pool of yellow light on deck, perhaps paused to light a cigarette, the flare of a match across the dark shining waters ... I longed for warmth. (LOOKS AROUND) And here I am, in this nightmare with imps tormenting me. I must wake up, there is the chapter to finish. How will I finish it? What is there to say? What in the end can be said of a situation? Where to end? How? 14. Fade out harbour sounds. Christina Stead begins pacing again. TALON The Tribulation. Is it over or has it just begun? CHRISTINA STEAD I hope it is over, Talon. TALON (TO TOBY) Don’t worry mate, you’re saved. TOBY That’s good. Now what? Christina Stead spins towards them. CHRISTINA STEAD Good imp! Let’s guide ourselves, let us turn this nightmare - how could I have wished to be back? What madness possessed me? - A cigarette, yes I will have a cigarette and surely it is time for a whisky. (TO TOBY) Boy, Tony, these - (parents). TOBY Toby, Miss. CHRISTINA STEAD Toby, as in jug, these parents you keep speaking of, where is their whisky? And cigarettes? TOBY They usually drink wine. CHRISTINA STEAD That’ll do. TOBY It’s in the fridge or ... (POINTS TO DRINKS CABINET) over there. Toby goes over to drinks cabinet, followed by Christina Stead. Toby opens door, takes out a bottle of vermouth. While this is going on Talon goes to computer and patters on keyboard. CHRISTINA STEAD Good heavens, my drink. TOBY I think it’s the one grandma gave them for Christmas, they don’t like it. CHRISTINA STEAD That’s good. 15. Christina Stead takes bottle and opens it, gets a glass out of the cabinet and pours a drink. She drinks deeply and sighs with relief. CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT) Thank you Bacchus. Christina moves to sit down. As she does CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN emerges from dark around the computer. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Did I hear a drink mentioned? Toby and Christina Stead are startled. TOBY CHRISTINA STEAD Who are you? You almost made me spill - (my drink). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN It’s the air, it makes you thirsty. What time is it? Talon moves from the computer. TALON Seven-thirty seven. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Ah time for dinner. Or have I had it? One usually has a glass or two of wine to simulate the appetite ... Madam? CHRISTINA STEAD I am a guest here. TOBY Who invited you? CHRISTINA STEAD Your ... I was going to say your parents but this is all too odd. TOBY (TO TALON) Where’d he come from? TALON I got mine. TOBY Did you? Who? What? TALON Her. Miss. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Excuse me Miss, Ms, Ma’am ... Who are you? What’s your name? Your angel name? 16. CHRISTINA STEAD Miss Stead. TALON (TO TOBY) I told you, I got mine - he’s yours. TOBY What? TALON Christina Stead - Excuse me miss, can I call you Christina? CHRISTINA STEAD Aunt Christina, if you please. Oh yes, ‘Christina’ will do. Whose are you? Do I know you? TALON No, I don’t think so but I am Jehovah’s. Christina Stead looks at him assessingly then drinks. CHRISTINA STEAD Does He have a cigarette? Or is that against His plan? TALON I don’t know. Probably. I didn’t know Guides smoked. And drank. (INDICATING TOBY) Ask him, it’s his place. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) You’re really an angel, aren’t you? They can do what they like. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN What are you drinking? I do not approve of women smoking. Christopher Brennan approaches the drinks cabinet, inspects the bottles. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Hmm, no sparkling burgundy, more’s the pity. Strange stuff. (HOLDING UP THE VERMOUTH) I’ll try some of this. TALON (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) We are all one in the eyes of - (Jehovah, especially now we are blessed). COMPUTER C-H-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E-R B-R-E-N-N-A-N Christopher Brennan. Christopher Brennan (1870-1932). Brennan was born in Sydney in impoverished circumstances. He was educated at St Ignatius College and the University of Sydney where he read Classics and Philosophy. After graduating brilliantly Brennan travelled to Berlin where he continued his studies in Philosophy. He returned to Sydney in 1894. He was joined by his fiancé Elizabeth Werth, daughter of his Berlin landlady and her other daughter who was deranged. The marriage was not a success. Brennan abandoned it in 1922 to live with Violet Singer. 17. He worked as a librarian until he was offered a position as a lecturer in Modern Literature at the University of Sydney. The University forced him out ... (after his wife petitioned for divorce). CHRISTINA STEAD I thought it was you. What are you doing in my dream? Oh Sydney ... escape ... surely I am not to return to Sydney and pursue a life as unhappy as yours. Neither of us should have come back. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I beg your pardon Madam! Please keep my private life out of your conversation. I do not know you, we have never been introduced ... have we? TALON (TO TOBY) I got mine, now you’ve got yours. But I don’t think homework will matter in the Rapture ... not unless Mr Tszinsky was saved and I don’t think he’s the type. (TO THE OTHERS) No offence but you don’t look like the types either. No offence Tobe but ... You know. TOBY (TO TALON) You’re kidding aren’t you? You’re not for real, are you? This is a joke, right? You’ve arranged this with your church to scare me, right? Christina Stead takes the bottle from Christopher Brennan and refreshes her glass, Brennan holds out a glass, she pours. TOBY (CONT’D) (TO TALON) This is out of control. What have you done? TALON Don’t you get it? The computer’s our Guide. Don’t worry bro, you’re saved. I don’t know how but you’re saved. You must have done something that pleased Jehovah. TOBY For fuck’s sake - (shut up about Jehovah). Christina Stead and Christopher Brennan swing around with their drinks. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN There is a lady present! TALON Yeah bro, you’re going to have to watch your language now that you’re blessed. They’re angels. But they drink alcohol. And smoke. Nicotine. But they must be. They’re our Guides. You’ve got to keep you mind clean too, they can read your thoughts. 18. CHRISTINA STEAD This is really too much ... Was it something I ate? Was it that tine of raspberries - a craving, I thought ... Oh, of course ... (I’ve haven’t been well). Christina Stead goes over and sits down, stares out at the audience with her drink. CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT) Perhaps these are versions of the children I might have had. (LOOKS BACK STAGE AT TOBY AND TALON) Dreadful thought. Why a Maori ...? A gesture at internationalism? Of race equality - neither black nor white? That must be it. Why the religion? God this is awful, what a state I must be in. Christina Stead begins to sob. Talon goes over and puts a hand on her shoulder, she lays hers on top of his. CHRISTINA STEAD It’s alright, child. Shouldn’t have taken so much aspirin. That’s probably what did it, too much aspirin and vermouth, if I think about it. I had insufficient restraint, I am sufficiently punished, surely? Oh, I mustn’t think like that. So your name is Talon? TALON Didn’t Jehovah tell you my name? CHRISTINA STEAD Oh child, what terrible revenge is this? No! This is foolish, I am too rational to have this kind of guilt. I was going to call you Wilhelm or ... I never thought of you as a girl ... I think I wanted to call you after my mother whom I never knew. TOBY (TO TALON) She thinks you’re a girl. CHRISTINA STEAD ‘Ellen’ ... Such a pretty name. TOBY (TO TALON) ‘Ellen’ ... suits you. CHRISTINA STEAD No wonder I could not conceive ... of you ... (as a girl). TOBY (TO TALON) She’ll probably give you a boob tube for your birthday. CHRISTINA STEAD No wonder I am in this dreadful predicament. 19. TOBY (TO TALON) I think of you as a girl sometimes, like - (when you’re going on about Jehovah). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Silence boy! You are impertinent. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Surely madam, if I understand you correctly ... Surely you did not commit a mortal sin? CHRISTINA STEAD Oh, many no doubt. Do not trouble me with your vague threats. You are not one to cast aspersions, you are a scandal. Tous Sydney gossips of your ... I should not engage in this. Christina Stead composes herself. Talon moves back to be near Toby. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN It is true madam that my marriage has failed, if that is what you refer to. I have sought forgiveness. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh, I dare say. Let’s leave it. Christian Stead and Christopher Brennan drink. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Where did this Italian beverage ... Where did you buy this vermouth? Christina Stead ignores him. CHRISTINA STEAD Whose house am I in? TALON His. Toby’s. You’re my project. (POINTING AT CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) He’s his. You’re homework. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Strange. What sort of a retreat would offer drink? Would allow young imbeciles to mix with ... (patients)? TALON (TO TOBY) What are the questions? TOBY What? TALON What are the questions we have to fill in? TOBY What questions? What are you - (going on about now?). 20. TALON What Mr Tszinsky told us to do for homework. TOBY You’re seriously ... mad. TALON It must be God’s will. Where’s the paper? Did you print it out? TOBY No. Talon goes to computer and patters at keyboard. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Have you been an inmate - a resident for long, if I may make so bold. CHRISTINA STEAD I am not a resident. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I beg your pardon Nurse. CHRISTINA STEAD I am not a nurse. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Sister. Christina Stead shakes her head. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I beg your pardon Matron, I should have realised. I would like to leave - as soon as possible. Now would be a - (good time). The printer starts. Christopher Brennan and Christina Stead turn around, surprised by the noise. Talon picks up the printout. TALON (TO TOBY) It was on the blog in any case. The first question is dates of birth and death. Oh. We can get the birth dates - we got them, didn’t we? Yeah, they’re online. This is great. We can ask them all sorts of things. Let’s see ... Did they always live in Australia? (TO TOBY) Yo ask yours and I’ll ask mine. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Excuse me Miss - Aunty - Aunt - Christina, did you always live in Australia? CHRISTINA STEAD No-one can always live in Australia. 21. TALON Is that right? So .. (READS, LOOKS UP) How long did you live in Australia for? CHRISTINA STEAD For a long, long time. TALON So that would be five years - no, you would have been five when you left ... um, so that would be fifteen years? Twenty? CHRISTINA STEAD I was a young woman when I left. TALON So that would be ... Seventeen? CHRISTINA STEAD I was twenty-six when I left. TALON (WRITES) Twenty-six. Wow. So that would be in ...? CHRISTINA STEAD 1928, twenty-eighth of March. TALON (READS) Why did you leave? CHRISTINA STEAD One has to - I had to escape. I think I did. I thought I did. (LOOKS AROUND IN DESPAIR, BEGINS WEEPING, STOPS HERSELF BY DRINKING). Silence. TALON (TO TOBY) Go on. TOBY What? TALON You ask yours. TOBY Who is he? I don’t know him. What’s he ... (doing here)? (CLEARS THROAT. TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) What are you doing here? TALON No. It’s (READING FROM PRINTOUT) Did your celebrated Australian writer always live in Australia? TOBY This is rats arse. (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Did you always live in Australia? 22. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Matron, surely these orderlies ... Are not the appropriate individuals for taking my history? I understand you might have trouble getting staff and these are difficult economic times but ... CHRISTINA STEAD Matron ... ? Oh god, I suppose I am. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I do beg your pardon, one is not used to female doctors. They strike one rather in the way Dr Johnson spoke of female preachers - Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. (LAUGHS) CHRISTINA STEAD How tedious this dream is. I wonder why I am coming up with such banalities. TOBY (TO TALON) He won’t answer. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) At least they are not the usual white- coated thugs manhandling one. (TO TOBY) Boy, wouldn’t you do better riding a bike and delivering telegrams? The fresh air. This is not a salutary environment for boys. TOBY (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Fuck you. Did you always live in Australia you old fuck? Christopher Brennan gets up and goes over and clips Toby on the head. Toby can’t believe it then begins to wail and cry. TOBY You hit me! No. You ... can’t do that. You hit me. He ... (TO TALON) You saw. No. Toby sobs and throws himself on the ground. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Insolent boy! Control yourself. Christopher Brennan goes back to his drink. Christina Stead drinks while regarding Toby. Talon goes over to Toby, kneels down. TALON You can’t swear at the Guides, mate. 23. TOBY He hit me, that’s assault. That’s ch- (ild) abuse. (TO CHRISTIAN STEAD) You saw. CHRISTINA STEAD He’s a Catholic. Toby stops crying for a moment. TOBY Do they do that? Christina Stead shrugs. CHRISTINA STEAD They’re all apply the rod in order not to spoil the child. It’s preferable in many ways, less cruel. TOBY What? CHRISTINA STEAD You mustn’t think everyone is like David whom I presume is your grandfather. Probably your mother - or father - whose child are you? - is bringing you up in the quasi free way that David applied to us. Beating would have been less destructive it seems to me. The vagaries of his whimsical tyranny were torture. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I hope Madam, that you are not impugning an excellent Catholic education, to which I owe everything. CHRISTINA STEAD Yes, yes, quite. We all know about the sophistry of the Jesuits and the brutality of the Marists. Class based, of course. Beat the poor into submission, confuse the - (clear minds of the young rich). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Everything! I say. Everything. The Jesuits gave me the world of the mind, the spirit which I blindly craved and to which I had no access. But for their charity - I am not ashamed to admit it - what would I be? Some clerk longing for ... longing for he knew not what and with vague, inchoate ... I would be seeking ... Christopher Brennan pours himself some more vermouth. Christina Stead sighs and holds out her glass. TOBY He hit me miss, aren’t you going to do anything about it? CHRISTINA STEAD Are you hurt? 24. TOBY N-o. Yes! Not a lot. But it was abuse. Violence. I’m a minor. TALON You’re fourteen. TOBY So? TALON Um, I don’t ... (know). Listen mate, they’re Guides. We have to listen. I know they’re hard to understand, it’s probably because their first language is Aramaic. TOBY (MUTTERS) Fuck that, I’m - (going to call the cops). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Watch your filthy tongue boy! Shouldn’t you and your brother be studying your Latin? Talon nudges Toby to say ‘yes’. TOBY Y-es. And our Aramaic. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Madam - Doctor, are these boys ... I realise now that they are inmates - are these inmates continuing their education or is that out of the question? I ask because while I am here I may be of some assistance. I have some experience in education. I would need a good Latin primer of course. I could spend some of my time supervising these boys ... I will not be here for long, of course, just till I dry out. Perhaps three - two weeks? At the most. CHRISTINA STEAD Perhaps. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Perhaps these boys are ineducable, from my observation that seems to be the case. The other one, the quieter may have some capacity for absorption, it is evident that the obscene one is intractable. There must be a suitable career ...? I suppose you are applying tests? CHRISTINA STEAD Yes. Tests. I gave many when I left Teachers College. How I loathed - (being a teacher). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN So you are a teacher? I thought ... You are another resident, aren’t you? I thought I had some dim recognition of you. We passed in the garden or sat opposite at afternoon tea. 25. Toby tries to signal to Talon to get help. TALON (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Was it the Garden of Eden? No, that’s wrong. The gardens in heaven. They have fountains, don’t they? Toby edges towards a shelf, picks up a mobile phone, hides it in his back pocket. Moves towards wing. TOBY I’ll make you a cup of tea. CHRISTINA STEAD No need now. (WAVES GLASS) Some cheese and biscuits would be appreciated. It’s such a long ride back into town. Where will I stay? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I believe you’ll be spending the night here. How long have you been here? Toby starts to sidle offstage. Gives a flick of his head to Talon to follow. Talon looks puzzled. CHRISTINA STEAD I have no idea - twenty minutes. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Bad as that, eh? CHRISTINA STEAD Well if you put it that way ... yes. Now I would much rather be in my little upstairs room overlooking the pond. It was frozen. How cold I ... I was missing Bill and - I most certainly will not be spending the night here. It isn’t even ... It is dark, isn’t it? What a terrible dream. And yet not quite a nightmare. TOBY (TO TALON) Come and I’ll teach you how to make tea. TALON I couldn’t do that. (TO CHRISTINA) Christina, do we still eat and drink? CHRISTINA STEAD Well I do. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN That’s a good sign. What school did you teach in? CHRISTINA STEAD Plunkett Street. But it was years ago. 26. TOBY I’m going then. To the kitchen. Toby taps his palm to indicate to Talon his intention of making a mobile call. TALON I don’t think there’s any point Tobster, who would you call? TOBY (COVERING FOR TALON’S GAFF) Call? CHRISTINA STEAD Oh please don’t! Is he around? I dread ... (running into him). (STANDS UP, IS AGITATED). I must leave. I must wake up. What am I doing here? With ... Christopher Brennan. We have nothing in common, there is no association. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I should say not! I don’t know you. Except for that time in the garden ... I have never met you. We have not been introduced. TALON I’ll introduce you. CHRISTINA STEAD TOBY Oh for God‘s sake. Oh for God’s sake. TOBY (CONT) Come to the kitchen, Talon. We can ... work something out. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Yes. Bring us something to eat. Surely the doctors would not want us drinking on empty stomachs. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) This must be some new treatment. I always considered that drying-out too ... drastic, didn’t you? CHRISTINA STEAD I wouldn’t know. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Oh come now, madam. TALON Christina, this is Christopher Brennan. Both your names have to do with Christ. Christopher - CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Professor Brennan to the likes of you! TALON Oh. Um ... This is Christina. She’s my Guide. (INDICATES TOBY) You’re his. 27. TOBY I’m going to the kitchen. To make a call. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh don’t, please. Talon rushes Toby and wrestles the mobile away from him. TOBY Get off! What’re you doing? TALON Who’re you going to call? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN You boys! Stop fighting. CHRISTINA STEAD Is that one of David’s gimcracks? I wouldn’t fight over it if I were you, there’ll be plenty more. TOBY Dad! Mum! Triple 0. TALON They’ll either be with us or ... Toby grabs the phone back and starts punching in a number. TOBY Fuck! It’s out of credit. Christopher Brennan gets up and moves towards the boys brandishing his silver-handled cane. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I’ll teach you to use language like that. Talon and Toby back off. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh for heaven’s sake. Sit down man. They’re imps. It’s their role to prance and irritate. You should thank your Lord they are not Furies, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some turned up. Then we’ll be in for it. TALON Are they like demons? CHRISTINA STEAD That’s an interesting question. Do you mean - (’imps’ or Furies’?) CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN You cannot indulge children, madam. I am surprised. 28. CHRISTINA STEAD Don’t be. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN What did you say? CHRISTINA STEAD Don’t be. In this state anything may occur. Sit down. Finish your drink. Don’t you smoke a pipe? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Your training should tell you that these youths cannot be allowed to get away with delinquent behaviour. CHRISTINA STEAD My training ... My training ... My training and my observation were often at odds. (ADDRESSING TALON) Are Furies like demons? I think there may be a hierarchy ... succubi, incubi ... the maenadae ... frenzied in their pursuit of men. Probably low - the lowest - in the order of evil spirits. I cannot think of a single female spirit in Paradise Lost. Ramiel, Adrameleck, Asmadai ... all male. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Surely that is not remarkable? Whoever heard of a female general? They were Satan’s generals. There’s Eve. CHRISTINA STEAD Eve was not a spirit. Though I always thought the Serpent was rather feminine - ‘So spake the enemy of mankind, enclosed In serpent, inmate bad, and toward Eve Addressed his way; not with indented wave, Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear, Circular base of rising folds, that towered Fold above fold a surging maze, his head Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes; With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass Floated redundant; pleasing as his shape, And lovely, never since of serpent-kind Lovelier ... Christopher Brennan joins in at ‘With burnished neck ..’ CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass Floated redundant; pleasing as his shape, And lovely, never since of serpent-kind Lovelier ... Your memory is good. 29. CHRISTINA STEAD Interesting isn’t it? A lovely serpent. Of course, they are, snakes ... TALON The Devil can quote scripture for his purpose. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN What are you saying boy? That is not scripture. That is the sublime Milton. ‘I might relate of thousands, and their names Eternise here on earth; but those elect Angels, contented with their fame in heav’n Seek not the praise of men ..’ Christina Stead joins in the last line. CHRISTINA STEAD ‘Seek not the praise of men’. TALON (TO TOBY) I think they might be demons. Give me the mobile. TOBY It’s out of - (credit). CHRISTINA STEAD What is this about mobiles? What is David up to now? What - (has he got you making?). TALON I don’t think they work in the Rapt.. (ure) TOBY Mobiles in the rapture Demons have they captured Soon we’ll be free though You can bet your dough-ough Mobiles might be out of Credit or ra-ange We can always ca-all The folks at the ma-all CHRISTINA STEAD What is this - (dreadful doggerel?). TOBY TALON Mobiles in the rapture Mobiles in the rapture, Demons have they captured Demons have they captured. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Oh stop it! I can’t stand it. What is this about rapture? What have you boys been reading? Revelations? 30. CHRISTINA STEAD No doubt it’s a secret. Do you boys have a secret society? TOBY TALON No. Yes. CHRISTINA STEAD And this is your secret language? TOBY TALON Yes. No. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN This is what comes of unsupervised reading of holy script. No youth should be allowed to wander alone through The Book of Revelations. In fact ... no member of the laity. It may be an apocryphal text. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh they may as well read what they like and come to their own conclusions. Is it about the apocalypse? The end of days you Christians have seen and sought through the ages along with all religions no doubt ... though one is not sure about an apocalypse in Aboriginal mythology. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Madam, you shock me. CHRISTINA STEAD Spare me your righteous grandeur. You have no right to be shocked, worldly as you are. TALON (TO TOBY) Have you got a crucifix? TOBY What? TALON A holy cross, it needn’t have Jesus on it. TOBY What? TALON It doesn’t matter. Talon grabs a ruler and a pencil from the computer station, makes a cross of them and advances on Christina Stead and Christopher Brennan with his improvised cross. Talon waves it in front of them. TALON Be gone! 31. Christina Stead laughs. TALON Return! TOBY (TO TALON) Why are you saying that? TALON It’s called an exorcism, you know like - (in that old movie with the girl). TOBY No! I know what you’re doing. Why are you telling them to return? TALON That’s what you say ... I think. (WAVING CROSS AGAIN) Return to your nether regions. Christopher Brennan gets up and brandishes his cane. Talon backs away. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Guard your tongue gushing its sewage. TALON Begone I say! In the name of God the Father, his Son and the Holy Spirit. Christopher Brennan returns to his armchair. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN A Protestant. A gutter rat no doubt. Civilisation is imperilled and has been since that blackguard Luther and his so called Reformation. Blasphemy enacted as religion. Christopher Brennan crosses himself. Christina Stead laughs. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN You are no better than you ought to be Madam. I am surprised, nearly appalled by your flippancy. Where is the matron? Christina Stead sighs. CHRISTINA STEAD Am I to be offered no refreshment? (TO THE BOYS) Surely you boys smoke? Let us have one. If David comes I’ll tell him I encouraged you. I’ll say they’re mine and I am here to corrupt youth. TALON I know. I guessed. We don’t smoke - (TO TOBY) don’t we? (TOBY SHAKES HIS HEAD). It gives you lung cancer. 32. TOBY And heart attack. TALON And cerebral palsy. It’s against God’s plan. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO TALON) What denomination are you? TALON Um ... What? TOBY He’s Christian. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Obviously. But what denomination? TOBY Um ... what? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Anglican, Presbyterian ... Methodist I suppose. Not Baptist? TALON Oh. Pentecostal Church of the Liberated Spirit. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I see. Some jigaboo nonsense you brought from your homeland? You are a Pacific Islander are you? Fijian? Samoan? Did you father bring you back from New Guinea? Was he up there prospecting for gold? TALON No. He’s back in New Zealand. He’s a manager. Of a marae. TOBY He’s important. He wouldn’t like this. We’re expecting him any minute, he’s coming to take Talon home. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO TALON) Do you feel ready to go home? TALON Not really. I wanted to finish school and do Graphic Design. Talon starts to weep. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN No need to cry boy, your father will get you an apprenticeship, I’m sure. Mrs ... (LOOKS AT CHRISTINA STEAD). CHRISTINA STEAD Mrs Blake. But Miss Stead to you. My nephew calls me Christina. 33. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN He is your nephew? Oh. You have come to escort him home to his father. The mother, I suppose, remains in New Guinea? TALON No. She’s in Granville. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN How has she adapted to civilised life? TALON She likes it. She says it’s all she has. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I can well understand that after her pagan beginnings. She might consider the consolation of the Mother Church, that is civilised life, to a large extent. This interests me. So your father, he was a planter then - not a missionary surely? TALON He was a construction worker but he felt the calling. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN So he went to New Guinea? TALON No to New Zealand. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I see, I see. So you are a Maori? TALON Half. Quarter. Mum is Cook Islander. But only half. (TO TOBY) Have you got a calculator? TOBY You can do it on the computer. What do you want it for? Through the following Toby tries to edge his way towards an escape into the wings but forgets his purpose as he gets caught up in the exchange. TALON If Dad was half Maori and Mum is half Cook Islander, how much Maori am I? TOBY How would I know? TALON Well you’re good at maths. TOBY So what is it again? 34. TALON Dad is half Maori and Mum is half Cook Islander. TOBY What’s the other half of your Mum? TALON Dalmatian. TOBY Like the hundred and one? Talon nods. TOBY (CONT) That’s interesting. I didn’t know that, I just thought she was a wog like the rest of us. TALON No. She’s Dalmation - half. They’re big in Aotearoa. TOBY So ... Like where is it? TALON Where’s what? TOBY Dalmatialand. TALON It’s not a country. It’s a place. TOBY So where is it? Is it like China or something? TALON Europe. TOBY How can it not be a country? Is it like a state? TALON I think so. People go there for holidays. It’s got ... I don’t know, like castles and bridges - stone bridges and ... fishing villages. It’s a coast. TOBY It’s not like Draculand is it? Is it near to Transylvania It’s not like the coast of Transylvania is it? CHRISTINA STEAD It’s in Yugoslavia. During the following Talon edges towards the computer. 35. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN And where may that be? CHRISTINA STEAD It’s before your time. There is another world war and after it they amalgamate Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, they call it Yugoslavia. It prospers with the Soviet Union’s help. TOBY Dad’s Serbian. CHRISTINA STEAD But surely no-one calls himself Serbian anymore? TOBY He does. He’s really proud of it. My uncle’s got a tattoo. On the inside of his thigh. It’s the Serbian flag. He hates Croatians and Bosnians and ... everyone. CHRISTINA STEAD That’s because he’s in Australia and is living in the past, if he were back in Yugoslavia he would be living co- operatively with the different ethnic groups whom General Tito has united under socialism. Their lives have never been better. Tito is not entirely reliable with regard to Moscow, it has to be said. Yugoslavia is one result of the War we can feel encouraged by. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN What madness are you talking? Tito? He sounds like a character from an opera - by Verdi or ... The Soviet Union? Socialism? You mean Communism, madam. The Devil’s influence creeping through the world. Mercifully it is opposed by all of the old civilisations. CHRISTINA STEAD China for example? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN China hardly counts. I meant Christendom, as you well know. CHRISTINA STEAD China counts. India counts. Japan ... Oh you are not to know. The Second World War wreaked - (great changes). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Second! What ... Not ... It was the War to End All Wars - one baulked at that but ... CHRISTINA STEAD There is another. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Another? How? Another ... What are you talking about? I see you are in a worse way than I had thought. 36. CHRISTINA STEAD Have you thought that you are in no position to judge? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I am perfectly rational. CHRISTINA STEAD You have behaved violently towards an innocent child. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Wrong on both counts. (POINTING AT TOBY) He is no child and his language suggests he is far from innocent. CHRISTINA STEAD Professor Brennan - (you do not belong in this scene). CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN So we have met. CHRISTINA STEAD No. But I have seen you at the University. And read you, of course. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Have you dear Miss Stead? It encourages me that someone should remember my work, even a Godless woman such as yourself. A Rationalist, didn’t you claim to be? Christina Stead shrugs. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (CONT) So limited, Rationalism, so perversely blind. You, a woman who knows Milton and ... CHRISTINA STEAD You. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Perhaps you were one of my students? CHRISTINA STEAD No. I studied at the Teachers College. You were pointed out to me - often, as a matter of fact. I would sometimes go up to the University Students Union for coffee, it was a treat. (CHRISTINA STEAD GETS UP AND STARES INTO THE AUDITORIUM AS THROUGH A WINDOW). Why am I being tortured by this memory? I left Sydney in 1928. I had hoped never to return, never to ... What is the wish fulfilment in this dream? But all I wanted was warmth. The Catskills are so cold, so very cold. And I have had a miscarriage. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN A what? Christina Stead turns back. 37. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh never mind. Women’s business. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I hope it was not self-induced. During the following exchange between Christina Stead and Christopher Brennan Toby creeps upstage to see what Talon is up to. He joins him at the computer. They confer in whispers - an argument about what to do. Talon resists Toby’s pleas to email. CHRISTINA STEAD Your assumptions can mean nothing to me. What do you know? How typically Catholic to jump to that conclusion. What do you know of anything but ... You are hardly in a position to cast aspersions, you! you who have abandoned your wife and children, neglectful man. Your marriage is annulled. Catholic prevarication for divorce. Self-absorbed and self- indulgent, cosseted within the Catholic Church whose prized scholarship boy you will always remain. All Sydney is scandalised by your drunkenness. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN You are not in a position to accuse there Madam, I will remind you of where we are. You have obviously destroyed your mind with ... It seems to have been quite a good one, you might have done something with it ... taught. CHRISTINA STEAD Teach. Nurse. Scrub floors, cook, pull beers. My mind ... You end up teaching Latin to schoolgirls. You, who had the advantage of universities ... You studied in Berlin, didn’t you? Did you encounter Henry Handel Richardson? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Never heard of the fellow. CHRISTINA STEAD Woman. Her husband was a professor of German. In London. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Richardson? CHRISTINA STEAD That is her name. His ... I cannot remember. She was called Ethel Florence. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Mrs Robertson! I heard she wrote novels. So you knew her. CHRISTINA STEAD A little. I met her in London. They wanted her to come back, Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Stella Franklin and the others, they told her she should return to Australia. They wanted me to add my voice to their bush chorus. 38. As I had no intention of returning myself ... And here I am, against my will. What dreadful anxieties am I trying to integrate? I was never happy here, why - (am I dreaming of being here?). Talon patters on computer keyboard. TOBY No! You dropkick. Email Louis, he’ll get help. Lights around computer flicker as Talon types. TOBY (CONT) Who? What? Lights around computer station go out. As they rise again Dot emerges, begins to walk straight downstage, a dark shape remains behind her, Kangaroo. ACT 2 COMPUTER Dot and the Kangaroo. A much loved Australian children’s classic reprinted many times in different editions and adapted for stage, film and television with marked success both locally and overseas. 39. Written by Ethel Charlotte Pedley - P-E-D-L-E-Y 1897 to 1898 with illustrations by Frank Mahony. Ethel Charlotte Pedley was of a musical English background and was very musical herself becoming the Royal Academy of Music’s sole Board Associate in New South Wales. Her children’s classic Dot and the Kangaroo was published posthumously in London in 1899. Pedley had already insisted upon the illustrations by Richard Mahony. She never married. TOBY (TO TALON) What have you done? I told you to email Louis. What have you done? TALON I thought it might give us help. TOBY Who? What? Why didn’t you ... We’re fuck- TALON I thought it might ... (help) so I entered my favourite book. TOBY You ... After ... What have you ... Who ... (DISCERNS THE KANGAROO’S SHAPE) Eeeeh! Toby and Talon scramble frantically downstage to escape the lowering shape. Dot, unperturbed continues to look around. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN This is ... very bad. You boys, it’s - she’s - it’s ... (LOOKS BACK AT DARK SHAPE) it’s ... and she’s just a fantasm ... or two of delirium tremens. It is well you boys have the opportunity to learn to avoid bad drink whilst still so young. I myself must remember to stick to the sparkling burgundy. Christopher Brennan and the boys stare at Dot and glance nervously back at the large dark shadow hovering behind the computer station. Christina Stead, as unperturbed as Dot, observes with scientific detachment. DOT Hello. No-one replies. DOT I’m Dot. TALON I know. I’ve always wanted to meet you. 40. DOT How charming. Have you lost your way too? TALON Very much so. TOBY This is fuck - no good. What ... Who ...? TALON This is Dot. She might help us. TOBY What? Who? How? TALON Dot. She ... you’re my favourite book. DOT Oh. Book? I’m not sure ... Dot turns to Christina Stead and Christopher Brennan. DOT (TO TALON) Are these your grandparents? TALON No. DOT Oh. Um ... TALON Oh. Christina, Professor Christopher ... this is Dot. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN This is purgatory. I must be dead. Was I run over while crossing George Street? TALON Christina? CHRISTINA STEAD I know Dot. We’ve all read her. I found her most interesting in her way. DOT Am I in my way? CHRISTINA STEAD I dare say you are on it. DOT That’s reassuring. 41. TALON (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) I knew you wouldn’t be surprised, like everyone else. Even I’m astonished, it’s not every day you see a drawing come to life. CHRISTINA STEAD I have never been very good at being astonished. I suppose it comes from being raised by a lunatic. Christopher Brennan throws glass on floor. At this Kangaroo hops steadily forward. Kangaroo confronts Christopher Brennan, makes a Skippy noise at him. KANGAROO Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I knew that drink was drugged. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) No wonder you have been raving. What is this place? What sort of treatment are they persecuting us with? You poor woman. (TO THE BOYS) Those poor, poor boys. This is a barbarous age. (KANGAROO PEERS INTO HIS FACE - HE SCREAMS AND THROWS HIMSELF BACK IN HIS CHAIR). Toby screams too and backs away from Kangaroo. Kangaroo is perturbed. Dot goes over and cuddles Kangaroo. KANGAROO (SHE SPEAKS TO DOT. ALL THE OTHERS HEAR IS TUT, TUT TSK SKIPPY NOISES) Dot dear, jump into my pouch and we will escape these horrible, horrible white humans, worse, far worse, as I have told you than the black ones. Hurry child, they may have r-rifles. DOT I don’t think they have rifles. (TO TALON) Do you? TALON Do I what? DOT Do you have a rifle? I’ve heard boys love them. Talon shakes his head. TOBY Yes! Yes we have rifles. Automatic weapons. Kalashnikov AK 47s, M16s, M249 light machine guns ... TALON I didn’t know you knew all that about rifles. TOBY I have a store. I’m going to take you all out. 42. DOT Oh, where? I’ve never been anywhere but the bush, I’ve never even been to town. Do you sell frocks? And hats? KANGAROO Shh dear. You must never, ever go near that place. DOT Mummy says ... (DOT WEEPS). Kangaroo comforts Dot. KANGAROO Perhaps we should move on. These are your mob but ... you don’t seem happy in their company. DOT I’ve still lost my way. (LOOKING AROUND) This is the strangest place of all. (TO KANGAROO) I don’t think this is my way. (TO EVERYONE) Are we near Walgett? That’s the nearest town. (TO TOBY) Is your store in Walgett? Does it have gloves? TOBY (TO TALON) What’s she talking about? TALON I think I know. (TO DOT) Do you worship the Beast? DOT I ... don’t think so. I don’t worship. I’ve never been to church. TALON Does the Beast speak to you? DOT Oh yes! Oh I forgot. (TO KANGAROO) They can’t understand you. Can I give them a berry? Have you got enough? Kangaroo takes a sprig of green, red, pink, blue and white berries out of her pouch. Dot takes the sprig. She gives the red berry to Christina Stead, the green to Christopher Brennan, she offers the pink to Toby ... TOBY I don’t want the pink. DOT Oh. Why? They all taste the same - well, they’re all lovely, like honey, don’t be afraid, they’re not nasty like medicine. TOBY Not the pink. 43. TALON Give him yellow. DOT I’ve never seen ... (to Kangaroo) Do they come in yellow, my dear friend? KANGAROO They come in all the colours of the rainbow, Dot dear. Dot plucks the blue one and gives it to Toby who takes it. DOT (PLUCKING THE WHITE ONE AND GIVING IT TO TALON) Here you are. TALON What about you? DOT Oh I’ve had mine. TALON Why don’t you have another if they’re so nice? DOT You can only have one a day. (TO KANGAROO) Can’t you? Kangaroo nods. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I thought so. DOT Yes. If you eat too many you’ll learn too much. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. DOT Yes. And then you get indigestion. (TO KANGAROO) Don’t you? Kangaroo nods, Skippy Tut, Tuts. DOT (CONT) Then you become irritable. (LOOKS AT KANGAROO WHO NODS). One never wants to be irritable (LOOKS AT CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN THEN TOBY) It’s bad manners. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (EXAMINING HIS BERRY) So this is the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. CHRISTINA STEAD Well one had better eat of it. (SHE POPS HER BERRY INTO HER MOUTH). 44. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (RISING FROM HIS ARMCHAIR) Don’t woman! CHRISTINA STEAD Hmm, like very good whisky. (LAUGHS) You’ll like it. Eat man. Christopher Brennan sinks into his armchair, lets his berry fall from his hand. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN We’re done for. Again. Always the same. Woman does for us. Talon eats his berry. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO DOT) Well, shall I grow or shrink? KANGAROO Neither. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO DOT) What then? DOT I don’t know. KANGAROO You’ll be able to understand the voices of the bush. (LOOKS AROUND) Not that there’ll be many. Christina Stead is startled as she realises Kangaroo is talking to her. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO KANGAROO) Are you talking? DOT Hasn’t she got the most charming voice? It makes me forget ... (WEEPS. KANGAROO HOPS OVER AND COMFORTS DOT) I’ve lost my way. CHRISTINA STEAD Are you talking to me? Oh, I’d forgotten - (that’s part of the story). TALON (TO KANGAROO) You’re the Beast, aren’t you? The Abomination of Desolation. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN TOBY (TO TALON) Be careful boy, (TO TALON) Stop it! You don’t you know not what you invoke! know wnat you’re talking about. 45. CHRISTINA STEAD He - or she is a Great Grey or Forester. Macropus major. The Great Grey or Forster Kangaroo abounds (if I can risk a pun) in the more or less open country of eastern Australia, from the south-east of South Australia north to Cape York Peninsula. There is a somewhat smaller form of the Great Grey, with dark face and points ... (EXAMINES KANGAROO, SHAKES HER HEAD) This one is Macropus major ... known as the Black-face and Mallee kangaroo, which has been distinguished as a separate race under the name melanops. The habits are said to be different, in that the black- faced animal favours the mallee belt and the less fertile inland region. But as the two kinds occur coincidentally over the entire range, though preferring different types of country, the black-faced form must be regarded as a local variation rather than a distinct species. DOT (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) That is a rather uncharming way to talk of someone present. KANGAROO Hush child, the berries take some this way. This one of your kind will be alright in a moment. TOBY (TO TALON) It’s a kangaroo, it’s not a beast. You’re talking to a kangaroo for fuck’s sake. What would the guys say? I’m going to tell them! I’m going to tell them even though you’re my best mate. You’ll be toast on the team. Kangaroo puts her paws over Dot’s ears. Goes Tut! Tut! Tut! a la an angry Skippy at Toby. Toby backs away, frightened. TALON Tobster, eat the berry. TOBY Why? It might be poisoned. TALON Eat it and you’ll understand. It doesn’t matter if it’s poisoned. Nothing matters now. We’re in the Tribulation. TOBY You’re fucked. What would you know? Your mother is a Dalmatian and your father is a Maori. TALON It’s not pink Tobster, just eat it and all will come clear ... sort of. TOBY What are you, Hermione Granger ? 46. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Don’t! Don’t! It’s forbidden fruit. Toby eats his berry. Everyone looks at him for a reaction. TALON (TO KANGAROO) Speak to him, he’ll understand you now. KANGAROO I have nothing to say to him. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Stay calm, the effects will pass. It will only be worse if you panic. TOBY What? DOT You can listen to the bush creatures now. They say such interesting things. The Platypus knew such a lot about prehistoric monsters. KANGAROO Well dear, as I told you, that is not to be wondered at - he is one. (SHUDDERS) I cannot bear the idea of him - such a sight and so ... difficult. TOBY (TO DOT) Are you a sex slave? If the mobile hadn’t run out we could ... There must be a site where you can talk about your problems. DOT TALON What is the big boy talking Shut up, she’s only a kid. about? TOBY Look dude, she’s been kidnapped by some ... what do they call them? TALON It’s a kangaroo, dude. Toby laughs. TOBY You are so gullible and credulous. It’s a fetish guy. I told you. TALON Tobster, it’s a kangaroo. But really the Beast. Maybe the Abomination of Desolation. You heard it, It can talk. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN KANGAROO Be quiet! You know not what ‘She’, Mrs Kangaroo, if you you say. please. 47. TOBY It must be a Transylvanian type of dude, you know who dresses up and acts like a chick and ... then puts on a cuddly toy outfit. (TO DOT) Did he rape you? Everyone is appalled. DOT Who? What? TOBY This dude. Don’t worry, we’ll ... get ... help ... (TO TALON) Won’t we dude? Remember ... Mobiles in the rapture Demons have they captured Soon we’ll be free though You can bet your dough-ough Mobiles might be out of Credit or ra-ange We can always ca-all The folks at the ma-all The mobile might be ou-out But the email is about-out Louis is at ho-ome We can save the little ho-o And o me and you-ou. Mobiles in the rapture Demons will be captured. Come on Talon We can ... TALON (TO KANGAROO) Forgive my friend, he - (doesn’t know who you are). DOT Mobiles in the rapture Demons have they captured. I love songs, don’t I Kangaroo? I’ll sing mine. I think you’ll find it rather enchanting, if I may say so. TALON I think we’ve had enough ... (enchantment). DOT You may join in if you like ... I have no-one to sing with. Mummy has no-one ... (to sing with either - STARTS TO WEEP). Kangaroo comforts Dot. 48. KANGAROO Dear, don’t. These humans ... (are not very helpful) Dot pulls herself together, strikes a singing pose, hands neatly clasped in front of her in an eisteddfod manner. DOT Mummy taught me that. She and Daddy laugh and laugh. (TAKES A DEEP BREATH) If you want to go quick I will tell you a trick For the bush, where there isn’t a train. With a hulla-baloo, Hail a big Kangaroo - but be sure your weight she’ll sustain. Then with a hop and a skip, She will take you a trip With the speed of the very best steed; And, this is a truth I can vouch, There’s no carriage can equal a kangaroo’s pouch. Oh! Where is a friend so strong and so true As a dear big, bounding kangaroo? TOBY (TO TALON) She’s pretty good. (TO DOT) Do you like Missy Elliott? DOT I’m sure I would. Does she have a doll? TOBY I wouldn’t know. DOT I can dance too. The Native Companions taught me, (TO KANGAROO) Didn’t they? Dot dances her Native Companion dance. KANGAROO That might do now, dear. Dot stops dancing. Talon throws himself at Kangaroo’s feet. She jumps back. TALON I will worship you - we all will - just don’t torture us before you kill us. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN ... At last his sail-broad vanes He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoke Uplifted spurns the ground; thence many a league 49. As in a clouded chair ascending rides Audacious; but, the seat soon failing, meets A vast vacuity; all unawares Flutt’ring his pennons vain plumb-down he drops Ten Thousand fathom deep, and to this hour Down had been falling, had he not by ill chance The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud instinct with fire and nitre hurried him As many miles aloft: that fury stayed Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea, Nor good dry land: nigh foundered on he fares, Treading the crude consistence, half on foot, Half flying; behoves him now both oar and sail ... ... so eagerly the fiend O’er bog or steep, through straight, rough, dense, or rare, With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies. At length a universal hubbub wild Of stunning sounds and voices all confused, Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his ear With loudest vehemence: thither he plies, Undaunted, to meet whatever power Or spirit of the nethermost abyss Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask Which way the nearest coast of darkness lies, Bordering on light; when straight behold the throne Of Chaos ... TALON (TO KANGAROO) Is that how you got here? It’s you isn’t it? (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) How did you know that? I’ve never heard anything like that, I just knew ... CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Compose yourself boy, this is no time to lose your faith, to prostrate yourself before ... Think of the Dark One as merely a kangaroo. TOBY (TO TALON) Some Christian. Look at you. Talon gets to his feet. DOT It was like that when I was alone in the bush. I got really scared. (TO KANGAROO) And when you left me under that rock ledge when the Blacks were coming, The dingoes howled. Have you ever heard that? CHRISTINA STEAD It was Milton. Paradise Lost. Satan escaping Hell. TOBY I knew. It was like one of those Goth movies. TALON The Beast kills those who do not worship him ... her ... it. Pastor said so. In the Tribulation. 50. I didn’t want to be waterboarded or made to stand with a sack over my head and electrodes attached to my balls. I couldn’t stand it ... I was trying to save you. TOBY It looked like it. TALON I was! It wasn’t just for me. KANGAROO The berry had a powerful effect on the young human. He has learned too much. Now I suppose he will get indigestion and be irritable. Tut Tut. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN This is what comes of experimenting with crackpot denominations. Return to the Mother Church boy where you will be given proper religious guidance. Pastor indeed! Sciolism is the result. This sciolism produces hysteria, superstition leading to hysteria. CHRISTINA STEAD Not unknown in the Mother Church. Weepings and visions and bleeding images, apparitions of shining angels, voices of saints dead for centuries, the Holy Mother appearing in her lovely blue cloak in lemon trees before shepherds no older than these boys, and girls not much older than Dot here. DOT Did they help them find their lost way? We’re looking for Willy Wagtail to help me find mine again. CHRISTINA STEAD I know. You will find him. Where are you now in your journey? Dot and Kangaroo look around puzzled, so do Christopher Brennan and the boys. CHRISTINA STEAD Where am I in mine? I thought I was in David’s house in Watson’s Bay. I thought I saw the harbour out that window. I felt warm. Perhaps it was only the vermouth. (TO DOT) What are you doing in my dream? This endless dream. I can only think you are a reaction to my determined rationalism. An Australian Alice in Wonderland, clear-headed amongst ... chaos. I think I had something of your determination, a determination to find my way out of ... (my childhood). DOT Did you lose yours too? CHRISTINA STEAD No. But the one I had wouldn’t do. 51. DOT That must have been terrible. Didn’t your mother show you your way? CHRISTINA STEAD She died. When I was two. DOT Oh. Dot goes over and tries to embrace Christina Stead but Stead avoids the embrace by picking up her glass and drinking. CHRISTINA STEAD I got another when my father remarried. So you mustn’t worry, Dot dear. And I had all these brothers and sisters. And I stayed sane ... Christopher Brennan coughs. CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT) ... amongst the maelstrom of unhappiness. I was determined to be rational. David - that’s my father - encouraged an unrelentingly scientific objectivity. Hence this dream, the irrational striking back I suppose, my suppressed longings for ... what? When I was a girl, which I was for a very long time, I lived by poetry. DOT So do I. My mother reads it to me ... sometimes. And in the bush, Kangaroo and I heard songs - they’re poetry with music. Didn’t we Kangaroo? Remember Platypus? He sang of antediluvian days. The fairest Iguanadon reposed upon the shore; Extended lay her beauteous form, a hundred feet or more. The sun, with rays flammivomous, beat on the blue-black sand; As sportive little Saurians disported on the strand. It made him cry because ... because ... (DOT BEGINS TO WEEP). Christina Stead reaches out an awkward hand to Dot. KANGAROO How clever humans are! Imagine such a little one remembering all that. Such big words too. Dot dear, you are so clever. Platypus was just sad for the old days. Come here dear and we will look for ... (LOOKS AROUND) What a strange cave, I hope we are safe here. Can you hear any warnings - dingoes in the distance? Blacks stealthily creeping up? Or Whites on their horses? 52. They all listen. TALON I can hear a cockroach whispering ‘Where’s food? Where’s food? Where’s food?’. CHRISTINA STEAD I hear a possum in the roof complaining about not being able to sleep in the day because humans are galloping about beneath her floor. She wonders what on earth they can be up to. She hates to think. She wants her mate to do something about it but it seems he is too lazy and incompetent. DOT They’re like that. (TO KANGAROO) Aren’t they? Possums fight all the time, it’s the only way they can be happy. KANGAROO They are selfish and spiteful, as a rule. One doesn’t care for them. TOBY I can hear ants. They’re kinda humming and clicking and crackling like ... They’re humming happily because they’re busy. They’re saying, ‘This way. Over here. Watch out. Not that way.’ They all look at Christopher Brennan. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Oh. Me. I hear heavenly choirs. The saints in their glory singing God’s praises. I hear them offering intercessions on behalf of sinners to the Holy Mother. I hear divine music - masses by Palestrina and Byrd, the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. I hear the saints whispering their concerns for all present in this room - except the kangaroo - longing for us all to be shriven so we may experience heavenly bliss. They all continue to stare at him. TOBY Bullshit. You didn’t even eat your berry. It’s still there on the floor. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Language boy. TALON I believe you. Will they save us? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN If you confess so that you may be reconciled with the Holy Church. Accept your state as a sinner boy, mend your ways and confess so that you may forgiven and your worship be acceptable to God in his glory. Offer your devotions daily to the Holy Mother and the Saints - you have been baptised? 53. TALON Yes. Yes. It was cool. I got scared when he pushed my head under and the water was muddy but that was only because all these people were standing around in it staring and going hallelujah, praise the Lord. Afterward I felt clean. It was embarrassing but I felt clean. All these ladies kissed me and my mother was crying. TOBY D’ough. TALON You wouldn’t understand, you’re a sinner - he visits porn sites. TOBY So do you! TALON Only because you led me astray. Shut up, this is important. (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) You’re the Holy Spirit, right? I thought you always came in flames, that’s what Pastor said. And you speak in tongues - but that’s only when you speak through people right? It’s because they can’t speak Aramaic right? They get mixed up. Can I give you some feedback here - it might be better if you used English. Or if you were visiting China, Chinese. Maybe. It’s just a suggestion. Not many people understand Aramaic these days, only like Mel Gibson and people. Like that. He’s a Catholic ... So ... What do I have to do? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Throw yourself on the mercy of the church. I have neither the grace nor anything like the patience to instruct you. You need a priest. An entire order I would think. Give up the drink. TALON What drink? TOBY He thinks you’re a binge drinker. TALON Shut up dude, this is the Holy Spirit. He’s come to save us from the Beast. (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) I knew you’d come - but you knew I knew, hey? It’s just like I was expecting like flames. Don’t you do that anymore? Like I guess it has something to do with global warming - it adds to your footprint, hey? KANGAROO (TO DOT) I think we might be moving along now, Dot. Say good-bye to your new friends. 54. Talon sighs with relief, throws himself at Christopher Brennan’s knees, grabs his hand and starts kissing it. TALON Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be pure, I promise. Thank you. I couldn’t have stood waterboarding and that ... (WEEPS) (other thing with the electrodes). Christopher Brennan tries to get out of his chair and away but Talon won’t let go of his hand. TOBY Dude, you’re making a bit of a ... This is embarrassing, dude. Toby goes over and hauls Talon away from Christopher Brennan. TOBY (CONT) You’re going to have to chill, dude. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN The boy is hysterical. Christina Stead nods. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Shouldn’t you ... take him in hand, or something? Dot goes up and takes Talon’s hand. DOT Don’t worry. I know how you feel, if Kangaroo hadn’t come along I ... don’t know ... Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re out looking for you. They’ll find you. Soon you’ll be ... (back home). They’ll call in the Black trackers. Kangaroo sniffs the air. KANGAROO Dot, we should think about going on our way. It’s night and if we listen carefully we will hear Willy Wagtail singing, this is his favourite time. The Black trackers might find us too. TALON (TO DOT) Are they looking for you? DOT Oh yes, I’m sure. But I have wandered ... I didn’t mean to. TALON None of us do. We are led astray. 55. KANGAROO Dot, it is a dangerous time and the court made so much noise ... DOT It was Cockatoo mainly. (TO TALON) He was the judge. TALON Have you been judged? DOT Oh yes. TALON And ... Are you saved? KANGAROO Dot. There was so much noise, it was not just Cockatoo, all the animals ... I heard the uproar from miles away. We must find a safe place to hide. DOT (TO TALON) Oh yes, dear Kangaroo came and carried me away from the court. We fled. TALON (WHISPERS SO KANGAROO CANNOT HEAR) Be careful, you have been judged and she is a beast. DOT She is my dearest friend! She is helping me find my way. And she has lost her joey. I was lost and she found me. Mother told me not to stray. Christina Stead approaches them. CHRISTINA STEAD Come Talon, I will tell you what Sydney was like before you were born, before your parents were born. Come and sit over here with me. DOT Tell him to be nice to Kangaroo. KANGAROO Dot, the Blacks and their dogs will have heard all that noise. We must get far away. DOT I’m just worried he may be lost too, he says such strange things. But then I don’t know any other children. (TO TALON) Are they all like you? TOBY No, they’re normal ... some of them. Kangaroo looks around in an agitated fashion. 56. KANGAROO Dot, we could be trapped here. DOT I’m coming ... It’s just ... I haven’t talked to young people before, just Mummy and Daddy and ... I’m not allowed to talk to anyone else. Couldn’t we stay here? It’s nice and dry. Just for tonight? A little time? You need to rest. I’m sure we're safe. Kangaroo listens, sniffs. KANGAROO It smells strange. DOT That’s just humans. KANGAROO And it’s strangely silent. They all listen to the silence. DOT I could sing. KANGAROO I don’t think that’s a good idea. DOT (TO TALON) Do you have any sisters? TALON Yes. DOT Oh goody. Where is she? TALON Out. Clubbing I suppose, she’s not saved. DOT Does she have a dolly? TALON She used to. DOT I wish she were here. We could play. My grandmother sent me a doll from the West Australian goldfields. She made it. Her name is Isobel. I left her on my bed. (DOT SWAYS WITH DEJECTION) Mummy and Daddy will be getting sad and the big men on their rough horses with be talking quietly. (DOT TAKES KANGAROO’S HAND. TO KANGAROO ...) We could be trapped here. CHRISTINA STEAD Come Talon, you and Toby should sit quietly for a bit. 57. Christina Stead leads Talon to couch. CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT) Come and sit down Toby, I’ll tell you about ancient Sydney. Kangaroo looks around. KANGAROO (TO DOT) How did we get in? I can’t see the opening. DOT We came through the thick brush and it opened up and here we were. (DOT YAWNS). I’m terribly tired. Can we sleep? Just for a minute? KANGAROO Just for a moment. I am so tired too. I won’t be able to escape if the Whites and their horrible dogs ... Lie down there, in that dark corner for a moment then we must be going. Dot lies down in a darkened area. Toby goes over and sits with Christina Stead and Talon. Kangaroo moves around inspecting the cave during the following then slumps into a snooze. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO TALON AND TOBY) When I was your age I caught the tram every day and then another tram to school. How do you get to school? TOBY Toula drives me. If she’s had a fight with Dad, he drives me. Real early. He yells at me if I say anything. He drives the ORV like he’s a demon CHRISTINA STEAD (TO TALON) And you? TALON I catch a bus. If I miss it I ride my bike. On walkathon days I take my skateboard. CHRISTINA STEAD I see. Professor Brennan wrote a poem which captures my journey to Teachers’ College where I went after I had left school. I had quite a long way to go, it took me over an hour. I would catch one tram into town and then take another out past the University where the Teachers’ College was. The University had a tower with four turrets. The droning tram swings westward: shrill The wire sings overhead, and chill Midwinter draughts rattle glass That shows the dusking way I pass To yon four-turreted square tower 58. That still exalts the golden hour Where youth, initiate once, endears A treasure richer with years. Do you know what the ‘treasure’ is? The boys shake their head. CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT) Education. (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Isn’t that so Professor Brennan? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN More than that. A tradition. A civilisation. A cultivated mind. A refined spirit. One must never stop. What a good memory you have, I am deeply touched. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO TALON AND TOBY) Then Professor Brennan’s poem gives us the view from inside the tram - what I used to look out at as I sat - or stood - you boys give up your seats for adults, don’t you? Trams ran on electricity, as you know, and the overhead wire which Professor Brennan has singing shrilly - which they did as the tram moved along underneath, like cicadas - splashed blue sparks of electricity when the tram pole reaching to the wire bounced as the tram moved along. Dim-seen, the upper stories fleet Along the twisting shabby street; Beneath, the shop-fronts’ covered ways Bask in the lampions’ orange blaze Or stare phantasmal, weirdly new, In the electrics’ ghastly blue ... Electricity was still quite new in those days. Father got us a wireless and we loved it. My brothers used to turn it down low so they could listen to the serials - David, my father, thought we should only listen to educational programs. I must say the serials were very exciting, with pilots and cowboys ... Flying was very - a great adventure, so exciting, to think how you could be somewhere far away in no time at all and ... We thought America was marvellous - cowboys and Indians - we weren’t so impressed by our own shearers and stockmen and the Aborigines were either mythic or non-existent to us. I suppose you boys come home from school and watch television? TOBY Naw, it’s boring. CHRISTINA STEAD Boring? Surely not? TOBY It’s just full of ads and reality. 59. TALON They’re disgusting. We go on the net. We talk to one another. CHRISTINA STEAD That’s good. What about? TOBY Stuff. CHRISTINA STEAD For example? TOBY Like this guy set the girl’s hair on fire and put it on YouTube. CHRISTINA STEAD Oh. TALON It can be better than that, you can learn stuff. CHRISTINA STEAD Good. And what is your ambition? TOBY Ambition? CHRISTINA STEAD Yes, what job would you like when you leave school? TOBY Oh, like a goal. Dunno. Maybe construction, like Dad but not small time - big, I want to run a multinational. CHRISTINA STEAD (TO TALON) And what is your favourite subject? TALON I T. I’m going to be a graphic designer. CHRISTINA STEAD I T. I don’t think I know what that is. TALON Information Technology. TOBY Computers. TALON It’s more than that. It’s blackberries and mobile technology, like uploading and ... stuff. CHRISTINA STEAD Do you have a favourite author? 60. TALON We were thinking of that before you - and (POINTING TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) came. Not you - sorry. TOBY And not him! TALON (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) No offence Your Holiness, the thing about the tram was good though. TOBY The other was crap. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I didn’t write the other, boy, the sublime Milton did. TALON (TO TOBY) You got off on it. TOBY I did not. You - are - a- total - whacko. TALON You said it was about Dracula. TOBY You’d know, you’re half Transylvanian. TALON Well that’s better than being totally Serbian. TOBY I’m an Aussie. Just because your parents come from somewhere else doesn’t mean jack shit. Kangaroo is disturbed from her slumber by this. TALON What’s heaven like, Christina? CHRISTINA STEAD I don’t think that would be a useful line of inquiry at the moment, Talon. TOBY Yes, she’s trying to calm you down after that whacko act you threw. TALON I thought ... this is so weird ... I thought it was the Tribulation. TOBY After you thought it was the Rapture. You almost had me ... (believing in it too). 61. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD AND CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) You guys had better go now, my father’s going to be home any minute now and he’s like a very angry, hostile type guy. You’re homeless right? We did you in school. They’ve got shelters. Sound of Willy Wagtail from computer station area. Kangaroo is instantly alert, looks around for Dot, hops towards her. KANGAROO Dot, Dot dear, wake up. Time to be going again. Dot is reluctant to wake. KANGAROO (CONT) Can you hear him? Sound of Willy Wagtail. KANGAROO (CONT It’s Willy Wagtail, he’ll tell us where your way is. Do come on Dot, we’ll lose him, he’ll flit off and we’ll have to wait and wait again. I can’t carry you ... (for much longer). Dot gets up. DOT What? I was dreaming I was back home on our selection. Mummy was ... (opening the door). Sound of Willy Wagtail. DOT It’s him. KANGAROO Do come Dot, come now or it’ll be too late. Kangaroo begins leading Dot towards computer station and darkness. Dot turns. DOT Good-bye. Don’t forget me. I’ve - (so enjoyed meeting you). KANGAROO Dot, he’s flitting away, I knew we had to hurry, you have no idea how unreliable Willy Wagtails are. Hurry Dot. DOT I have to go now. TOBY Where’s the little ho going? She shouldn’t be going off - (with that pedophile) Don’t go! 62. Toby gets up from couch. TOBY (CONT) We’ll get ... (help) Dot hesitates between staying and going on with Kangaroo. DOT I have to find my way. KANGAROO Do come Dot. DOT Kangaroo has been so kind ... She’s looked after me like her own, just like I belonged in the bush. But I don’t. TOBY Stay here, we’ll find your parents - they’re not drug addicts are they? Are they alcoholics? You can go into foster care, I’ll find the site. Maybe Mr and Mrs Zenir will adopt you, they’re old and they haven’t got a pool but ... (they’re nice). Dot steps back towards them, hesitates again. Kangaroo vanishes into darkness behind computer station. Sound of Willy Wagtail comes faintly. Dot turns and runs into darkness. Computer light blinks, goes off. Stage dark for a moment. Lights come up with same eerie glow around computer station. TOBY They always think they’re nice. They give them boiled lollies. Why would you boil a lolly? Bill Henson could’ve photographed her. She could’ve been huge on Facebook - a million hits. Poor little ho. He’ll probably keep her a prisoner in a cellar in Germany for like years. CHRISTINA STEAD Sit down Toby. I know what happens to her. Toby sits again. TOBY What? How would you know? CHRISTINA STEAD I’ve read her story, many - millions probably - have. She gets home. TOBY But her parents might be selling her to those pedophiles. 63. CHRISTINA STEAD I don’t know where you get these ideas. I wandered everywhere as a girl. One knew how to keep out of harm’s way. TALON It was a kangaroo, dude. TOBY You said it was ... What did you call it? CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN Oh let’s not start again. Let’s say they were figments of our imagination, thrown up by our unconscious minds through some unacknowledged need. Mine must be to be punished. Though you have provided me with ... Christopher Brennan stands, bows to Christina Stead who inclines her head in return of the salute. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN (CONT) ... some honour. Christopher Brennan begins to wander upstage towards the dark behind the computer station area. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN I would have liked to see my beautiful Vi again. But that was not vouchsafed. We both drank too much. One night she wandered out onto the tram tracks ... (TURNS TO FACE BOYS) I suppose there is no point in trying to warn you. You could be my own sons who (TO CHRISTIAN STEAD) as you rightly say, I abandoned. God forgive me but I could not be a father to them, nor the husband my wife wanted. They suffocated me, they irritated me to distraction. I longed to be free of them and their endless demands, their yells and bickering. I waited three years for Elizabeth to join me from Berlin, I thought I adored her, her storm of golden hair and all would be well with her mother and poor mad sister. I dreamt of domestic bliss - I felt bliss in anticipation, a hearth against the cold rigours of the world, a cool bower to rest in after engaging with the heat and dust of salaried life. I thought domesticity would be peace, such as the teaching brothers had at school, cared for so they could go forth and pursue God’s work in the world and return to the refreshment of quiet contemplation, fellowship and study. For a few years we made a kind of go of it but domesticity was not what I had imagined. I struggled but did not seem suited to marriage, my spirit rebelled, I fought to contain it, to subdue it ... to the banal. But my spirit was a wanderer. (TO TALON) Perhaps that little girl was one of your Guides. Saints in Heaven ease her journey. Mary Mother of God intercede on behalf of these poor boys, lost but for the grace of God. 64. The winter eve is clear and chill: the world of air is folded still; the quiet hour expects the moon; and yon my home awaits me soon behind the panes that come and go with dusk and firelight wavering low: and I must bid the prompting cease that bids me, in this charmed peace, - as tho’ the hour would last my will- follow the roads and follow still the dream that holds my heart in trance and lures it to the fabled chance to find, beyond the evening ways, and meadows clear with gold, and you as once, ere I might dare to woo. Vi was everything to me. She came into my life - she was exquisite, she said she would be mine. My marriage was ashes and thorns. Elizabeth petitioned for divorce, the papers got hold of it, that was the end of my job at the University but I had Vi, we were always together. We hear the very faint sound of church bells as Christopher Brennan wanders off in the direction taken by Dot and Kangaroo and as Christina Stead recites his poem. The computer light blinks and the stage is in darkness as he vanishes. CHRISTINA STEAD Sweet silence after bells! deep in the enamoured ear soft incantation dwells. Filling rapt still sphere a liquid crystal swims, precarious yet clear. Those metal quiring hymns shaped ether so succinct: a while, or it dislimns, the silence, wanly prinkt with forms of lingering notes, inhabits, close, distinct; and night, the angel, floats on wings of blessed spread O’er all the gathered cotes where meditation, wed 65. with love, in gold-lit cells, Absorbs the heaven that shed sweet silence after bells. Lights up. TALON You know a lot of poetry. CHRISTINA STEAD I don’t know if I do now. I once ... did know a lot - of poetry, I lived by it and ... I decided at one stage it had filled my head with stuff and nonsense, that I must ... (give it up). Funny how it floods my mind now. (GETS UP HOLDING HER GLASS) It must be the stimulating company. I must wake up now, I must! I have to write that chapter. Oh they will be cross, I live in fear of them suing me. No I don’t, I rely on their generosity of spirit, their capacity to face the truth - and the fact they can’t afford lawyers. I just jot down what I have observed. They accuse me of being cruel in my depictions but they seem to forgive me. I write and write ... I am so lonely here in The Catskills. Bill is coming from New York ... soon. I must write and write, it seems not to be enough to live life, I must write it. TOBY Don’t you just make it up? CHRISTINA STEAD Sometimes I think I do. TOBY It’s pretty amazing - I mean it rhymes and ... it’s pretty amazing. CHRISTINA STEAD Sometimes it amazes me - oh I didn’t write that, Professor Brennan did, I just ... I just used to absorb it. I write ... fiction - about people’s lives and the society that tries to contain their ever errant spirits. I write my times, their ways. (PUTS GLASS DOWN) Thank you my imps, I feel warmer. I feel I can finish the chapter, it was - it seemed to drain away from me and I couldn’t find ... my way. Do you know, I used to know so much poetry by heart and I’d forgotten I’d forgotten it until I dreamt of you. You boys won’t understand this but once I walked up from the Teachers College to listen to a lecture Professor Brennan was giving on Greek tragedy. Fogs rolled back, clouds cleared, I saw vistas which I knew I had to pursue though I would never reach them. (BEGINS TO MOVE SLOWLY UPSTAGE) Don’t worry, I can find my way now. (TURNS, LOOKS AROUND) I thought I was back in my father’s house with his wife and all their children ... and you were here. 66. As Christina Stead walks past computer station its eerie light blinks but unlike the times when Dot, Kangaroo and Christopher Brennan exited, the stage remains lit. Christina Stead exits. There is the very loud sound of a police siren dying. Then alarmingly flashing police car lights from the wing. A very loud knocking on a door. Toby and Talon are immobilised by terror. POLICEMAN Police! Anyone home? More loud knocking. POLICEWOMAN We’re here about your parents. TOBY (TO TALON) You go. Talon exits wing. Talon leads Policeman and Policewoman in. POLICEMAN You’re Toby Bregovic? TOBY Yes. But I haven’t done anything wrong ... have I? We tried to get them help. We told her not to - (go). Policewoman goes over and sits beside Toby on couch. POLICEWOMAN It’s O K mate, we’re here to help you. Is there anyone ... any adult around? TOBY They’re out. POLICEWOMAN O K. Have you got any neighbours, friendly neighbours. TOBY Mr and Mrs Zenir but they’re not very friendly since Dad yelled at them. POLICEWOMAN (TO TALON) What about you, mate? TALON I’m very friendly. POLICEMAN Are your parents nearby? 67. TALON Mum’s in Granville. POLICEMAN (TO TOBY) There’s been a bit of an accident. POLICEWOMAN (TO TOBY) Your Dad was - your Dad’s Javor Bregovic, right? And he was out with (CHECKS NOTES) Ms Toula Drapaniotis? Was she a family friend? TOBY She’s my stepmum, sort of. POLICEWOMAN Where’s your mum? TOBY Hawaii, I think. POLICEMAN Have you got her number? Toby shakes his head. TOBY Was he speeding again? Will he lose his license? POLICEWOMAN (TO TALON) Can he stay with you tonight? We’ll drive you to Granville. (PULLS OUT MOBILE) Here, give your mum a ring. Then we’ll speak to her. TALON Mum’s at a chapel social, she doesn’t like me interrupting. POLICEMAN (TO TOBY) Sorry mate, but your Dad and (CHECKS NOTES) Ms Drapaniotis ... I’m afraid there’s been an accident and ... it’s pretty serious. Are you sure there are no adults we could ring? TALON We could ring Mr Tszinsky only we don’t have his number. POLICEMAN Who’s he mate? TALON He’s our English teacher. We’re doing his homework. POLICEWOMAN (TO TOBY) We just think you should have someone with you tonight. This is pretty important. The accident was bad, the worst. Toby and Talon take this in. 68. POLICEMAN Sorry mate. TALON (TO TOBY) I’ll stay with you Tobe. Policewoman stands up, moves away from couch. Talon goes over and sits next to Toby. TALON (CONT) I’m here. TOBY (TAKING OUT MOBILE) If this fucking thing hadn’t’ve run out we could’ve got the whole thing for YouTube, it would’ve been fucking incredible, we would’ve got a million hits. FIN 69. Christina Stead and Christopher Brennan quote the description of Satan as the Serpent approaching Eve in Book IX of John Milton’s Paradise Lost Christina Stead’s words on the Great Grey or Forester Kangaroo come from Ellis Troughton’s Furred Animals of Australia Dot’s song is from Ethel Pedley’s Dot and the Kangaroo Christopher Brennan’s recitation of Satan’s escape from Hell comes from Book 11 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost Dot’s rendition of Platypus’ song about antediluvian days is from Ethel Pedley’s Dot and the Kangaroo Christina Stead quotes Christopher Brennan’s poem about a journey in Sydney by tram ‘1908’ from V Epilogues of his POEMS (1913) Christopher Brennan’s farewell poem ‘The winter eve is clear and still ...’ is from III TOWARDS THE SOURCE 1894 - 1897 of his POEMS (1913) Christina Stead farewells Christopher Brennan with ‘Sweet silence after bells!’ from I TOWARDS THE SOURCE 1894 - 1897 of his POEMS (1913)
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