TOBY BREGOVIC - 14, SUBURBAN PRINCE
TALON O’SHAUNESSY - 14, LESS COMFORTABLY A SUBURBAN PRINCE
CHRISTINA STEAD - FIFTY, WORLD WEARY
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
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.
You’re useless, that’s no good.
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
Hot Guys Do Live Sex more like it.
(While still pattering)
Have they got that?
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 ...
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.
It is. Who else would it be? She’s talking .. (for Pete’s
sake). Who else would it be?
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).
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.
You crack me up. You’re so ... What’s that word, we did it
in English? It means you believe everything they tell you.
You’re so gullible ... How do you spell it?
Toby patters the key board.
Toby patters keyboard some more.
GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent, credulous person.
Someone who believes everything they are told.
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
It does not, it means you’re ... holy.
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.
Oh my ... (God). Sure. Whatever. This is embarrassing.
Toby patters keyboard again.
GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent, credulous ...
What’s ‘credulous’ for ... (fuck’s sake)?
Toby patters keyboard again.
You’re ... Are you adding these to your vocab list?
Toby ignores him. Keeps pattering at
I don’t think that’s very fair, Mr Tszinsky will think you
found them for yourself.
CREDULOUS - C-R-E-D-U-L-O-U-S. A believing person, the
quality of accepting information unhesitatingly without
doubt or proof.
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.
I feel sorry for you.
Really? Why would that be Talon my friend?
Because you have no faith. Pastor says it makes people cold
and when the Rapture comes - (you will be left behind).
Here we go. Pastor says.
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.
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?
GULLIBLE - G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E. An innocent ...
How did that ... (happen)?
Talon rushes over, pushes Toby aside
and patters at keyboard while ...
.. credulous person. Someone who believes everything -
Hey! Who’s computer is it, gullible man?
Talon keeps at keyboard.
We’ve got to do this now so we can play Amazing Car Theft.
Chill dude, there’s plenty of time, it’s only ... (CHECKS
TIME) seven thirty. So who do we have to look up?
We can choose. One each. So long as it’s a famous
Computer screen flickers.
You’ve got power failure.
I didn’t till you took over. (POINTS AT SCREEN) What’s that
you’ve brought up?
I didn’t ...
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?
This is weird. I didn’t ... The computer just ... You’ve
already been searching, right?
Looking for your great Australian writer. Who did you
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
Toby starts to type.
How do you spell it? That guy shouldn’t’ve committed
It’s against God’s will. So is anorexia.
Is it? How do you spell it? M-?
M-A-R go on.
M-A-R-C ... is it H? Or just C? Italians just write C when
they sound CH.
Let me. I think it’s ...
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.
That’s not entirely true.
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.
Yeah, I don’t really want to do her, she’s not celebrated
enough. I don’t want to do someone who - (wrote about
What? This is weird. What’s this got to do with ...
What was the name of that guy who did Raw?
Scott Monk. Did you ...
Christina Stead is puzzled about
where she is, manoeuvres to see what
the boys are doing.
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?
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.
Mum’s not here.
I see. So you’re alone?
Yes, we’re doing our homework. No!
Christina Stead moves downstage
You better go now, his dad will be here any minute, we’re
expecting him ...
I’d like to go. What time is the tram?
We don’t have trams.
I’ll take the ferry then. What time is it? It can’t be so
late that I’ve missed the last one.
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
Christina Stead becomes agitated,
paces up and down.
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
They’re very environmentally friendly but ...
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?
No. Dad will be here soon - now!
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.
Don’t tell me David had more children? Poor Thistle. Women
rush into marriage with (anyone) ... heedlessly.
I don’t have an Aunt Christina, you’re in the wrong place.
So I am not spoken of. Surely Thistle told you about me, I
write to her religiously.
Christina Stead strides towards side
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.
My father’s in Aotearoa.
What’s he doing there? There’s no more work there than
there is here.
He manages a marae, he’s ... important.
A marae? What is that?
A Maori meeting house.
They’re very environmentally friendly.
What next. How typical of a Stead to go off and interfere
in the lives of some native people.
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.
Police? Why would he do that?
Home invasions are against the law. Anyway we haven’t got
any jewellery or drugs - there’s no money.
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
I don’t live here but he married (NODDING TOWARDS TOBY) his
mum and then ... he’s got a girlfriend.
You don’t have to tell everyone. Dad married Mum and had us
and then ... he got a girlfriend, Toula.
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.
My parents are coming home early. Now.
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.
Would you like a glass of water?
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).
I don’t know how to make tea.
Good grief. Coffee then.
He’s Seventh Day Adventist.
Seventh Day Adventist. It’s a religion.
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.
They’re waiting for the Rapture.
We’re not just waiting.
The Rapture. It’s the End of Days.
Well that’s one for the books. And what does David have to
say about that? He raised us all to be rationalists.
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.
My grandfather’s in Noosa.
Talon checks the computer screen.
Taps a key on the keyboard.
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 ...)
I wish you’d turn that tape recorder off. It’s inaccurate.
Why are you playing that? Who’s that talking?
I get it. You’re a Guide, aren’t you?
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 ...
I think it’s begun.
You’re kidding right? This is going right off the screen.
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?
Shut up. You looked at them too.
Christina Stead begins to pace again.
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
We will all be leaving soon, right?
CHRISTINA STEAD TOBY
Will we? Oh good. Where is my Will we? Where to?
To our eternal reward.
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?
What ... (did you say)? Not your nick name, your Christian
Talon is my name in Christ.
It is Miss.
I hope you boys are not being cheeky. (TO TOBY) And what is
Are you the angel? What is your name?
I thought so.
I’m going to call the police.
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?
My parents wouldn’t like this. I’m getting worried.
Talon goes over and puts his arm
around Toby’s shoulder.
You’re Mum might be saved, she goes to church sometimes but
your stepmother is a ho.
Toby shrugs him off.
Get off! What are you doing? They’ve just gone out with the
Duvices. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) I’m going to ring my parents.
Oh that’s a good idea, they can ... Where are they?
I don’t ... (know). At a restaurant. They’re going to ring
me and - (I’ll tell them you’re here).
(To CHRISTINA STEAD) Maybe you’re a saint. Did you feel the
Spirit coming into your body? What did you do that pleased
(To Talon) Stop it! You’re bullshit.
Watch your language in my presence!
Christina Stead goes downstage and
peers into the audience.
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
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?
Fade out harbour sounds. Christina
Stead begins pacing again.
The Tribulation. Is it over or has it just begun?
I hope it is over, Talon.
(TO TOBY) Don’t worry mate, you’re saved.
That’s good. Now what?
Christina Stead spins towards them.
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, as in jug, these parents you keep speaking of, where
is their whisky? And cigarettes?
They usually drink wine.
It’s in the fridge or ... (POINTS TO DRINKS CABINET) over
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
Good heavens, my drink.
I think it’s the one grandma gave them for Christmas, they
don’t like it.
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.
Did I hear a drink mentioned?
Toby and Christina Stead are
TOBY CHRISTINA STEAD
Who are you? You almost made me spill -
It’s the air, it makes you thirsty. What time is it?
Talon moves from the computer.
Ah time for dinner. Or have I had it? One usually has a
glass or two of wine to simulate the appetite ... Madam?
I am a guest here.
Who invited you?
Your ... I was going to say your parents but this is all
(TO TALON) Where’d he come from?
I got mine.
Did you? Who? What?
Her. Miss. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Excuse me Miss, Ms, Ma’am
... Who are you? What’s your name? Your angel name?
(TO TOBY) I told you, I got mine - he’s yours.
Christina Stead - Excuse me miss, can I call you Christina?
Aunt Christina, if you please. Oh yes, ‘Christina’ will do.
Whose are you? Do I know you?
No, I don’t think so but I am Jehovah’s.
Christina Stead looks at him
assessingly then drinks.
Does He have a cigarette? Or is that against His plan?
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.
What are you drinking? I do not approve of women smoking.
Christopher Brennan approaches the
drinks cabinet, inspects the bottles.
Hmm, no sparkling burgundy, more’s the pity. Strange stuff.
(HOLDING UP THE VERMOUTH) I’ll try some of this.
(TO CHRISTINA STEAD) We are all one in the eyes of -
(Jehovah, especially now we are blessed).
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.
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).
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.
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?
(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.
(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
(TO TALON) This is out of control. What have you done?
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.
For fuck’s sake - (shut up about Jehovah).
Christina Stead and Christopher
Brennan swing around with their
There is a lady present!
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.
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
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
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?
Didn’t Jehovah tell you my name?
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.
(TO TALON) She thinks you’re a girl.
‘Ellen’ ... Such a pretty name.
(TO TALON) ‘Ellen’ ... suits you.
No wonder I could not conceive ... of you ... (as a girl).
(TO TALON) She’ll probably give you a boob tube for your
No wonder I am in this dreadful predicament.
(TO TALON) I think of you as a girl sometimes, like - (when
you’re going on about Jehovah).
Silence boy! You are impertinent. (TO CHRISTINA STEAD)
Surely madam, if I understand you correctly ... Surely you
did not commit a mortal sin?
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.
It is true madam that my marriage has failed, if that is
what you refer to. I have sought forgiveness.
Oh, I dare say. Let’s leave it.
Christian Stead and Christopher
Where did this Italian beverage ... Where did you buy this
Christina Stead ignores him.
Whose house am I in?
His. Toby’s. You’re my project. (POINTING AT CHRISTOPHER
BRENNAN) He’s his. You’re homework.
Strange. What sort of a retreat would offer drink? Would
allow young imbeciles to mix with ... (patients)?
(TO TOBY) What are the questions?
What are the questions we have to fill in?
What questions? What are you - (going on about now?).
What Mr Tszinsky told us to do for homework.
You’re seriously ... mad.
It must be God’s will. Where’s the paper? Did you print it
Talon goes to computer and patters at
(TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Have you been an inmate - a resident
for long, if I may make so bold.
I am not a resident.
I beg your pardon Nurse.
I am not a nurse.
Christina Stead shakes her head.
I beg your pardon Matron, I should have realised. I would
like to leave - as soon as possible. Now would be a - (good
The printer starts. Christopher
Brennan and Christina Stead turn
around, surprised by the noise. Talon
picks up the printout.
(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
No-one can always live in Australia.
Is that right? So .. (READS, LOOKS UP) How long did you
live in Australia for?
For a long, long time.
So that would be five years - no, you would have been five
when you left ... um, so that would be fifteen years?
I was a young woman when I left.
So that would be ... Seventeen?
I was twenty-six when I left.
(WRITES) Twenty-six. Wow. So that would be in ...?
1928, twenty-eighth of March.
(READS) Why did you leave?
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).
(TO TOBY) Go on.
You ask yours.
Who is he? I don’t know him. What’s he ... (doing here)?
(CLEARS THROAT. TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) What are you doing
No. It’s (READING FROM PRINTOUT) Did your celebrated
Australian writer always live in Australia?
This is rats arse. (TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Did you always
live in Australia?
(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 ...
Matron ... ? Oh god, I suppose I am.
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)
How tedious this dream is. I wonder why I am coming up with
(TO TALON) He won’t answer.
(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.
(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
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
Insolent boy! Control yourself.
Christopher Brennan goes back to his
drink. Christina Stead drinks while
regarding Toby. Talon goes over to
Toby, kneels down.
You can’t swear at the Guides, mate.
He hit me, that’s assault. That’s ch- (ild) abuse. (TO
CHRISTIAN STEAD) You saw.
He’s a Catholic.
Toby stops crying for a moment.
Do they do that?
Christina Stead shrugs.
They’re all apply the rod in order not to spoil the child.
It’s preferable in many ways, less cruel.
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.
I hope Madam, that you are not impugning an excellent
Catholic education, to which I owe everything.
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).
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.
He hit me miss, aren’t you going to do anything about it?
Are you hurt?
N-o. Yes! Not a lot. But it was abuse. Violence. I’m a
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.
(MUTTERS) Fuck that, I’m - (going to call the cops).
Watch your filthy tongue boy! Shouldn’t you and your
brother be studying your Latin?
Talon nudges Toby to say ‘yes’.
Y-es. And our Aramaic.
(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
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?
Yes. Tests. I gave many when I left Teachers College. How I
loathed - (being a teacher).
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
Toby tries to signal to Talon to get
(TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) Was it the Garden of Eden? No,
that’s wrong. The gardens in heaven. They have fountains,
Toby edges towards a shelf, picks up
a mobile phone, hides it in his back
pocket. Moves towards wing.
I’ll make you a cup of tea.
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?
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.
I have no idea - twenty minutes.
Bad as that, eh?
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.
(TO TALON) Come and I’ll teach you how to make tea.
I couldn’t do that. (TO CHRISTINA) Christina, do we still
eat and drink?
Well I do.
That’s a good sign. What school did you teach in?
Plunkett Street. But it was years ago.
I’m going then. To the kitchen.
Toby taps his palm to indicate to
Talon his intention of making a
I don’t think there’s any point Tobster, who would you
(COVERING FOR TALON’S GAFF) Call?
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.
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
I’ll introduce you.
CHRISTINA STEAD TOBY
Oh for God‘s sake. Oh for God’s sake.
Come to the kitchen, Talon. We can ... work something out.
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?
I wouldn’t know.
Oh come now, madam.
Christina, this is Christopher Brennan. Both your names
have to do with Christ. Christopher -
Professor Brennan to the likes of you!
Oh. Um ... This is Christina. She’s my Guide. (INDICATES
TOBY) You’re his.
I’m going to the kitchen. To make a call.
Oh don’t, please.
Talon rushes Toby and wrestles the
mobile away from him.
Get off! What’re you doing?
Who’re you going to call?
You boys! Stop fighting.
Is that one of David’s gimcracks? I wouldn’t fight over it
if I were you, there’ll be plenty more.
Dad! Mum! Triple 0.
They’ll either be with us or ...
Toby grabs the phone back and starts
punching in a number.
Fuck! It’s out of credit.
Christopher Brennan gets up and moves
towards the boys brandishing his
I’ll teach you to use language like that.
Talon and Toby back off.
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.
Are they like demons?
That’s an interesting question. Do you mean - (’imps’ or
You cannot indulge children, madam. I am surprised.
What did you say?
Don’t be. In this state anything may occur. Sit down.
Finish your drink. Don’t you smoke a pipe?
Your training should tell you that these youths cannot be
allowed to get away with delinquent behaviour.
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.
Surely that is not remarkable? Whoever heard of a female
general? They were Satan’s generals. There’s Eve.
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
Christopher Brennan joins in at ‘With
burnished neck ..’
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
Your memory is good.
Interesting isn’t it? A lovely serpent. Of course, they
are, snakes ...
The Devil can quote scripture for his purpose.
What are you saying boy? That is not scripture. That is the
‘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
‘Seek not the praise of men’.
(TO TOBY) I think they might be demons. Give me the mobile.
It’s out of - (credit).
What is this about mobiles? What is David up to now? What -
(has he got you making?).
I don’t think they work in the Rapt.. (ure)
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
What is this - (dreadful doggerel?).
Mobiles in the rapture Mobiles in the rapture,
Demons have they captured Demons have they captured.
Oh stop it! I can’t stand it. What is this about rapture?
What have you boys been reading? Revelations?
No doubt it’s a secret. Do you boys have a secret society?
And this is your secret language?
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.
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.
Madam, you shock me.
Spare me your righteous grandeur. You have no right to be
shocked, worldly as you are.
(TO TOBY) Have you got a crucifix?
A holy cross, it needn’t have Jesus on it.
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.
Christina Stead laughs.
(TO TALON) Why are you saying that?
It’s called an exorcism, you know like - (in that old movie
with the girl).
No! I know what you’re doing. Why are you telling them to
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
Guard your tongue gushing its sewage.
Begone I say! In the name of God the Father, his Son and
the Holy Spirit.
Christopher Brennan returns to his
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.
You are no better than you ought to be Madam. I am
surprised, nearly appalled by your flippancy. Where is the
Christina Stead sighs.
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
I know. I guessed. We don’t smoke - (TO TOBY) don’t we?
(TOBY SHAKES HIS HEAD). It gives you lung cancer.
And heart attack.
And cerebral palsy. It’s against God’s plan.
(TO TALON) What denomination are you?
Um ... What?
Obviously. But what denomination?
Um ... what?
Anglican, Presbyterian ... Methodist I suppose. Not
Oh. Pentecostal Church of the Liberated Spirit.
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?
No. He’s back in New Zealand. He’s a manager. Of a marae.
He’s important. He wouldn’t like this. We’re expecting him
any minute, he’s coming to take Talon home.
(TO TALON) Do you feel ready to go home?
Not really. I wanted to finish school and do Graphic
Talon starts to weep.
No need to cry boy, your father will get you an
apprenticeship, I’m sure. Mrs ... (LOOKS AT CHRISTINA
Mrs Blake. But Miss Stead to you. My nephew calls me
He is your nephew? Oh. You have come to escort him home to
his father. The mother, I suppose, remains in New Guinea?
No. She’s in Granville.
How has she adapted to civilised life?
She likes it. She says it’s all she has.
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
He was a construction worker but he felt the calling.
So he went to New Guinea?
No to New Zealand.
I see, I see. So you are a Maori?
Half. Quarter. Mum is Cook Islander. But only half. (TO
TOBY) Have you got a calculator?
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.
If Dad was half Maori and Mum is half Cook Islander, how
much Maori am I?
How would I know?
Well you’re good at maths.
So what is it again?
Dad is half Maori and Mum is half Cook Islander.
What’s the other half of your Mum?
Like the hundred and one?
That’s interesting. I didn’t know that, I just thought she
was a wog like the rest of us.
No. She’s Dalmation - half. They’re big in Aotearoa.
So ... Like where is it?
It’s not a country. It’s a place.
So where is it? Is it like China or something?
How can it not be a country? Is it like a state?
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.
It’s not like Draculand is it? Is it near to Transylvania
It’s not like the coast of Transylvania is it?
It’s in Yugoslavia.
During the following Talon edges
towards the computer.
And where may that be?
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
But surely no-one calls himself Serbian anymore?
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.
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.
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.
China for example?
China hardly counts. I meant Christendom, as you well know.
China counts. India counts. Japan ... Oh you are not to
know. The Second World War wreaked - (great changes).
Second! What ... Not ... It was the War to End All Wars -
one baulked at that but ...
There is another.
Another? How? Another ... What are you talking about? I see
you are in a worse way than I had thought.
Have you thought that you are in no position to judge?
I am perfectly rational.
You have behaved violently towards an innocent child.
Wrong on both counts. (POINTING AT TOBY) He is no child and
his language suggests he is far from innocent.
Professor Brennan - (you do not belong in this scene).
So we have met.
No. But I have seen you at the University. And read you, of
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.
So limited, Rationalism, so perversely blind. You, a woman
who knows Milton and ...
Perhaps you were one of my students?
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.
Christina Stead turns back.
Oh never mind. Women’s business.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Never heard of the fellow.
Woman. Her husband was a professor of German. In London.
That is her name. His ... I cannot remember. She was called
Mrs Robertson! I heard she wrote novels. So you knew her.
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.
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
Talon patters on computer keyboard.
No! You dropkick. Email Louis, he’ll get help.
Lights around computer flicker as
Lights around computer station go
out. As they rise again Dot emerges,
begins to walk straight downstage, a
dark shape remains behind her,
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.
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.
(TO TALON) What have you done? I told you to email Louis.
What have you done?
I thought it might give us help.
Who? What? Why didn’t you ... We’re fuck-
I thought it might ... (help) so I entered my favourite
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
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
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
I know. I’ve always wanted to meet you.
How charming. Have you lost your way too?
Very much so.
This is fuck - no good. What ... Who ...?
This is Dot. She might help us.
What? Who? How?
Dot. She ... you’re my favourite book.
Oh. Book? I’m not sure ...
Dot turns to Christina Stead and
(TO TALON) Are these your grandparents?
Oh. Um ...
Oh. Christina, Professor Christopher ... this is Dot.
This is purgatory. I must be dead. Was I run over while
crossing George Street?
I know Dot. We’ve all read her. I found her most
interesting in her way.
Am I in my way?
I dare say you are on it.
(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.
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.
Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!
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.
(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.
I don’t think they have rifles. (TO TALON) Do you?
Do I what?
Do you have a rifle? I’ve heard boys love them.
Talon shakes his head.
Yes! Yes we have rifles. Automatic weapons. Kalashnikov AK
47s, M16s, M249 light machine guns ...
I didn’t know you knew all that about rifles.
I have a store. I’m going to take you all out.
Oh, where? I’ve never been anywhere but the bush, I’ve
never even been to town. Do you sell frocks? And hats?
Shh dear. You must never, ever go near that place.
Mummy says ... (DOT WEEPS).
Kangaroo comforts Dot.
Perhaps we should move on. These are your mob but ... you
don’t seem happy in their company.
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
(TO TALON) What’s she talking about?
I think I know. (TO DOT) Do you worship the Beast?
I ... don’t think so. I don’t worship. I’ve never been to
Does the Beast speak to you?
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
I don’t want the pink.
Oh. Why? They all taste the same - well, they’re all
lovely, like honey, don’t be afraid, they’re not nasty like
Not the pink.
Give him yellow.
I’ve never seen ... (to Kangaroo) Do they come in yellow,
my dear friend?
They come in all the colours of the rainbow, Dot dear.
Dot plucks the blue one and gives it
to Toby who takes it.
(PLUCKING THE WHITE ONE AND GIVING IT TO TALON) Here you
What about you?
Oh I’ve had mine.
Why don’t you have another if they’re so nice?
You can only have one a day. (TO KANGAROO) Can’t you?
I thought so.
Yes. If you eat too many you’ll learn too much.
The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
Yes. And then you get indigestion. (TO KANGAROO) Don’t you?
Kangaroo nods, Skippy Tut, Tuts.
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.
(EXAMINING HIS BERRY) So this is the fruit of the Tree of
the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Well one had better eat of it. (SHE POPS HER BERRY INTO HER
(RISING FROM HIS ARMCHAIR) Don’t woman!
Hmm, like very good whisky. (LAUGHS) You’ll like it. Eat
Christopher Brennan sinks into his
armchair, lets his berry fall from
We’re done for. Again. Always the same. Woman does for us.
Talon eats his berry.
(TO DOT) Well, shall I grow or shrink?
(TO DOT) What then?
I don’t know.
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.
(TO KANGAROO) Are you talking?
Hasn’t she got the most charming voice? It makes me forget
... (WEEPS. KANGAROO HOPS OVER AND COMFORTS DOT) I’ve lost
Are you talking to me? Oh, I’d forgotten - (that’s part of
(TO KANGAROO) You’re the Beast, aren’t you? The Abomination
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
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.
(TO CHRISTINA STEAD) That is a rather uncharming way to
talk of someone present.
Hush child, the berries take some this way. This one of
your kind will be alright in a moment.
(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
Tobster, eat the berry.
Why? It might be poisoned.
Eat it and you’ll understand. It doesn’t matter if it’s
poisoned. Nothing matters now. We’re in the Tribulation.
You’re fucked. What would you know? Your mother is a
Dalmatian and your father is a Maori.
It’s not pink Tobster, just eat it and all will come clear
... sort of.
What are you, Hermione Granger ?
Don’t! Don’t! It’s forbidden fruit.
Toby eats his berry. Everyone looks
at him for a reaction.
(TO KANGAROO) Speak to him, he’ll understand you now.
I have nothing to say to him.
Stay calm, the effects will pass. It will only be worse if
You can listen to the bush creatures now. They say such
interesting things. The Platypus knew such a lot about
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.
(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
What is the big boy talking Shut up, she’s only a kid.
Look dude, she’s been kidnapped by some ... what do they
It’s a kangaroo, dude.
You are so gullible and credulous. It’s a fetish guy. I
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.
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.
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.
(TO KANGAROO) Forgive my friend, he - (doesn’t know who you
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.
I think we’ve had enough ... (enchantment).
You may join in if you like ... I have no-one to sing with.
Mummy has no-one ... (to sing with either - STARTS TO
Kangaroo comforts Dot.
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.
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?
(TO TALON) She’s pretty good. (TO DOT) Do you like Missy
I’m sure I would. Does she have a doll?
I wouldn’t know.
I can dance too. The Native Companions taught me, (TO
KANGAROO) Didn’t they?
Dot dances her Native Companion
That might do now, dear.
Dot stops dancing. Talon throws
himself at Kangaroo’s feet. She jumps
I will worship you - we all will - just don’t torture us
before you kill us.
... At last his sail-broad vanes
He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoke
Uplifted spurns the ground; thence many a league
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 ...
(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 ...
Compose yourself boy, this is no time to lose your faith,
to prostrate yourself before ... Think of the Dark One as
merely a kangaroo.
(TO TALON) Some Christian. Look at you.
Talon gets to his feet.
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?
It was Milton. Paradise Lost. Satan escaping Hell.
I knew. It was like one of those Goth movies.
The Beast kills those who do not worship him ... her ...
it. Pastor said so. In the Tribulation.
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.
It looked like it.
I was! It wasn’t just for me.
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.
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.
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.
Did they help them find their lost way? We’re looking for
Willy Wagtail to help me find mine again.
I know. You will find him. Where are you now in your
Dot and Kangaroo look around puzzled,
so do Christopher Brennan and the
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).
Did you lose yours too?
No. But the one I had wouldn’t do.
That must have been terrible. Didn’t your mother show you
She died. When I was two.
Dot goes over and tries to embrace
Christina Stead but Stead avoids the
embrace by picking up her glass and
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.
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
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
As sportive little Saurians disported on the strand.
It made him cry because ... because ... (DOT BEGINS TO
Christina Stead reaches out an
awkward hand to Dot.
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?
They all listen.
I can hear a cockroach whispering ‘Where’s food? Where’s
food? Where’s food?’.
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.
They’re like that. (TO KANGAROO) Aren’t they? Possums fight
all the time, it’s the only way they can be happy.
They are selfish and spiteful, as a rule. One doesn’t care
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
They all look at 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
They all continue to stare at him.
Bullshit. You didn’t even eat your berry. It’s still there
on the floor.
I believe you. Will they save us?
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?
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.
You wouldn’t understand, you’re a sinner - he visits porn
So do you!
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?
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
He thinks you’re a binge drinker.
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
(TO DOT) I think we might be moving along now, Dot. Say
good-bye to your new friends.
Talon sighs with relief, throws
himself at Christopher Brennan’s
knees, grabs his hand and starts
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.
Dude, you’re making a bit of a ... This is embarrassing,
Toby goes over and hauls Talon away
from Christopher Brennan.
You’re going to have to chill, dude.
The boy is hysterical.
Christina Stead nods.
(TO CHRISTINA STEAD) Shouldn’t you ... take him in hand, or
Dot goes up and takes Talon’s hand.
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.
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
(TO DOT) Are they looking for you?
Oh yes, I’m sure. But I have wandered ... I didn’t mean to.
None of us do. We are led astray.
Dot, it is a dangerous time and the court made so much
It was Cockatoo mainly. (TO TALON) He was the judge.
Have you been judged?
And ... Are you saved?
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.
(TO TALON) Oh yes, dear Kangaroo came and carried me away
from the court. We fled.
(WHISPERS SO KANGAROO CANNOT HEAR) Be careful, you have
been judged and she is a beast.
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.
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.
Tell him to be nice to Kangaroo.
Dot, the Blacks and their dogs will have heard all that
noise. We must get far away.
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?
No, they’re normal ... some of them.
Kangaroo looks around in an agitated
Dot, we could be trapped here.
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.
It smells strange.
That’s just humans.
And it’s strangely silent.
They all listen to the silence.
I could sing.
I don’t think that’s a good idea.
(TO TALON) Do you have any sisters?
Oh goody. Where is she?
Out. Clubbing I suppose, she’s not saved.
Does she have a dolly?
She used to.
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
Come Talon, you and Toby should sit quietly for a bit.
Christina Stead leads Talon to couch.
CHRISTINA STEAD (CONT)
Come and sit down Toby, I’ll tell you about ancient Sydney.
Kangaroo looks around.
(TO DOT) How did we get in? I can’t see the opening.
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?
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
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
(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
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
(TO TALON) And you?
I catch a bus. If I miss it I ride my bike. On walkathon
days I take my skateboard.
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
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
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.
(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?
Naw, it’s boring.
Boring? Surely not?
It’s just full of ads and reality.
They’re disgusting. We go on the net. We talk to one
That’s good. What about?
Like this guy set the girl’s hair on fire and put it on
It can be better than that, you can learn stuff.
Good. And what is your ambition?
Yes, what job would you like when you leave school?
Oh, like a goal. Dunno. Maybe construction, like Dad but
not small time - big, I want to run a multinational.
(TO TALON) And what is your favourite subject?
I T. I’m going to be a graphic designer.
I T. I don’t think I know what that is.
It’s more than that. It’s blackberries and mobile
technology, like uploading and ... stuff.
Do you have a favourite author?
We were thinking of that before you - and (POINTING TO
CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) came. Not you - sorry.
And not him!
(TO CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN) No offence Your Holiness, the
thing about the tram was good though.
The other was crap.
I didn’t write the other, boy, the sublime Milton did.
(TO TOBY) You got off on it.
I did not. You - are - a- total - whacko.
You said it was about Dracula.
You’d know, you’re half Transylvanian.
Well that’s better than being totally Serbian.
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.
What’s heaven like, Christina?
I don’t think that would be a useful line of inquiry at the
Yes, she’s trying to calm you down after that whacko act
I thought ... this is so weird ... I thought it was the
After you thought it was the Rapture. You almost had me ...
(believing in it too).
(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
Dot, Dot dear, wake up. Time to be going again.
Dot is reluctant to wake.
Can you hear him?
Sound of Willy Wagtail.
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
Dot gets up.
What? I was dreaming I was back home on our selection.
Mummy was ... (opening the door).
Sound of Willy Wagtail.
Do come Dot, come now or it’ll be too late.
Kangaroo begins leading Dot towards
computer station and darkness. Dot
Good-bye. Don’t forget me. I’ve - (so enjoyed meeting you).
Dot, he’s flitting away, I knew we had to hurry, you have
no idea how unreliable Willy Wagtails are. Hurry Dot.
I have to go now.
Where’s the little ho going? She shouldn’t be going off -
(with that pedophile) Don’t go!
Toby gets up from couch.
We’ll get ... (help)
Dot hesitates between staying and
going on with Kangaroo.
I have to find my way.
Do come 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.
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
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.
Sit down Toby. I know what happens to her.
Toby sits again.
What? How would you know?
I’ve read her story, many - millions probably - have. She
But her parents might be selling her to those pedophiles.
I don’t know where you get these ideas. I wandered
everywhere as a girl. One knew how to keep out of harm’s
It was a kangaroo, dude.
You said it was ... What did you call it?
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.
... some honour.
Christopher Brennan begins to wander
upstage towards the dark behind the
computer station area.
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.
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.
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
with love, in gold-lit cells,
Absorbs the heaven that shed
sweet silence after bells.
You know a lot of poetry.
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
Don’t you just make it up?
Sometimes I think I do.
It’s pretty amazing - I mean it rhymes and ... it’s pretty
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.
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.
Police! Anyone home?
More loud knocking.
We’re here about your parents.
(TO TALON) You go.
Talon exits wing. Talon leads
Policeman and Policewoman in.
You’re Toby Bregovic?
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.
It’s O K mate, we’re here to help you. Is there anyone ...
any adult around?
O K. Have you got any neighbours, friendly neighbours.
Mr and Mrs Zenir but they’re not very friendly since Dad
yelled at them.
(TO TALON) What about you, mate?
I’m very friendly.
Are your parents nearby?
Mum’s in Granville.
(TO TOBY) There’s been a bit of an accident.
(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?
She’s my stepmum, sort of.
Where’s your mum?
Hawaii, I think.
Have you got her number?
Toby shakes his head.
Was he speeding again? Will he lose his license?
(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.
Mum’s at a chapel social, she doesn’t like me interrupting.
(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
We could ring Mr Tszinsky only we don’t have his number.
Who’s he mate?
He’s our English teacher. We’re doing his homework.
(TO TOBY) We just think you should have someone with you
tonight. This is pretty important. The accident was bad,
Toby and Talon take this in.
(TO TOBY) I’ll stay with you Tobe.
Policewoman stands up, moves away
from couch. Talon goes over and sits
next to 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.
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
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
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)