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Theatre

Elisabeth Sutherland Script

Script by Elisabeth Efua Sutherland

This script is a composite of speeches and poetry written during the independence era (1957-1994) which will be performed as episodes of spoken text interspersed with movement and multimedia pieces to juxtapose the different stages of identity development and to illustrate the concept of the identity-text as being multidimensional. The movement pieces created were treated using techniques inspired by the work of French visual theatre artist and puppeteer Philippe Genty, whose art often carries themes of journeying and inner turmoil. A puppet was introduced as an example figure that must necessarily incorporate in order to exist as an animate being. The puppeteer’s touch means that the puppet is no longer a puppet, but a composite of puppet-puppeteer. During rehearsals and development sessions of this piece, the ensemble also physically explored the concept of “opening and closure” that Peggy Phelan described in her article.

Script

MOVEMENT 1: the birth of a hybrid culture

PROJECTION: BASTARDS ex Africa sempler aliquid

BASTARDS

Out of Africa, there is always something new.

There is always something new coming out of Africa.

MOVEMENT 2: homo narrans

PRELUDE

Four chairs in a straight line center stage. Four music stands. A small wooden desk and chair for the COMMANDER. Ridiculously small. Another small chair for the LIEUTENANT. The BASTARDS stand behind their chairs. PROJECTION: From the Epic of Sundiata: an Epic of Old Mali by D.T. Niane and interpreted for other purposes by G.D. Picket

COMMANDER

One, two, three, four. Opening comments.

BASTARDS

I am a griot.

It is I, son of my mother and my father, master in the art of eloquence. Since time immemorial my family has been in the service of the princes of this our great land.

BASTARD 1

We are vessels of speech; we are the repositories which harbor secrets many centuries old

BASTARD 2

The art of eloquence has no secrets for us

BASTARD 3

Without us, the names of kings would vanish into oblivion,

BASTARD 4

We are the memory of mankind

BASTARDS

We are the memory of mankind. We teach kings the memory of their ancestors so that the lives of the ancients may serve as an example, for the world is old but the future springs from the past. My word is pure and free of all untruth. It is the word of my father. It is the word of my father’s father. I will give you my father’s words as I received them. Royal griots do not know what lying is.

COMMANDER

Listen to our word, you who want to know

By our mouths you will learn your history

Beat. Count to 4.

BASTARDS

Reality is constructed by positioning its spectators to observe and identify its truths.

Beat. Count to 4.

LIEUTENANT

They mean to say “we do not mean to say that what we’re about to say is true”.

COMMANDER

It’s a story –

LIEUTENANT

It’s just a story. Let it come. Let it go.

MOVEMENT 3: homo narrans (reprise)

EPISODE

PROJECTION: Purgatory. The BASTARDS stand in front of their chairs.

COMMANDER

Atukwei Okai: Kperterkple Serenade. Excerpt. One, two, three.

BASTARDS

Excerpt.

BASTARD 1

Make room in your inn for me

BASTARD 2

I know when Karl Marx grabbed his bibliography and ballpen and pocketed his toothbrush and his shaving stick he went and bought a ticket to London.

BASTARD 3

When Gandhi girded his loin cloth, it was London he had in mind.

BASTARD 2

When Lenin fled his beloved motherland his final haven-crash was London.

BASTARD 1

But America, your address book too has memories that yield the names of Von Braun and Charles Dickens

BASTARD 4

Marcus Garvey

BASTARD 1

And Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus

BASTARD 2

Who boarded the wrong bus-

BASTARD 1

And Maxim Gorky and Mayakovsky and Uncle Einstein and Mr. Carnegie and Rockefeller, even your ports recalling report how the Mayflower moved in –

BASTARD 3

To deflower at night the virgin land of the Red Indians –

BASTARD 2

Jesus Christ it seems and Judas did not make it

BASTARD 4

America.

BASTARD 1

(Love-struck) Make room in your inn for me.

BASTARD 4

America.

You are a funny girl.

Everybody dreams of kissing you.

MOVEMENT 4: you are a funny girl america everybody wants to kiss you

EPISODE

(The Bastards arrange themselves in one straight line, music stands to the slight right (audience’s right, bastards’ left) of each Bastard)

COMMANDER

Telephone Conversation

BASTARDS (Overlapping the COMMANDER and one another)

Telephone Conversation

The Bastards turn to face the wall. The backs of their muslin gowns face open, and the skin of their naked backs glisten with sweat above clinical blue knickers.

A telephone rings. PROJECTION: a drawing room in a fine Victorian-era style mansion. The sort you see in heavily romanticized visions of English life. PROJECTION: the enigmatic red phone booth, a stereotyped London. The telephone rings again.

Bastards turn abruptly.

BASTARDS (Together)

Telephone Conversation.

BASTARD 1

The price seemed reasonable, location -

BASTARD 2

Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived –

BASTARD 1

Off premises. Nothing remained -

BASTARD 2

But self-confession.

The COMMANDER steps in as ventriloquist, mouthing the spoken bits as if it is his voice he pours into the bodies of the speakers.

BASTARD 3

Madam,

BASTARD 2

I warned…

BASTARD 3

I hate a wasted journey – I am African.

BASTARD 1

Silence.

BASTARDS 1 & 2 (Overlapping)

Silence.

BASTARD 1

Silenced transmission of –

BASTARD 2

Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came –

BASTARD 1 (Wringing his hands, begging)

Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled cigarette-holder piped. Caught I was, foully.

BASTARD 4

HOW DARK?

Shock.

BASTARDS 1 & 2

…I had not misheard…

BASTARD 4

ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?

BASTARD 2

Button B.

BASTARD 1

Button A. Stench –

BASTARD 2

Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.

BASTARD 1

Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered Omnibus squelching tar. It was real!

BASTARD 2

Shamed by ill-mannered silence, surrender pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.

BASTARD 1

Considerate she was, varying the emphasis –

BASTARD 4

ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?

The LIUETENANT emerges from the shadows. The Bastards lose all sense of agitation. The epiphany dawns from above.

BASTARDS (Together)

Revelation came.

BASTARD 3

You mean- like plain or milk chocolate?

LIUTENANT

Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light impersonality. Rapidly, wavelength adjusted, I chose.

BASTARD 3 (Inspired)

West African sepia.

LIUETENANT

And as an afterthought-

BASTARD 3
Down in my passport -

BASTARD 2 (egged on)

Silence for spectroscopic flight of fancy –

BASTARD 1 (catching the fit)

Till truthfulness clanged her accent hard on the mouthpiece –

BASTARD 4

WHAT’S THAT? DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS

BASTARD 3

Like brunette…

BASTARD 4

THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?

The BASTARDS take the receiver from BASTARD 3. Crescendo.

BASTARDS 1 & 2 (alternating, drunk on it now)

Not altogether. Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see the rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused –and foolishly, madam – by sitting down, has turned my bottom raven black –

The COMMANDER tries to snatch away the receiver.

LIEUTENANT

One moment!

(ALL freeze. LIUETENANT takes the plastic thing, easing his hand over and into the plethora of appendages. Gently, into the receiver, winking eye on BASTARDS)

Madam… Madam, wouldn’t you rather see for yourself?

Fear. Something has been broken. Silence.

BASTARD 1 (Matter-of-factly, still at salute)

Sir! Telephone Conversation by Akinwade Oluwole Soyinka, recorded 1962. Sir!

Black.

MOVEMENT 5: wouldn’t you rather see for yourself

EPISODE

Lights up on BASTARD 1. PROJECTION: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kenya, 1986. A Farewell to English.

BASTARD 1

The oppressed and the exploited of the earth maintain their defiance: liberty from theft. But the biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed by imperialism against that collective defiance is the cultural bomb.

BASTARD 2

The effect of a cultural bomb is to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.

BASTARD 3

It makes them see their past as one wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from themselves; for instance, with other peoples’ languages rather than their own.

BASTARD 4

It makes them identify with that which is decadent and reactionary, all those forces which would stop their own springs of life. It even plants serious doubts about the moral rightness of struggle. Possibilities of triumph or victory are seen as remote, ridiculous dreams.

BASTARD 1

The intended results are despair, despondency and a collective death-wish. Amidst this wasteland which it has created, imperialism presents itself as the cure and demands that the dependant sing hymns of praise with the constant refrain: ‘Theft is holy’.

Farewell.

Crosses to join the other BASTARDS who are crouched in a corner, singing

BASTARDS (mournfully)

Theft is holy, theft is holy, theft is holy, theft is holy…

MOVEMENT 6: a farewell to the english

The singing dies away when the LIEUTENANT steps forward.

LIEUTENANT

Kofi Annan. Nobel Lecture, Oslo, 2001.

Each of us has the right to take pride in our particular faith or heritage. But the notion that what is ours is necessarily in conflict with what is theirs is both false and dangerous. It has resulted in endless enmity and conflict, leading men to commit the greatest of crimes in the name of a higher power.

Beat.

It need not be so. People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings.

The BASTARDS wipe their tears and get on their feet.

Beat.

Black.

MOVEMENT 7: (re)negotiation

EPISODE

A mantra. PROJECTION (text): Nelson Mandela, Inauguration Speech. Pretoria, May 10 1994.

BASTARDS

We understand.

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.

Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.

Let freedom reign.

The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!

Beat.

God bless Africa!

MOVEMENT 8: salute

Black.