Three extracts from Teatro Vivo’s Odyssey
At the gates of Hades, a woman sits at a desk and writes. She speaks what she writes. She is inside, the audience group is outside. The gates are shut.
Echepolus; killed by Antilochus, spear in the head… Pandarus; killed by Diomedes, spear in the nose… Isus; killed by Agamemnon, spear in the chest… Patrochlus; killed by Hector, unknown… Tros; killed by Achilles, sword in the liver… Socus; killed by Odysseus, spear in the back… Ennounus; killed by Odysseus, unknown… Chersidamas; killed by Odysseus, spear in the groin… Mydon; stomped by horses…
She pauses, looks up and sees the group.
I am writing. I am adding to the list. I stand up and welcome you.
She opens the gate. The group files in. She shuts the gate.
You enter. You are quiet, watchful. Some of you are concerned. You need not be. Soon, you will take a drink, should you wish. Others may sit and rest if they are tired. There are seats. I welcome you. I tell you what you need. I tell you of spirit and place. You are frightened. You need not be. You are glad. I am grateful. So are you. I talk to an individual. I talk to you, madam. What should I call you? Thank you Katherine. Are you fine? Katherine is fine. Are you happy to be here? Katherine is anxious, but she need not be. I hold Katherine’s hand and she is at peace. Katherine has an attractive handbag. I tell you what you need. This place is the place of the dead. I tell you it is called Hades. You are frightened, but you need not be. It is a quiet place, but it is a place of celebration.
I ask you why you have come here. You smile. You look questioning. I tell you that questions can be answered here or can present more questions. I ask you, sir. Do you have any questions? You may ask anything. You may ask about the dead. We will do our best to provide answers. Are you searching for something? Is there someone you would like to see? We may not be able to help but we will always try.
Here, we remember. We remember those who have left us. We remember together, and alone. I support you. You help each other. You are together. We remember and celebrate. We celebrate and rest. We take a drink and talk of what has gone before. You may use the toilet. I think this is a good idea. It is over there in the building. We remember those who have gone before. I tell you what you need. The dead are here and you can hear from them. You can feed them blood from the bottle. I ask you to check that you have blood. I ask you madam, is there blood in your bag? You check. There is blood. I ask you to take this bottle of blood and let the dead drink from it. The dead are always thirsty. You will be able to hear them when they drink the blood. You will hear from them for a short time. Then we will leave them alone.
I talk to an individual. I talk to you, sir. What should I call you? I like you Mark. As others do. We like you even though you have a strange beard. Are you reassured Mark? Mark seems uncertain. This is fine. I hold Mark’s hand and thank him. I thank him for taking the time to remember. There are many war dead here. There are many wars. There are others too. You may wish to remember others. We welcome this and support you. You may add names to the list in the book. It is there, near the telephone. The line is dead, but we still remember. People have added names today. You may add more. The name Mira was added today; so was Malcolm. Mira and Malcolm. They are missed; but they will always be remembered. If you would like to add a name it will be respected. I tell you I hope you will relax here and rest. Drink and talk. You may even talk to a stranger. This would make me very happy. I am always here, as are the dead. They are with us always. I thank you and stop talking.
She sits back down at the desk.
I return to my list. I am writing. I am adding to the list. The list goes on. Lest we forget.
Lycaon; killed by Achilles, sword in the neck… Hector; Killed by Achilles, spear though the throat… Mulius; killed by Achilles, spear in the head… Asteropaeus, killed by Achilles, sword in the stomach…Rhigmus, killed by Achilles, spear in the gut…
Leda in Hades (with lines from Yeats)
She is mouthing words.
She is pointing at the sky.
Great wings beating.
A sudden blow.
There, do you see it?
Cygnus, the swan.
Zeus in white Robes.
A helpless bird,
Settling gently in my lap,
Shining in the night.
And then he struck.
Breast upon his breast.
A Shudder in the loins.
It started there,
On that starry night.
From Zeus’ loins,
That’s where the troubles came,
In their legions.
That’s how Helen was made.
What was that?
Listen, the crack.
Tiny crack in the egg,
The first hushed creak in the wall.
Before the fall, before the fall.
Before it became deafening.
Listen, you can hear it…
She looks up.
She is mouthing words.
She is pointing at the sky.
A man has met a group of people outside a cafe. He has agreed to tell them a story in exchange for a pound.
Come in here. It’s warm. The tea’s good. The bacon’s not. Don’t trust the bacon. Take a seat. Make yourself at home. They know me in here. Olive? Never look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?
I’ll tell you a story… “How Troy was burnt and he made miserable”
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! The Greeks and the Trojans were at war, they had been for ten years. The Greeks had come to Troy to get Helen back. Helen? Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships? She was the one who started this mess in the first place, running off with Paris, like a couple of kids. They had to get her back. For ten, long years they lay siege but the Trojans stood firm. There were huge walls all around the city, and the Greeks tried time after time to get through, but time after time they failed. So one of the fellas, he thought hard, and this is what he dreamt up…
A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!
(He uses salt and pepper pots and anything else he can find to demonstrate)
They would build a huge wooden horse on wheels. Like a vast, imperious, horse-shaped ship. They got straight to it. In the dead of night the men gathered all the wood they could find – Trojan wood – and mustered all the skill amongst them to construct this rare breed. The air was filled with the hammering. Then the most reckless of the Greeks hid themselves inside the hollow belly of the horse. They jammed themselves in, heads in armpits, heals over heads. Sweat and stench. Forty men in the belly; two in the mouth. Here they are. Lookouts. Meanwhile the rest of the Greek fleet sailed silently away..
When the Trojans opened their gates – a little fella it was who opened them; Stan I think he was called – there was this giant horse staring back at them. Nothing else, just a bloomin’ ‘orse! They didn’t know if it was a gift from the Gods, or from the Greeks. Either way a sure fire symbol of victory, as – look! -the Greek ships could be seen sailing away in the distance – there they go – defeated. Suckers! And all that was left was this big bloomin’ horse. So they dragged the horse through the city gates, and the party began. What a party! I could have danced all night! And the Trojans fell into a peaceful, boozy sleep. The first real sleep in ten years. It was only Helen who couldn’t sleep; something bothered her. Don’t trust this horse.
What could the horse be hiding? She didn’t trust it. So she sidled up to its muscular wooden thighs and started to call – in various voices. Ooh Anticlus! My love! Kiss me here on my little nosey-wosey. Ooh Martin! Look how strong you are! Those nailed in the horse could have sworn they heard the voices of their lovers, their wives. They hadn’t heard them for ten years, but here they were, wanting them, needing them. Clever Helen. But the main man said “No. Shut your ears. It’s a trick.” And he grabbed hold of Martin’s neck and squeezed the life out of it, in case his todger got the better of him and he blew it. Helen waited, but heard only silence. Satisfied it was empty she went back to her sleeping Trojans.
Dawn it was, or just before, when the Trojans were sleeping soundly – Listen! You can hear their snores. It was that strangest of times when it’s light but there’s no sun, just purple light, creeping into our dreams. It’s the time when we remember death; there’s a word for it – aubade. That was when the Greeks who were inside the belly of the horse crept out very, very quietly. Sshh! Don’t trust this horse. They opened the gates of the city. The Greek ships that had been seen to sail away had turned back – cheeky monkeys – and now landed once more on Trojan shores. Here they come… Here they come… Boom! Scores of Greek soldiers stormed the city, a virus spreading through the walls. They slaughtered thousands of Trojan men… women.. and children. They burnt their beds even before the Trojans were out of their jim-jams. Devastation; wrack and ruin… Hook, line and sinker. Grilled, poached, fried…
What a brilliant idea, eh? What a stroke of absolute genius! A pirouette on a postage stamp! The maker of this mischief? The Wily fox who brought the ten-year war to a decisive end? Here he is – Odysseus. Odysseus.
He kisses him.
It’d still be going on today if it wasn’t for him, you know. There’d still be life after life lost in the sand day after day on the beaches of Troy, if it wasn’t for him. He ended it. He did it. No-one else. I hope he got all the thanks he deserved. I don’t know. I don’t know where he is, but they should build a bloomin’ statue of him. A statue of him and the horse, and raise it down there, in the square, for all the world to see. That’s what they should do.
That’s all I know.
That’s a pound then.
Who’s paying for the olives?
The Odyssey is a Teatro Vivo production directed by Sophie Austin. Co-writers Vic Bryson, Sarah Sigal & Michael Wagg
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