This is an excerpt from the first draft of my new play ‘Shangri-la’.
LOUIS: My Mum tells me things twice and doesn’t realise. It’s not a death sentence I know, but it’s not great. So far in my life, I’ve stopped believing in my parents, God, love and myself. I could try meditation but I keep forgetting to get a timetable from the community centre. They probably have a website.
There’s so much else to do though. People make movies in 3D and there are cats bred to look like mini tigers. They’re called toygers. They’re adorable but you can’t believe in them. You can believe they exist, because they do, but you can’t live your life around them. There’s a distinction.
They have those paint machines at the hardware store now that can colour match anything. You can take in a tube of toothpaste from your bathroom or an old hanky from your sock draw and then it’s – boom – Colgate white or – zing – Grandpa Grey. But the computer doesn’t take into account what happens when there is a lot of this colour in a small room. I’m sure the algorithm is very advanced, within three decimals of accuracy, or whatever, but it can’t account for what will happen to the colour when it’s taken from this very real thing and made into liquid colour and then spread over a whole wall. It changes it entirely. Unless it’s a feature wall.
My hands are shaking.
Life is full of disappointments and I’m afraid this monologue is one of them. I don’t think neurotics should make theatre, but we seem to be the only ones interested in it these days.
If standing here fails, it’s all over. I can say good bye to my friends and family. I will have to move out of my house and cancel my library cards. I will give my clothes away to the Salvation Army and kids with sticky fingers will paw over all my old comic books. It will be the end. People from down the street will wonder what happened to that nice boy and there will be a redirection notice on all my mail with little yellow stickers that come from those reel printers with the stokes that Grace Brothers used to have. At my school reunion there will be just be a poster of me with a bad 90‘s haircut.
This is just me on this stage this is just me and my story and you and you listening. If I fuck it up then i’ll know. You might not cry or scream or walk away but things will change between us. It’s terrifying. Things will change and you will no longer be my friend. So here goes.
The big time elephant with scales over its eyes tries to elevate itself to the fifth floor of the Empire State building with a winch from a window washer who reviles stalactites and pogo sticks. His name is Chris and he likes heat bouncing off bitumen. He comes from Brooklyn Bay and was trained in an academy for young children who snore too much.
Last summer he kissed a girl. She was enchanted but it was a good enchantment because it got mixed up in the post with someone else’s. She had a medium sized nose and Chris liked to pretend that it grew in a strawberry patch. He thinks about her all day when he is suspended between the sixth and sixtieth floors of the tallest building in New York that he’s aware of.
He wants to open up to her. He dreams of telling her the secrets of the window washer’s guild. But thinks better of it. He doesn’t want to be expelled because they get a 10% discount at Taco Bell. His favourite is the soft shelled taco because they don’t cut his tongue. The Taco Bell Chihuahua works the grill at the store near Central Park West. Chris goes there frequently to talk about his time in the jungle because he is doing an investigative report for This American Life.
Every time she opens her mouth another reason not to be with her flies out. It flits around his ears on gossamer wings for a few seconds and then dies painfully of suffocation. Reasons not to be with her can only survive in the specially formulated atmosphere found in her abdomen.
If he had another chance, and he desperately wants one, he could drive her mad in a minute. He had finished reading Chekhov. All of Chekhov. He finally understood how he should have been around her during the time they were officially a couple. Three months after the fact, Lachlan realised that Millie thrived on frustration. If the troubles of wealthy Russian landowners in decline had taught him anything, it was that Millie wanted to be provoked each morning as she swallowed her green sludge probiotics*.
Probiotics. What a stupid word. Nutritionists should leave the invention of words to the professionals, he thinks.
The only waitress in the place eats her lunch of two poached eggs on toast at the table next to him. He considers choosing a tart that he doesn’t want from the display case just to disturb her. The scene following would interest him. How well he could feign nonchalance as he makes his way from the table. How skilfully he could keep her exasperations in his peripheral vision. No, don’t get up, I didn’t realise. Don’t be silly, please eat your lunch. Oh, all right, if you don’t mind. I’ll have a lemon meringue pie. Is that gluten free? No?
Can it be?
He has it out for the waitress population because his friends have dragged him to be near the beach. He can see the sandy grass through the window. Not content with their nay saying from an urban distance these friends sought validation of their urban sensibilities on the very doorstep of potential disaster. And besides, Lachlan needs to build a fucking bridge. All the while Lachlan sits in this café with its black leather arm chairs and enjoys these seats abject refusal to be carefree, sea breeze or nautical. So bulky and numerous are they that people must contort themselves around them to reach the window seats. They surround him, like the perverted dream of a Japanese television producer.
He pulls his fringe down and looks at the world outside. Little kids run along the jetty wearing dark green dinosaur hoods^. That is sick, he thinks. He doesn’t believe all these chicken bone philosophies but there are limits. What does it mean about human kind if we can miniaturise the possibility of our own destruction and give it to our kids to hit each other with? It’s either a very good thing, or a crying shame. Not for the first time today, he wishes he had a pen to write his thoughts down.
Here at the end of the world, Lachlan wonders if it would be better to be with someone who doesn’t love him anymore or with no one at all. Outside, on the jetty, a little boy in a green hood with teeth along the seam pretends to devour his mother.
I don’t know much about Die Valkyrie. I know there is woman named Brunhilde and she wears horns and it’s part of the ring cycle and it’s all very grand. What I do know is that there are things called leitmotifs that are traced all though the opera that make a kind of cheat sheet or passcode when you’re supposed to be feeling a certain way or know when a certain character is due to fuck shit up. They’re not just for opera. You can use them just about everywhere.
For years I woke up to David Bowie’s Queen Bitch. The three city rail chimes are always pretty frustrating. The fanfare of the Fox title card at the start of a movie always makes me vaguely disappointed I’m not watching Star Wars. Little bars of music that repeat now and again to remind you that you’re a good person, or that you’re supremely powerful or you’re a good person who does bad things because you’re under the hammer. A god’s hammer most like. Or you’re about to miss your train.
My old housemate Harry gave me a signature dance. We were making show and I was being very earnest about it and there was a dance scene and Harry gave me a dance. You stand very still, then at a key moment in the song, the peak, you jump up with your arms by your side and try to touch your feet with your head.
Acceptable points in songs to do ‘The Tim’;
Basement Jaxx – Red Alert 2:15
Art vs Science – Parlez Vous Francais 0:44
Beyonce – Countdown 0:37, 2:09 & 3:30
If you find other points, let me know and I’ll tell you if they’re acceptable.