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Authors: Nicholas Mosley

catastrophe practice

NICHOLAS MOSLEY

Catastrophe Practice

Plays for Not Acting
and
Cypher: A Novel

To
VERITY

Supposing truth to be a woman — what?
Is the suspicion not well founded
that all philosophers, when they have
been dogmatists, have had little
understanding of women?

What meaning would our whole being
possess if it were not this — that
in us the will to truth becomes
conscious of itself as a problem.

NIETZSCHE

Contents

Introduction

SKYLITE

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

LANDFALL

ACT I

ACT II

CELL

CYPHER

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

A Note on the Author

Introduction

Catastrophe Practice
was the first book to be written in the series that carries its name. It was a seed for the other books —
Imago Bird, Serpent, Judith, Hopeful Monsters
. It was to be seen as a seed; but a seed is perhaps best looked at after its fruits.

The idea behind
Catastrophe Practice
was: in our lives we are all to some extent actors on a stage; we perform roles in accordance with ‘scripts' that have been given us — by heredity, by upbringing, by society. But there is a part of us that knows that this is not quite the point; that what matters is what, as it were, goes on off-stage.

The characters in
Plays For Not Acting
struggle to convey this to an audience — ‘You know don't you, that we are all for the most part stuck in this or that script; but the fact that we can know this, is not this the point?' This is how there might be being born, nurtured — although we seem unable to talk about this much — some understanding, pattern, of what might be being created off-stage.

In the short novel
Cypher
the actors are seen in what might be called their ordinary lives. Of course they are still actors! But because they are aware of this they carry with them the style — standing back from themselves, watching and listening — of whatever it is that might be being born.

Interwoven with the plays and the novel are four essays, the results of reading to discover what wider backing there might be for these ideas. It seemed that the need for a new form of understanding was not something arbitrarily imposed.

The title ‘Catastrophe Practice' was suggested by a mathematical theory of the 1970s — Catastrophe Theory — which explained how evolution, change, might take place in sudden jumps. So — could not humans practise to be ready for such a jump? The title also arose from the idea that the human race
has in fact reached a point at which old role-playing, old ‘scripts', have become too dangerous: the liking for antagonism, for drama, for tragedy and farce, will have to be balanced by a further style of understanding if humans are not simply to blow themselves up.

Biologists tell us that there is always the chance of hitherto unnurtured seeds turning up. What humans can do is to prepare the ground — material or mental — on which one seed rather than another might grow.

I have made some slight alterations to the original 1979 edition. Now that the further works of fiction in the series, more straightforward in form, have been written, it is natural that there should be some modification to the seed.

Nicholas Mosley
London, 1991

Plays for Not Acting

SKYLIGHT
LANDFALL
CELL

To act is to do and to pretend.

What are we doing that is not
pretending when we know that
we are acting?

SKYLIGHT

Anthropologists explain how the rituals and myths of primitive people are expressions of ambiguities that a person feels but cannot readily comprehend — himself as an individual and yet a member of a group, as part of both a natural environment and a culture, as possessing instincts for self-preservation and yet for self-sacrifice for a whole. These impressions are inescapable yet disturbing: the mind tends to be logical yet processes that inform it apparently are not For the mind to be placated as it were — for experience to seem not too much at odds with that which comprehends it — there have to be glimpses of a unity in which such ambiguities can be held This, traditionally, has been a function of art. The myths and totems of primitive people are reconciling expressions of individuality-with-group, of consciousness-with-nature, of sacrifice-with-survival. If there cannot be a direct language with which to try to deal with these things, there can be a code.

In classical ages tragedy dealt with this kind of predicament — the way in which a person felt himself to be both a free and responsible agent and yet at the mercy of the gods — or of his past, or of society. What happened to him was ordained: yet he experienced it as his fault. By the stylised enactment of such predicaments on a stage an audience was comforted: an individual was reassured that his pitifulness was universal. His condition, however, still did not make much sense.

In an age when it was imagined that a man was no longer helpless but the potential master of his fate there was a decline in the force of tragedy but the experience of helplessness remained then melodrama flourished, in which helplessness was acted by actors, and watched by audiences, as something that could not happen to them. There was a division between,
rather than a co-existence within, the actor and that which he was acting; between what a person in the audience saw and what he felt of himself; between people like ‘us' and people like ‘them'. In ages of so-called enlightenment, what audiences were apt to appreciate were characters like automata.

Comedy remained a reassurance, in which helplessness was portrayed, and pretensions of control were mocked, even by characters that seemed sympathetic. But with anxiety allayed by laughter there was still a gulf between the pleasure felt by an audience and the discomfiture shown by characters on a stage; still the division, that is, between ‘us' and ‘them'. Characters in a comedy, to be satisfying, had to be simple, all-of-a-piece; then ridiculousness could be condescended to, discomfiture could give pleasure: realities of feeling had been cut out. But the complexities of feeling of a member of an audience were real: ambiguities were lulled, but remained unassuaged.

Modern playwrights have written in some recognition of this — the gulf between the ways in which people are pleased to see others and the experiences they feel within themselves. There has been a Theatre of Cruelty — by which audiences are supposed to be bludgeoned into an increased sensitivity: a Theatre of the Absurd — in which what is communicated often beautifully (and thus comfortingly) is that people cannot communicate. In all this there is the impression that these playwrights know much more than they say by their craft they presuppose the existence of order and meaning, yet their plays state nothing of that of which this order and meaning consist. The art of their productions, that is, belies their pretensions of meaninglessness. And this in fact seems to be a latter-day predicament people can indeed be articulate about despair: what is difficult to be articulate about is the fact of their articulateness.

Brecht was a playwright who saw something of all this: who hoped that the point of a play might be not to try to reassure audiences but to make them think: to provide not comfort but change. A play, Brecht said, should be a demonstration: it should not be a presentation of characters simple and all-of-a-piece because this falsified reality: a play should be for a
practical purpose and have a meaning. Imagine, Brecht said, there has been a street accident and an eye-witness is trying to explain to bystanders what has taken place. For this to be done properly — for bystanders to be able to make a correct assessment of what occurred — what is patently not required is for the demonstrator to struggle to make his characters simple and self-consistent: if he does — if the bystanders are sufficiently carried away to exclaim for instance ‘What a fine portrayal of a chauffeur!' — then the point of the demonstration is lost, which is not to show off, but to explain an occurrence. A demonstrator should not ‘cast a spell' over his audience: should not ‘transport them from normality to higher realms'. Above all, he should not foster the delusion that the audience is watching anything other than an illusion. A demonstrator ‘never forgets, nor does he allow it to be forgotten, that he is not the subject but the demonstrator . . . the feelings and opinions of the demonstrator and demonstrated are not merged into one'. For a latter-day predicament, Brecht realised — following on from those of primitive and classical ages — was to do not so much with ignorance as with knowledge: not a terror at almost unimaginable contradictions, but an inability to make acceptable sense of what in some ways was known very well — the fact that a person is not simple and self-consistent; he is aware of this himself; the part of him that is aware is different from the part it is aware of; his feelings both of control and of helplessness are valid. But there might be some chance now, in what Brecht called a ‘scientific' age, for these complexities to be comprehended in some unifying form in which men might be able to observe, reconcile, even demonstrate themselves: instead of treating themselves — and thus the world — as either disastrous or absurd.

The practical purpose of Brecht's ‘epic' theatre was, he used to say, the promulgation of Marxism — the furthering of the interests of the working class and the confounding of those of the bourgeoisie. But to anyone seeing or reading Brecht's plays this function is not clear: his working-class characters seem neither less nor more inept than any others. Brecht explained that the hearts he wanted to change were those not of his
characters but of his audience. But there was still the question — How could an audience be changed if what was being demonstrated was that, socially, people did not change? And Brecht saw himself above all as an agent of change: ‘What matters most is that a new human type should be evolving, and the entire interest of the world should be concentrated on his development.' Towards the end of his life Brecht himself seemed to see this predicament; and to suggest that his commitment to Marxism, which could easily be put into words, might be a cover for something quite different, which could not. After his death there was a note found among his papers — ‘An effort is now being made to move on from the epic theatre to the dialectical theatre; we envisage a sizeable transformation.' He did not live to elucidate what this transformation might be. But he left hints. In his last message to his Berliner Ensemble he wrote — ‘Our playing needs to be quick, light, strong. This is not a question of hurry, but of speed; not simply of quick playing, but quick thinking … In the dialogue exchanges must not be offered reluctantly as when offering someone one's last pair of boots, but must be tossed like so many balls. The audience has to see that there are a number of artists working together as a collective ensemble in order to convey stories, ideas, virtuoso feats to the spectator by common effort.' This was more than a statement about technique: it was a statement about what technique should be about — an effort to express the ‘more' that playwrights know but do not readily give substance to — the business of thinking, of imagination, of creativity itself. For it is here, in the recognition of a man's natural and inherent imaginative processes — a glimpse into the way in which he constructs his view of the world — that a man can stand back and see himself; can meet with others who are doing likewise; and thus have some freedom, being both separate from his hitherto controlling impulses and yet in contact with them, with a chance of changing them. And it is by men seeing themselves as all-of-a-piece that there is their solitariness and helplessness. What should be demonstrated in a play, Brecht seemed to suggest, was not a social blueprint for change, because this in fact does not bring change: but rather
the condition through which, with humans, the idea of change exists — its style and substance — because this might bring change, through its recognition. Brecht quoted with approval the example of the Chinese actor who ‘never acts as though there were a fourth wall beside the three that surround him; he expresses his awareness of being observed … observes himself … will occasionally look at the audience and say “Isn't it just like that?” at the same time observing his own legs and arms, adducing them, testing them, finally approving them'. This was the sort of acting, the sort of theatre, suitable for an audience of the ‘scientific' age. It expressed the way in which people did in fact think — might in fact change — within some interaction (difficult to express) between the watcher and the watched; the ‘I' that thinks and the ‘I' that it thinks about; these both being observed, comprehended, from some further point of thinking. And it was by becoming as it were at home there — at this further point — that a person might become at home with others doing the same; rather than everyone being trapped in lonely self-projections. And it was by this becoming-accustomed that there might be the evolution of ‘a new human type'. For the predicament of modern ‘scientific' man was not only (nor even primarily) his alienation from society but this alienation within himself — the split between what he knew, especially about himself, and his ability to come to terms with this knowing. It was this that brought him to lack of communicativeness and despair; and to his cruel but futile rites to allay these. But if a man could no longer be comforted by traditional symbols, perhaps he could still be given hope by symbols from this further point of thinking — symbols which could move back from, look at, the old symbols, as well as that which they had once so helplessly (but now perhaps no longer) been about.

It seemed some sort of playwriting might be possible here — the ‘more' that all artists know about being that which is expressed; the form involved with the content. Experiment in the theatre has for so long been about technique — shall the stage be here or there; shall actors enter through auditorium or roof; shall audiences be caressed or pelted. There have been
theatrical companies like churches — and like brothels. But what if all this were taken for granted — life is like that, yes: there are explosions, bodies: queens do, at altars, raise their skirts to awestruck children. And marvels are performed in honour of marvels being meaningless. But still, what is our predicament? We know all this. And by knowing, we have the chance of knowing more. And on a stage, life not only happens but is observed. And this is a scientific age, in which we practise much observation. So what if, in a theatre, we did what in fact human beings do — what distinguishes them from animals. And if in thus watching themselves, human beings recognised themselves — as neither animals nor angels. An actor comes on: he is watched: he watches himself being watched: those who watch, watch him watching. This is a person's predicament — what is an act, what is not: what is ‘true', what is ‘false': not what will happen next, but what is happening now. This is a person's experience of himself; through it, his experience of everything. And being shown this, a member of an audience might indeed recognise himself — might even be encouraged to change — being presented with an experience of — not acting! There might indeed be something alarming here — man as his own myth or totem! But a man has always learned from myths — and from what alarms him. Once myths arose instinctively: they were expressions of complexities that could be held in no better way. Men are now conscious of the way their minds make myths: this itself has become a sort of terror. But there is still the chance — this is the predicament — for men as it were to make myths about myths; and in this, the chance of the ‘new human type' evolving. If a man has the power to observe the controlling patterns of his mind it is here, and not in the patterns, that there is his freedom. The theatre has been accustomed to observe how people behave; what might now be observed is people's observing. A riddle, a sifting, has usually entertained: and a present one, at work on a past, might even seem truthful.

Riddle . . . . .

to separate chaff from corn, ashes from cinders etc . . . test (evidence, truth)

SKYLIGHT
ACKERMAN
HELENA
JUDITH
JASON
ARIEL
JENNY

ACT I

SCENE:
The terrace of a house on a mountain. On the right (audience's right) is a loggia with a balcony above it. Along the back of the terrace is a balustrade. On the left is a swing sofa. Centre, are two tables with the remains of drink and food. The ground is the rock of the mountain, grey and gnarled like the surface of a brain
.

The backdrop is unlit. Then it becomes pink, like a dawn sky
.

There enters, front left, a boy, Ariel, aged eighteen. He wears a coloured shirt and white trousers. He acts as if he had not expected to find himself on a stage
.

Then he takes up the position of a dancer
.

From behind the loggia comes the sound of 1920s' dance music
.

Ariel breaks his pose and moves to the tables and takes food and eats. He picks up glasses and sniffs at them until he finds one from which he drinks. Then he turns to the loggia, right, and takes up a pose as if alarmed
.

The music stops
.

Ariel relaxes
.

There come on through the loggia Ackerman, a man in his sixties, and Jenny, a girl of seventeen. They wear evening dress. Ackerman walks with a stick, but gives the impression of power. He has his arm round Jenny, who is pretty, but dazed as if on drugs
.

Ackerman sees Ariel: hesitates: then comes with Jenny down the loggia steps to the front of the stage, right. He looks out over the audience
.

Ariel takes food from a table and eats
.

Ackerman speaks as if he were acting from a conventional script, but were finding the business of acting rather ridiculous
.

ACKERMAN

Each stone had to be brought up. There's a quarry from the time of Charlemagne. They still use primitive methods; pulleys and ropes, with platforms of sticks. Like eagles' nests. Men working in the sky. An amazing sight. No one can see us.

 

He seems to listen for Ariel
.

 

Ariel puts his hand on his stomach and doubles

up, as if in pain
.

Ackerman continues
—

Scorned a safety net. Said it would interfere with their work Great craftsmen. Magnificent physique. There was one called Angelo. I'm not supposed to tell this story. The whole building is said to be a folly — a monument to paranoia —

Ariel has begun to tip-toe towards the swing sofa, left. When Ackerman stops talking, he stops — in the position of a dancer
.

Though why it should be a folly to want to get away from this world, I don't know, in which we have to spend so much of our time —

Ariel has moved on. When Ackerman stops, he stops
.

The work took six years. We were tactful enough not to rest on the seventh —

This time Ariel has not moved
.

Ackerman stands behind Jenny and puts his arms around her
.

I like to think of the building as of the same stone as the mountain. The pale pink rose of the dawn. With no road. Just a lift-shaft like a flower —

He kisses Jenny's neck
.

Ariel raises a foot and holds it as if he had trodden on something and were in pain — or like a dancer
.

Ackerman gazes over Jenny's shoulder at the audience
.

That's where Angelo fell. Two hundred foot to the bottom. The body was never found. An underground river swallows its victims. Stay out late. Be naughty. Little girls are punished —

Ariel has been examining the sole of his foot
.

Ackerman seems to listen: then continues
—

I like to think one could say — I'll give you all the countries of the world. But who would want them. Who would want them! I make motor cars. A cockleshell for Venus. There's room above the loggia —

He waits
.

Then he turns to Ariel
.

Ariel, holding his foot, has raised his head as if he were a statue
.

Ackerman moves towards Ariel with his stick It is as if he were acting anger that Ariel had been mocking him
.

Jenny crouches at the front of the stage and holds her nose as if about to jump over
.

Ackerman turns and looks at Jenny. He acts, somewhat clumsily, as if he is pulled each way between Ariel and Jenny
.

Then Ariel falls, heavily, on to his face on the swing sofa
.

The sofa bounces, and becomes still
.

Jenny stands. She turns and looks at Ariel
.

Ackerman goes to the balustrade at the back and looks over
.

ACKERMAN

Did you hear it? Some signal. Some sign. They're all around, like wolves.

Jenny comes and kneels by Ariel
.

Ackerman looks at the audience. When he speaks it is as if he is trying to get into some contact with the audience
.

What can one get him? Brandy?

Ackerman waits. Then he goes and stands looking down at Ariel and Jenny. He raises the back of Jenny's skirt with his stick
.

They make the stuff in their own backyards.

Dirt gets in —

He looks out at the wings, right
.

It was leaning over the pool one day when it saw its own reflection in the water —

He lowers Jenny's skirt. He has been showing increasing unease. He looks at the audience. Then he seems to try to act again
—

The sun comes up about an hour after first light. Colours the old glaziers knew about.

Softness in hardness —

He turns to the wings, left; then to the loggia, right
.

After a time he shouts as if in desperation
—

Stranger!

It is as if ‘Stranger' were the name of someone off-stage to whom he is calling for help
.

From behind the loggia there starts up again the sound of 1920s' dance music. There is the scratchily recorded noise of a party in progress. Ackerman looks at the audience: smiles; frowns
.

Then he strides off through the loggia
.

The music and the noise of the party cease abruptly — with the sound of a needle being scraped across a record
.

Then there is a faint cry, as from a woman. Ariel half looks up: then lies face downwards on the sofa again
.

The backdrop goes blank Then it flickers. Then a mountain, ringed with clouds, appears. Jenny turns, sitting, with her back against the swing sofa. The seat moves back, so that Jenny is half collapsed
.

She enunciates carefully — as if she is trying to
make a more successful job of acting than Ackerman had done, though not always keeping to a script
.

JENNY

Take off your gas-mask, daddy. I don't want to be forcibly fed.

She sits up cross-legged
.

On a dark night — at the edge of a wood — have you got water and oil?

She opens her mouth and gazes upwards
.

Then she stares at the audience.

I'm a fish. At the bottom of the ocean. Where no light comes. And I see your pearly gates. With heads on spikes. And tongues like streamers. And when it rains they talk. With bloody music —

She stares at the audience
.

Then she says in a matter-of-fact voice
—

They've got dogs down there. One boy got caught on the wire.

She seems to search amongst the audience
.

Was it you? Was it you?

She waits. Then acts
—

My mother thinks this party's heaven.

Twinkle twinkle cow bells.

She stretches her hands out in front of her, as if drugged
.

Then she presses her hands against the ground as if steadying herself in a boat
.

I wasn't going to jump. Or was I —

She slaps at the ground quickly as if something were climbing up to her
.

Get off! There are too many of you!

Then she steadies herself and leans forward, smiling
.

Hullo sun, can you hear me? Can I give you a hand up? I mean you give me a hand up? My slip. My Freudian slip.

She stares at the audience
.

You can use your ears — your eyes —

She closes her eyes
.

Can't you?

After a time there comes on through the loggia Helena, a woman in her fifties. She wears an evening dress. She pauses on the loggia steps, and looks at Ariel and Jenny. Then she takes up an attitude with an arm in front of her breasts like a statue of Venus
.

When she speaks it is as if she were trying to get back to a script; but were soon becoming involved, like the others, in trying to convey some message or attitude that is more urgent
.

HELENA

Oh what a relief! I thought someone had gone over. They did once. A workman.

She comes to the front of the stage, right, and looks out over the audience
.

I'd hardly spoken to him. He used to bring me gifts. You know — each morning after breakfast —

She stares at the audience
.

Then she moves off along the footlights
.

Of course my husband didn't know. He thinks they're all perfect. They can fly. Just like himself.

She stands by the wings, left, looking out
.

What can one get him, water? That sounds like a plant.

She waits
.

Then she turns to Ariel and Jenny
.

Angy's got a daughter who's on drugs. She once just touched her, and she jumped straight out of the window. She said she was a fish. I said — Why the window? She said — A goldfish.

She turns to the audience
.

I do see, don't you —

She seems to search about amongst the audience
.

One should have a net. Like a tennis ball.

She waits
.

Is it you? Is it you?

Then she moves off round the stage again
.

I have said — No dogs. But he does so adore animals. He's had notices put up. But they just don't read —

She stops by the front of the stage again, watching the audience
.

They like — music.

After a time she puts a hand to her head and sways
.

The sun doesn't get filtered — at this high altitude.

She waits. Then she takes her hand away
.

He's building something half way up. Did you see?

She waits
.

I think it's a tomb —

She looks to the wings, right
.

— Or is it a laboratory?

Then she looks at the audience
.

Are you Angy's daughter?

JENNY

No.

Then she speaks as if she were questioning the script
.

Isn't that right?

HELENA

I was afraid you might be.

Helena remains staring at the audience. Jenny watches her. They both seem to have stopped acting. After a time Ackerman comes on to the steps of the loggia. He looks at Helena
.

ACKERMAN

I've been calling —

HELENA

Oh what did you say?

ACKERMAN

Didn't you hear?

HELENA

Oh I see.

Ackerman comes down the steps
.

ACKERMAN

Get rid of him —

HELENA

Throw him over —

ACKERMAN

Is that funny?

HELENA

Is it meant to be?

Ackerman watches Ariel; then the audience. It is as if, although he finds acting and their scripts increasingly absurd, he hopes the audience may recognise this, and how it is difficult to communicate with them more directly. After a time he takes from his pocket an apple. He turns to Helena and holds the apple out to her
.

ACKERMAN

Come on up! Good pony!

Helena, at the front of the stage, puts her hands across her breasts in the attitude of a statue of Venus
.

HELENA

Oh you are a baby!

ACKERMAN

Give it a rub down Make it feel safe.

Helena puts a hand to her head she sways
.

HELENA

It was in its pram one day —

Ackerman puts the apple down carefully on a table
.

ACKERMAN

Be careful children! God is watching —

Helena takes her hand from her head It is as if she has once more given up acting. She turns to Ackerman
.

HELENA

They like this?

ACKERMAN

They seem to —

HELENA

But they don't!

ACKERMAN

So what's the difference?

After a time Helena turns and walks out through the loggia
.

Ackerman looks at the audience. He murmurs
—

ACKERMAN

Ten minutes to go. Just time for a cup of tea —

He waits. Then he goes out after Helena, as if he has become too embarrassed
.

After a time Jenny stands, goes to the apple
which Ackerman has put on the table, bends down to it, puts her ear to it, then picks it up and walks around with it
.

JENNY

Once, when my mother was having dinner with Mr Ackerman, she opened her napkin and a thousand dollars fell into her soup.

She takes a bite out of the apple: then spits
.

Pips!

She examines the inside of the apple
.

Oh Mr Ackerman, what big factories you've got!

She takes another bite: looks at Ariel: speaks with her mouth full
—

What happened, did it get lost in the wash?

She swallows
.

Who are you?

Ariel speaks from lying face down on the sofa
.

ARIEL

Ariel —

JENNY

Who's Ariel?

ARIEL

A member of the liberation army.

He sits up. He looks around the stage. He speaks as if he is more successfully trying to act not acting
.

This place is going to be blown up. They're coming up through the sewers. Rats and frogmen. Breaking down the fences. Leaping up the waterfalls. On to the dry land —

He stands. He goes to the pillars of the loggia, and kicks them. He looks up at the flies
.

Wood! Plastic!

He goes to the balustrade at the back and looks over
.

This is where Angelo fell! Two foot from the bottom! Into the bog! The glory hole! On to a foam rubber sea!

When he looks at the audience, it is as if he hopes that something may be being recognised there
.

Then he goes to the centre of the stage and squats down by what appears to be a crack in the rocks. He puts his fingers in, seeming to be trying to force the rocks apart
.

Jenny watches him
.

JENNY

I think you're one of the boring guests —

ARIEL

Well you've had your slice —

JENNY

What of —

ARIEL

The cucumber —

JENNY

But I haven't —

ARIEL

But you will.

Ariel seems unable to get the rocks apart. He looks up at Jenny
.

Jenny puts her half-eaten apple back on the table
.

Then she gets down on all fours
.

JENNY

— I'm a Trojan horse —

ARIEL

— How many men have you got inside —

JENNY

— Please, mister, I was only doing forty —

Ariel stands. He looks round the stage
.

ARIEL

Got the wire?

JENNY

What for —

ARIEL

To chop it off —

JENNY

To make it grow?

Ariel looks down at her
.

ARIEL

We've got to try —

JENNY

Why?

ARIEL

Haven't we?

Jenny stands; then goes and sits on the swing sofa, left. She looks at the audience
.

JENNY

What do they see?

ARIEL

Coloured lights, shapes, music —

Jenny begins to take off her dress
.

She seems to quote
—

JENNY

— The plains where they were born —

ARIEL

— The rings round Salamanca —

Jenny, with her dress off, puts her feet up. Ariel goes and pulls the curtains that are round the back and sides of the swing sofa so that Jenny is half hidden
.

JEENY

Do they get through?

ARIEL

One or two —

JEENY

They see it?

ARIEL

Or see they don't —

Ariel climbs into the swing sofa with Jenny
.

JENNY

I thought it was a tomb.

ARIEL

Or perhaps it's a laboratory?

From inside, Ariel tries to draw the curtains round the front of the sofa
.

JENNY

— Pick it up by the feet —

ARIEL

— Hit it —

He manages to draw the curtains so that he and Jenny are hidden
.

The sofa rocks for a time; then is still
.

The backdrop goes blank
.

There are three flashes, as if of lightning, on the backdrop: then after a time, three bangs
.

The backdrop changes to a deep blue
.

There comes on at the front of the stage, right, Judith, a woman in her thirties. She wears a black dress and has bare feet. When she reaches the centre, she stops and looks at the audience. She seems to be someone who has taken refuge on the stage
.

There come in through the auditorium a man and a woman. They might be people who are pursuing Judith. When they see she is on a stage, they seem uncertain. Then they climb on to the stage and adopt the roles of a Footman and a Maid. Judith moves along the balustrade towards the left. The Maid goes to the table, left, on which there is drink and food. She picks up the table so that she seems to bar Judith's way
.

Judith stops. She turns and looks at the loggia. The Footman has gone to the other table, right, so that he seems to be barring Judith's way from the other side
.

Judith comes to the front of the stage and looks at the audience. She takes off the belt of her dress, provocatively
.

The Footman and the Maid put down their tables. They watch
.

Judith goes to the loggia and leans with her back against a pillar. She dangles the belt from her hand. The Footman goes and stands in front of her and holds out his hand
.

The Maid goes to the centre of the stage quickly and squats down by the crack in the rocks and puts her fingers in. Then she looks at the audience. Then she straightens, picks up her table, and carries it out through the loggia, right. The Footman goes and picks up his table and follows her out
.

The backdrop goes blank
.

Judith is left with her belt hanging from her hand
.

After a time Helena appears from behind the loggia. She is pushing a garden chair on wheels. She acts as if she does not see Judith. She wears sunbathing clothes and dark glasses. On the chair there is a basket. She comes to the centre of the stage and puts the chair down carefully over the crack in the rocks. Then s
he sits on the chair and puts her feet up.

The backdrop changes to a bright gold
.

Judith winds up her belt into her hand
.

Helena takes from her basket a half-made tapestry, and needles and thread. She begins to stitch. After a time she puts her stitching down and gazes at the audience
.

She enunciates carefully —

HELENA

— The same direction at both ends or in between —

Then she goes back to her stitching
.

There are three loud bangs from behind the backdrop. Helena takes no notice. After a time she looks up
.

She enunciates carefully
—

A fate. A weaver of tapestries.

She closes her eyes
.

After a time she sings, in a faded but passionate contralto, a few bars from the 1 st Norn's song in Wagner's
Götterdämmerung
(‘So gut und schlimm es geh' —')
.

Judith puts her hands over her eyes. Then she looks at the audience and smiles. Then she goes out through the loggia
.

Helena stops singing. She looks in the direction in which Judith has gone. Then she goes back to her stitching
.

From now until the end of the act it is as if the actors are finding and coming to terms with a style — moving between acting a script and not acting, and acting not-acting — which they hope will be, and demonstrate, what they wish to convey
.

After a time the swing sofa begins to rock and bounce
.

Ariel's head pops out through the curtains. He holds the curtains wrapped round his neck as if he were a clown
.

Helena continues with her stitching
.

ARIEL

Ariel —

HELENA

No!

ARIEL

Yes.

HELENA

Oh you did frighten me — .

She jumps, puts a hand to her heart, and acts as if she had been alarmed
.

Ariel climbs out of the swing sofa. He arranges the
curtains carefully so that Jenny cannot be seen. He watches Helena. He murmurs as if quoting—

ARIEL

— Two arms, two legs —

Helena murmurs —

HELENA

— And one in between.

She is looking down at her finger as if she had pricked it with her needle
.

Ariel waits. Then he seems to prompt her
—

ARIEL

— Yes, I've been at school —

HELENA

Oh, what school did you go to?

ARIEL

I don't think it matters, do you, where you go to school?

Helena goes back to her stitching
.

HELENA

You mean home environment's more important?

Ariel stares at her. Then he moves round the stage. He acts as if quoting
—

ARIEL

— Huts. Watchtowers —

HELENA

— Ladies and gentlemen on the grass —

Ariel stands looking down at her
.

Helena puts down her stitching. She closes her eyes. She acts as if she is having difficulty with her lines
—

HELENA

I remember you in your pram. You looked up to the leaves, the shadows. Children see by what they learn —

Ariel waits. He seems to prompt her
—

ARIEL

She went for the eyes?

Helena seems to say a wrong line
—

HELENA

— It's been such ages —

ARIEL

Who, my mother?

After a time Ariel moves round the stage again. Helena goes back to her stitching
.