prectaution The concept that there is a tree you can climb, at the top of which there are other worlds. For instance, this week there might be the Land of Do-What-You-Like, where all your desires are catered for. Next week there be Topsy Turvy land where the ground constantly shifts and quakes.
I climbed the tree to see what was at the top of it. When I crept through the hole I came into a thin trench from the western front of world war one. A soldier stood on a platform with a rifle poking over the edge of the trench. The trench stretched away perfectly straight in both directions as far as I could see.
the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.
prec Where’s this place? This place is not a place I know and I don’t know where it is.
soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.
prec You and who else? Where’s the rest of the army?
soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another Tommy. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another Tommy. This is my strip of trench. No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a German soldier in it. He is my foe. I fight him without retirement or replacement for more time than there is in my memory.
prec What about behind? The other direction to No-Man’s-Land. Towards home.
prec You don’t know.
soldier It’s difficult to know.
prec All right, that’s enough exploration for me. Wait, where the fuck has the hole gone? The land’s moved on. I’m stuck here.
the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.
prec All right, do you know which direction is home base?
prec Know. Know. Possess knowledge of. Know?
prec This way, then?
soldier I don’t know. It’s difficult to know.
prec For you, clearly.
prec walks down the trench and leaves the soldier behind.
prec Now twenty metres down the trench is another soldier.
the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.
soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.
prec It is in fact the same soldier I just met.
soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another Tommy. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another Tommy. This is my strip of trench.
prec It looks like the other strip of trench.
soldier No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a German soldier in it. He is my foe.
prec Then why don’t you try to kill him instead of just standing there taking pot-shots?
soldier I fight him without retirement or replacement.
prec Good luck, then.
prec walks down the trench and leaves the soldier behind.
prec Now twenty metres down the trench is another soldier.
the soldier fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires, pauses, fires. turns slowly to face prec.
soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the Hun.
prec Every twenty metres is the same strip of trench, looped over and over. Every twenty metres a British soldier facing a German soldier opposite. All the same features, all identical clones. I gave up trying to get any sense out of them.
prec climbs up into No-Man’s-Land.
soldier It’s dangerous in No-Man’s-Land. No man is supposed to be on that land.
prec Good luck to me, then. No-Man’s-Land is some generic looking barbed wire, some mud and some broken tree branches. Stumble across twenty metres of that, and…
prec falls into the German trench.
soldier This is world war one. We are fighting the British.
prec You look like the British.
soldier We are fighting the British.
prec You’re speaking English to me.
soldier Twenty metres that way up the trench there is another German soldier. Down that direction about twenty metres there is another German soldier. This is my strip of trench. No-Man’s-Land is this direction. On the other side of No-Man’s-Land is a trench with a British soldier in it.
prec Is he your foe, by any chance?
soldier He is my foe. I fight him without retirement or replacement for more time than there is in my memory.
prec I am starting to feel more than a little bit concerned. I keep walking down the German trenches this time. Same situation – a strip of trench with repeated German soldier motif every twenty metres. But I keep walking. And gradually, very gradually, over hours or maybe I think days, the trench starts to turn into a supermarket aisle.
It’s very subtle, there’s no point where you could say it definitively stops being a world war one trench, but after a while I am clearly walking down a supermarket aisle packed with grocery items. I even start to see other shoppers. There’s still the occasional soldier guarding against his opposite number in a different supermarket aisle, but they’re few and far between. I’m walking through Muesli and Cereal. If I wanted I could buy the home brand equivalent of Kellogg’s Special K, known here as Special Flakes. I do want some Special Flakes. It’s been too long.
Sickness in the dark was written in November 2007 for the Best of the Slams Poetry Evening at the Front Cafe. The texts I have sampled, in order of appearance:
Roald Dahl – The Witches (1983) the beginning of the Grand High Witch’s speech to the assembled witches of England
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937) from Chapter 6: Riddles in the Dark, in which Bilbo finds the Ring in the caverns under the Misty Mountains
David Finig – A Most Curious Dream (eight and a half pesos mix) (2006)
David Finig – Disease Play (2007)
David Finig – Food court disease computer game (2007)
ID Software – Cheat codes to Doom (1993)
Lew Welch – I Saw Myself (1956) poem written several days prior to a severe nervous breakdown
you may remove your gloves! you may remove your shoes! you may remove your wigs! remove your wigs and get some fresh air into your spotty scalps!
witches of england! witches of england! miserable witches! useless lazy witches! feeble fribbling witches! you are a heap of idle good for nothing worms!
I am having my breakfast this morning and I am looking out the window at the beach, and what am I seeing? I am asking you, what am I seeing? I am seeing a repulsive sight! I am seeing hundreds, I am seeing thousands of rotten repulsive little children playing on the sand! it is putting me right off my food! Why have you not got rid of them? Why have you not rubbed them all out, these filthy smelly children?
I am asking you why?
Children smell! They stink out the world! One child a week is no good to me! Is that the best you can do? I demand maximum results! So here are my orders! My orders are that every single child in this country shall be rubbed out, squashed, squirted, squittered and frittered out before I come here again in one year’s time! Do I make myself clear?
(when bilbo opened his eyes) Who said that? Who dares to argue with me? It was you, was it not?
(when bilbo opened his eyes he wondered if he had) You dared to argue with me!
(for it was just as dark with them shut) A witch who dares to say I’m wrong
Will not be with us very long…
(when bilbo opened his eyes) An idiotic witch like you
Must roast upon the barbeque!
(he wondered if he had) A foolish witch without a brain
Must sizzle in the fiery flame!
(when bilbo opened his eyes he wondered if he had for it was just as dark with them) A STUPID WITCH WHO ANSWERS BACK
MUST BURN UNTIL HER BONES ARE BLACK!
When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark with them shut.
Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything; nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves.
He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment. Down here, nothing moves except one drop of water which drips
Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was a Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. On that lake, nothing moved except one drop of water which dripped
It spells out D.A.N.K. in morse and it drips from puddle to puddle never at
He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers, throttled them and it drips
and it drops from puddle to puddle never at
and it drops from puddle to puddle never at
Gollum: Bless us and splash us, my preciousss! What is it? I guess it’s a choice feast; at least a tasty morsel, gollum! Perhaps we sits here and chats with a bit, precious. Perhaps… What has roots that nobody sees
Is taller than trees
up up it goes
and yet never grows?
DOWNSTAIRS IN THE CITY CLUB – KAREOKE NIGHT – DO WE HAVE A MICHAEL Z IN THE HOUSE? GIVE IT UP FOR MICHAEL Z!
That’s Cancer – sitting at a table downstairs in the City Club – and that’s Smallpox. Two of the human species’ worst enemies sitting having a drink downstairs in the City Club –
MICHAEL Z’S ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE PERFORMERS ON KAREOKE NIGHT – HE’S GONNA KICK IT OFF WITH CORNERSHOP’S ‘BRIMFUL OF ASHA’, GO MICHAEL Z!
this is Cancer. this is Smallpox.
Cancer: So I’m stirring the cream into my coffee, and she’s just sitting there with a folder on her knees, not saying anything. And I’m not saying anything. I wasn’t about to talk first. Smallpox: No, it’s bad policy to talk first. They should understand that. Cancer: Well most of them do. Most of them know that to even meet with one us is pretty serious business. So they do their research, they bring all the information, and usually all you have to do is agree on a price. This girl, I don’t know what the fuck she thought she was doing. Smallpox: How’d she get in touch with you? Cancer: TB. She had TB when she was a kid, and she kept his details after they antibioted him.
What has roots that nobody sees
Smallpox: So what did she want with you? Cancer: Well that’s what blew my mind. When she finally does speak up, she tells me she wants to hire me to tackle a city for a month. A city. For a month. I said ‘Girl, I’m Cancer.’ She said ‘I know.’ Smallpox: She clearly doesn’t know, if she wants you for a month.
Is taller than trees
up up it goes
Cancer: I said what can I do in a month? Start a few tumours, get the ball rolling here and there, but then what? I’m a craftsman. I do good work, irreversible work. But it takes time. What am I supposed to do in month – to a whole city? I can’t just run over the rooftops dropping tumours down the chimney into everybody’s christmas stockings. Smallpox: If she wants a city she should have spoken to Pneumonia. Cancer: Or you. I told her, why not speak with Smallpox? You come in to town, forty hours later everyone’s dripping with sores. Forty hours again, gutters lined with bodies. Smallpox: Not quite that effective… Cancer: No, take the praise. You’re good at what you do.
and yet never grows?
Cancer: I’ve always said, Smallpox is an artist. Smallpox: Thank you. Cancer: No thanks required.
Riddles were all Gollum could think of. Asking them and guessing them, had been the only game he had ever played in the long, long ago, before he lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down, into the dark under the mountains.
Bilbo: Easy! Mountain. Gollum: Easy? Does it guess easy? Then it must have a competition with us, precious. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes! But if we asks, and it doesn’t answer – we eats it, my precious.
Smallpox: So what did she say? Cancer: She said she wanted to speak with a couple of other people before she made any decisions. Smallpox: Do you know who else she’s speaking with? Cancer: HIV. Smallpox: Serious? Cancer: Pretty sure.
– Dear Michael Z. I am stuck in the City Club on kareoke night. I have infected the bartender but I can’t make him come out from behind the bar to infect anyone else.
Smallpox: This girl must be offering something pretty special to get HIV to the table. Cancer: She is. Smallpox: Do you mind if I…? Cancer: I’m not going to tell you. Smallpox: Fair enough. But HIV…
– Dear Moran, the bartender never leaves the bar, no matter what you do. To spread the infection, you have to inject a spray of germs into the beer glass as he is pouring it. When you’ve infected the beer drinker, get him to request a song for kareoke, and jump from his lips to the microphone. From the microphone, you can infect more than half of the Club by jumping into their mouths when they come up to sing.
YEAH, GIVE IT UP FOR MICHAEL Z! ALL RIGHT, WE’RE GONNA GET MICHAEL Z BACK UP ONSTAGE LATER ON TONIGHT TO SING A LITTLE BIT OF JOHN CAGE, BUT RIGHT NOW, CAN YOU PLEASE WELCOME DIORRHEA TO THE STAGE! HERE YOU GO, UP YOU GET. THIS IS DIORRHEA’S FIRST TIME SINGING KAREOKE, SO LET’S GIVE HER A BIG CHEER AS SHE PERFORMS AN OLD CLASSIC BY JRR TOLKIEN – TAKE IT AWAY, DIORRHEA!
Voiceless it cries,
– Dear Michael Z, I have just passed 20,000 infected victims and I’ve got enough experience to level up to Epidemic status, but how can I increase my infection rate? I’ve boosted all my virulence points so I can infect people through skin contact, but the infection is growing so slowly that I keep being quarantined. Are there any cheat codes I can use?
– Dear Retard, why are you made of fail? There are cheats which can boost your infection range, but you don’t need them. At the moment, your germs are being carried on and delivered by physical contact with infected people. There are a heap of other ways your germs can spread, and the most effective one if you need to get through quarantine barriers… I’ll give you a clue. Right at the beginning of the game when you’re stuck in the cave under the mountain, the gollum thing asks you a riddle. Do you remember the riddle?
Voiceless it cries,
Mouthless for fuck’s sake, the answer is wind. Wind cries but it doesn’t have a voice, it doesn’t have any wings but it flutters… Clear? Just keep mutating and experimenting with your 20,000 victims until you come up with a strain of germ which can survive being carried on the wind.
– Dear Michael Z. I cannot become a legendary epidemic because I am stuck under the mountain right in the beginning of the game and I can’t answer Gollum’s last riddle. Is there a cheat that gives you the answer?
– Dear black underscore angel 39 at hotmail dot com, do you seriously need a cheat to solve This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grind hard stones to meal;
Smallpox: You know Anorexia and Parkinson’s told me that last job HIV did, she got paid 900 square kilometres of temperate forest? Cancer: Can we not talk about her, please? Smallpox: Yeah, no, forget about her.
Slays king, ruins town;
And beats high mountain down.
Smallpox: She’s been lucky, that’s all she’s got going for her. Cancer: Don’t bullshit me, Smallpox. She’s brilliant. Smallpox: Yeah.
Slays king, ruins town;
Cancer: She’s not coming tonight, is she? Smallpox: Christ no. She hates kareoke and she can’t sing for
drop drop Slays
drip ruins town;
drop drop And beats high mountain
from puddle to puddle never at
and it drips from puddle to puddle never at rest
Gollum: Well, is it answering? Bilbo: I’m thinking – who slays kings and beats mountains – Gollum: Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Bilbo: Half a minute, I’m- Gollum: Is it crunchable? Bilbo: Give me more time! Time! It is time! It is time. Gollum: It’s got to ask uss a quessstion, my preciouss, yes. Jusst one more question, yes, gollum.
– Dear Michael Z, is there a cheat to give you a riddle question that Gollum can’t solve?
As Gollum’s hissing grew closer and sharper, Bilbo imagined he could see two small points of light peering at him, Gollum’s hunger burning in his eyes with a pale flame. Bilbo was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness. He must think of a riddle.
– Dear arse ream anal fuck, since you can’t play a game without cheating your way through every single challenge and puzzle – get your pen ready – here are the cheats:
Bilbo: Thirty white horses – uh – a box without hinges and three legs… What have I got in my pocket? Gollum: Not fair! not fair! It isn’t fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it’s got in its nassty little pocketses?
– IDDQD – god mode.
Bilbo: What have I got in my pocket? Gollum: S-s-s-s-s…. It must give us three guesseses, my precious, three guesseses. Bilbo: Very well! Guess away!
– IDKFA – weapons, keys, armour, ammo.
Gollum: Handses! Bilbo: Wrong. Guess again!
Gollum was more upset than ever. He thought of all the things he kept in his own pockets: fish-bones, goblins’ teeth, wet shells, a bit of bat wing, a stone to sharpen his fangs on, he tried to think what other people kept in their pockets.
Gollum: S-s-s-s-s… Knife! Bilbo: Wrong! Last guess.
– IDSPISPOPD – no clipping. walk through walls. the world is your oyster.
Gollum: String, or nothing! Bilbo: Both wrong. Now what about your promise? Show me the way out. Gollum: Yes. Yes. But what has it got in its pockets? Not string, precious, but not nothing. gollum! My birthday present. My birthday present, my precious, what has it got in its pocketssss? What has it got in its pocketses? Oh we guess, we guess, my precious. He’s found my birthday present. Curse it! Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!
I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through
In 36 AD, Saul of Tarsus converts to a new messianic Jewish religion after an epiphany on the road to Damascus. From being a persecutor of the Jews, Saul becomes Paul, the first and greatest evangelist of the new religion of Christianity. Gathering all of Jesus of Nazareth’s surviving disciples and associates, Paul founds the first Christian church, commissions the writing of the Gospels and begins a relentless campaign to proselytise the new religion throughout the entire Roman Empire.
In 1966 AD, Australian garage band The Cigarettes are jamming in the suburbs of Sydney, desperately apeing the Beatles and the Stones and trying to get a single decent gig. The Easybeats just got on ABC’s Bandstand, The Master’s Apprentices have a song on US radio – The Cigarettes don’t have a chance. Dejected and defeated, they are taken by suprise when Saint Paul bursts through a portal from the past and offers them a radical proposal: he will take on the struggling three-piece as manager IF they come back in time with him to 60 AD and help him spread the gospel to the people of Rome.
What unfolds is the extraordinary true story of a trio of teen rockstar wannabes from the eastern suburbs, transformed into the world’s first Christian rock band. Set in the bustling metropolis of early imperial Rome, from the lawless marketplaces to the decadent palaces, we follow Paul’s struggle to bring his fledgling superstars to their triumphant first stadium gig in the Colosseum. With opposition from rival religious groups, fellow Christians, Roman authorities and the Emperor Nero himself, The Cigarettes must struggle to make it to their first gig alive.
Amidst a backdrop of cults, mystics, philosophers, tyrants and criminals, Paul applies every trick of the pop impresario to save his church and his band from going under and spread his message to the world.
What is this show?
Saint Paul and the Cigarettes is an interrogation of the rise of the manufactured popstar, from the Monkees to the Backstreet Boys to One Direction. At the same time, it is an exploration of the extraordinary beginnings of the Christian church, a story of the birth and rise of humankind’s most successful religion. It’s a behind-the-scenes tour documentary and a historical drama set in the birthplace of modern European civilisation. It’s The CommitmentsAND I, Claudius AND One Direction: This Is Us at the same time. At last.
How does the time travel work? It doesn’t matter.
Do you know what you’re talking about?
Yes. I have a Bachelor of Arts (Ancient History) from the Australian National University, specialising in Religions in Roman Society. And yes, there are real and provocative comparisons to be drawn between the way the early Church was organised and promoted, and the methodologies of, say, Bieber’s marketing team.
Rome at the beginning of the first millenium was a seething hotbed of cults, religions and secret societies, from the Egyptian Cult of Isis to the Gaulish Mithraic warrior sect, from the Stoic philosophers of the ruling class to the hedonistic wizards of the Bacchanalia. In this extraordinary multicultural mix of ideals and beliefs, the early Christian church immediately stood out for its absolutely counter-intuitive and (in retrospect) brilliant strategy of self-promotion.
Equally brilliant and no less ethically questionable are the tools and techniques through which modern-day pop idols like Bieber, 1D and even Hillsong are created and distributed. The mechanics of celebrity are a fascinating demonstration of how ideas grow and spread in human societies. The connections between these two world are both surprising and illuminating.
Why this story? Why now?
Because it will be fun. It will be smart and savvy and fast-paced and energetic and dark and informative and evocative, but most of all it will be fun. This is a chance to seduce an audience with a ridiculous premise and then give them a high-energy live theatre experience and a new insight into the forces that shape religion and pop culture.
And there will be thrashing 60s-style garage rock.
Is this a thing you’d like to see in the world? Why not drop me a line and make me an offer and I WILL WRITE IT FOR YOU. Have you ever commissioned a play before? Don’t be scared, we’ll work through this together.
Besides, do you want to go to your deathbed not having commissioned an original piece of theatre?
PPS there is one deliberate historical inaccuracy in the above pitch – points if anyone can pick it.
How do you teach a robot the skills it needs to sell anything to anyone in any situation? The best method I know of is to wang it in a time machine and force it to sell products to different people in different scenarios throughout history.
Produced Nov 2008 as part of BKu and the Hunting Season‘s Damned if you Duo 4: directed by Lucy Hayes, with Tom Connell, Virginia Savage and John-Paul Santucci.
IT IS A DEVIL MADE OF BOXES. tom connell in a photo by john-paul santucci
cicero: Dearest Casca. The weather in Rome is stormy, by which I mean the political weather. The ambitions of our mutual friend Mr Caesar, codename “Julius C.” become clearer with each passing week. I hear that you have built a robot. That is sweet. As for training: there are many splendid robot academies throughout the Republic, but in my view only one method will suffice to produce an effective robot salesman. I advise you to lock your trainee-sales-bot inside a time machine and hurl him into various scenarios across different periods of history. In each scenario, the robot must adapt to its surroundings and make a sale within the space of one minute. Never fear if at first the robot selects its tactics more or less at random.
First scenario: 1950s suburbia.
madame: Hullo. robot: I AM A SALESMAN. madame: Can I help you? robot: NO. I MUST SELL THIS VACUUM CLEANER UNAIDED. madame: What do you say? What’s that you’re selling? robot: IT IS A VACUUM CLEANER. madame: I heard o’ them. My daughter-in-law’s no-good sister went and bought a vacuum cleaner, now it’s all I hear about. That pair, they can’t find a penny without they have to wave it around like a victory flag. robot: BUY THIS VACUUM CLEANER. madame: Or what? robot: BUY IT. madame: You think I can’t keep a clean household without a damn contraption I have to plug in to the powergrid? No thank you, not for me. robot: OH MADAME YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT YOU DID WITHOUT IT. madame: really. robot: YES CORRECT, YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT YOU DID WITHOUT IT. THAT KNOWLEDGE WILL BE LOST TO YOU. madame: well seems to me like I could get by just as well with an old-fashioned broom and some elbow grease. All you young sauce-pants swear left right and by the holy name of Jehovah that this invention or that invention will clean your whole house at the press of a button, and then starch your husband’s shirts while I read the Funnies Papers. I never seen one of them last longer’n a spider in an oven – not the Electric Chimney De-Clogger, not the Vaporising Mildew Grinding-Engine, nor the Stamping Steam-Frocker neither. What’s to say your ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ is anything more than a brush and dustpan with a fancy casing? robot: VERY WELL MADAME IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO BE SILENT. NOW YOU NEED TO SHUT ALL YOUR NOISES DOWN AND LISTEN WHILE I EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE. madame: Did you just tell me to shut down my noises? robot: MADAME I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU SAY ANYTHING ELSE. I COME FROM THE FUTURE. HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE FUTURE? THE FUTURE IS WHERE EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN HAPPENS. NOW, IT HAPPENS THAT IN THE FUTURE, EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO FAILED TO BUY A VACUUM CLEANER IS DEAD. DO YOU SEE THE SIGNIFICANCE? madame: O, I see significance all right. I see my husband’s grouse-rifle stood right here in the umbrella rack, and I see the barrel of that rifle tilting upward til it’s pointed right between them fancy lapels of yours. Now I expect I’m about to see you moving back off my front lawn at a significant pace, savvy?
cicero: After its first inevitable failure, allow the robot to access its own diagnostics panel. Let it adjust its own parameters. Then, when it has transformed its personality, send it back in time to try the scenario again. Repeat the procedure until the robot hits on the correct persona for the situation.
robot: bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad
fail fail fail fail fail fail
bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad
fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail
bad bad bad bad
My head is bad
My head is because failed
failed to sell
couldn’t sell vacuum cleaner to that woman
couldn’t sell vacuum cleaner because I said wrong
I said wrong things
I wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong
bad bad bad bad bad bad bad
Punch the wall
Scratch my face
Go back and fix it
Good things say good things
Good things and make the woman want to buy vacuum cleaner
SAY WHAT THINGS?
You are a woman
SAY GOOD THINGS
Would you want to buy something from my hand?
KEEP FIRST PART
Would you want to buy something that is a vacuum cleaner?
Go back in time?
Try again sell vacuum cleaner?
First scenario: 1950s suburbia.
robot: Well, hi-ho shoot and daddy-o! If it isn’t my lucky day! Sure I didn’t know who was gonna answer this ol’ door when I knocked on her, but you can bet your last bad penny I didn’t expect it to be a dame stepped straight outta Hollywood! How do, madame! R. Salesman Junior, at your service! madame: Oh! Oh, dear, why I wasn’t expecting visitors – oh no, oh you don’t need to kiss my hand – oh, I, I don’t know what to say. robot: Well that’s swell. I like a lady who knows when she’s got nothing smart to jabber about and keeps her sweet mouth shut until she do. You look like a proper Lady of the House, Miss – and this is a heck of a house. madame: …yes, yes, my husband is in real estate. He’s an… he’s an accountant for a firm. robot: So he does well, does he? Sure he does! Look at this place! But I ask you, how do you clean a mansion like this? madame: Well I mean that’s all I do. robot: Not any more. Look at this little contraption I have here. Funny looking thing, ain’t it? But I tell you you’ll pop your socks when you see this little baby drink up every speck of dust in this house in the time it takes you to shake up a martini. Go ahead, have a try. He won’t bite. madame: Wha… what is it? robot: Yeah, that’s right, hold it here. Now let me clamp down the dustbag – oh, your skin is soft. Yeah, that’s right, just like that. This is a Vacuum Cleaner, madame, the very latest Swiss Technology. When you buy this little fella from me for fifty nine dollars, you’ll find your whole life turned around. Believe R. Salesman Jr. if you believe no-one else. madame: I do… I do believe you. robot: And I believe that you do, sugar. I believe that you do.
cicero: As soon as the robot makes a successful sale, wang it in the time machine and crank it off to a new scenario. As Cato said to Flavius Tullus in the Senate: keep the fucker on its metal toes.
It is the early 19th century in Paris. The set / costumes / soundtrack / whatnot is evocative of this and so forth. A Frenchman writes a letter (possibly with a quill, it is difficult to say).
french: …No, my love, Napoleon’s Paris holds no beauty for an exile such as me. In every coffee house and theatre I see the Executioner’s Pale Shadow. Ah, if I could but rest my head one last time upon thy Milky Bosom – robot: WELL SLAM DUNK THURSDAY AND BOOTLEG JIMMY CROW! I knew this coffee house looked pretty dandy, but I wasn’t expecting to step inside and see a dame stepped straight outta Hollywood! french: It is a devil made of boxes!
…and on. download the Word version to read the rest – otherwise, on your miserable way.
THIEF: I have not travelled in these hills before. I have been warned against it. The dwarves in Callahan mine say that there are knoblins and goles up here.
FIGHTER: the dwarves of Callahan mine are rarely wrong. We shall take great care.
THIEF: I begin to wonder, Fighter, whether this treasure is truly worth it.
FIGHTER: of course it’s not.
THIEF: of course it’s not?
FIGHTER: what are we stumbling around on this hill for? the final battlefield of the Boks-Terroks war?
THIEF: they’ve never found the body of Boks-Teroks. they’ve never found his crown.
FIGHTER: I suspect not. It was probably trampled into the mud during the battle. What I’m saying is, if we’d taken on that job guarding the caravan through Mungle Desert, we’d-
THIEF: You would have bitched and moaned the whole way. You know how much you hate guarding caravans – and you’re not shy about telling people, either.
FIGHTER: so instead, I’m climbing the Rap-ska hills with you and the Mage in search of one muddy crown.
THIEF: you don’t understand a bloody thing you’re told, do you? do you remember history lessons in the Fighters’ Guild?
FIGHTER: I remember sleep.
THIEF: Boks-Teroks was the richest of all the Dark Princes. His crown was made for him by the Wolf-Mage of Nagagor!
FIGHTER: The naked demon-lord! That crown must be hell-deep in curses.
THIEF: Probably. But more to the point, I know a woman who wishes to buy it, and she has offered us three pieces of gold and a Belt of Slaying.
there is a moan from offstage
MAGE: help me! I can’t walk!
THIEF: What is the matter?
MAGE: will you stop running ahead of me? how can I keep up with you?
FIGHTER: walk faster.
MAGE: I’m in my robes. when I take a step, it chafes and burns. every step I take is scratching the inside of my legs to pieces.
THIEF: well if you didn’t want chlamydia, perhaps you shouldn’t have spent the night with that serving wench in the last inn.
MAGE: I didn’t – I mean she didn’t-
FIGHTER: oh, jesus. can we ditch him, please?
THIEF: I’d love to, but we’re gonna need him when we get to the Battlefield. he has to cast SEAL OF THE MERMAID-
FIGHTER: yeah, look, I haven’t played this before, so if you mind not telling me how it ends…?
MAGE: can I have the healing potion?
FIGHTER: you want the healing potion? that’s for when one of us is at death’s door, you monkey, not for when you’ve got a slight case of testicle tickle. MAGE: It’s not an STD! I’ve actually got a really upset tummy, so-
THIEF: just give him the bloody potion.
the FIGHTER gives the MAGE the potion. the MAGE drinks it down.
MAGE: plus sixteen health points! oh, man, that feels better. I can touch myself again…
THIEF: you know, it’s a little too quiet around here. I don’t like this at all…
the THIEF slaps her neck.
THIEF: what was that? a poison dart? we’re under attack!
2 crappy goblins run out from hiding. they line up against our heroes and draw their weapons. the FIGHTER draws his sword, the THIEF her knife, the MAGE wields his staff. everyone stands there swaying.
GOB 1: the foolish humans have wandered into a trap!
GOB 2: Ahahahaha! They’ve certainly fallen into our trap!
GOB 1 runs to THIEF, strikes her with his sword. Then runs back to its original position and starts swaying again.
THIEF: Get off me, you sod! Oh, god, he’s punctured me!
GOB 2 runs to FIGHTER, strikes him with his sword.FIGHTER blocks most of the damage. GOB 2 runs back to its original position, as do all the characters after their attacks.
FIGHTER: he’s punctured you?
THIEF: he’s put a hole in my skin and my insides are coming out through it.
GOB 1: Victory is mine!
GOB 1 runs to THIEF, strikes her with his sword.
THIEF: For god’s sake! you get two turns in a row?
GOB 2: We have the advantage of surprise!
GOB 1: We certainly surprised you!
GOB 2 runs to FIGHTER, strikes him with his sword.
MAGE: Guys, there’s something wrong with my keyboard. I can’t get my feet to move.
THIEF: That’s cause they ambushed us. We can’t run from this encounter.
MAGE: I wanna run. Come on guys, let’s bail. These guys aren’t part of anything. This is a random fight encounter, we don’t need it for the quest.
THIEF: Yeah, but we walked into it, and now we’re in it we can’t leave it. oh, god, that hurts.
FIGHTER: You’re really badly hurt.
THIEF: Yeah, I’m leaking my innards something chronic. I’m gonna get you little punks.
THIEF staggers around behind GOB 1, barely manages to swing a knife at it, then slinks back.
FIGHTER: Ah, my feet. I can move again. I hate waiting for my turn. All right, boys, who wants to get it?
THIEF: Don’t start grandstanding to knoblins. Just do it.
FIGHTER: All right, you.
FIGHTER runs to GOB 1, strikes him and does him some real damage.
GOB 1: oh, I’m meated!
GOB 2: you’re not meated yet! look, you can still wave your flail about! wave your flail about!
GOB 1: it’s bringing me no joy.
GOB 2: I’m sorry to hear that. I remember when you would wave it in the air and be happy.
GOB 1: That was before I was sliced in the belly by a sword.
GOB 2 (to FIGHTER): You bastard. You tough guy bastard.
MAGE: Guys! Guys, I can move again. I’ll see you back at camp.
THIEF: Mage! Don’t waste your turn trying to leave! Give us a bloody hand here.
FIGHTER: Cast a healing spell.
MAGE: but they haven’t touched me.
FIGHTER: Are you trying to rile me up?
THIEF: Heal me. Cast your spell.
MAGE: No, listen, that’s not gonna work. We’re gonna need to be strategic about this, all right? If I heal you, then straight away it’s that thing’s turn. He’s gonna come straight over and cut you right back down to where you are now. We gotta take this fight to the source. We have to incapacitate them so they stop incapacitating us.
FIGHTER: Are you insane? are you typing this garbage with your nose? heal her!
MAGE: Nah, check this out. You’ll like this. I now cast: Psychic Slaybow!
MAGE stares very hard at one of the Goblins. It stares back, unimpressed.
GOB 1: Can I go now?
GOB 1 runs to FIGHTER, strikes him with his sword. FIGHTER is really hurt now but tries not to show it.
GOB 1: sweet! I think I really hurt him!
GOB 2: that is good. we should kill him dead for what he’s done to us.
GOB 1: that’s what we were planning to do before we even saw him.
GOB 2: that’s what we’ve been planning to do since we came into existence – about 220 seconds ago.
GOB 1: you’re right. we snapped into being fully formed and totally aware and you shot out a poison dart.
THIEF: You fools. If you kill us, you’ll cease to be. We are your reason for being.
FIGHTER: All you are is a random fight encounter. You don’t exist unless the game decides we need to have a battle with some random crappy monster.
GOB 2: or the game decides you need to be killed by some random crappy monster.
GOB 2 runs to THIEF and slays her.
THIEF: Oh! he’s gutted me!
MAGE: You’re not exactly bleeding, though, are you?
THIEF: It hurts… so much…
MAGE: Yeah, but the graphics aren’t exactly photo-realistic, are they? okay, you feel like you’re dying but all I can see is a bit of red. I hate in games when they cheap out on the wounds. We’ve got this sensational skyline and skin I can pinch, but when you die you just get a big red line on your belly.
THIEF: I… die.
FIGHTER: Thief! Thief! How dare you!
FIGHTER runs to GOB 2, kills it.
GOB 2: I… die. My only regret is that I have… no… individual personality.
FIGHTER: See you in hell, maggot!
GOB 1: Goblin 2! You bastard! He was my only friend!
GOB 1 runs to FIGHTER, kills him.
MAGE: Fighter, are you all right?
FIGHTER: I’m dead, you monkey.
MAGE: I’m okay, I can finish him off!
FIGHTER: I don’t care what you can do, I’m dead. I’ve spent months on this bloody character. I will come back for you, you little ponce.
MAGE: Chill out, man, it’s a game-
FIGHTER: I will start a new character and I will build my stats and I will come looking for you. Okay?
MAGE runs at GOB 1 and hits him with his staff until GOB 1 falls down dead.
GOB 1: I… die. My only regret is that I have… no… individual personality.
VOICE–OVER: Mage, you have gained enough experience to go up a level. You may allocate twelve points to increase your statistics. Which attributes would you like to enhance?
VOICE–OVER: Charisma enhanced. Which other attributes would you like enhanced?
MAGE: Charisma. Spend it all on charisma. You can never have too much charisma.
MAGE becomes handsomer and more appealing as the lights go down.
Featuring Jack Lloyd, David Clapham, Gina Guirguis, Stu Roberts, Steph Brewster, Nick Johnson, Kirsty Ellis, Stef Dawson, Ben Hamey, Nick McCorriston, Michael Bailey, Chris Finnigan, Kim Gorter, James Langer, David Shaw, Rob Graf, Andrew Brightman
image by Arran Mckenna
“Script fails in tilt at irony”, Canberra Times, September 18th, 2001, by Alanna Maclean
Good to see the young and enthusiastic Bohemian Productions at it again with a new play in the Currong.
A pity, then, that The Mischief Sense does not quite hit the mark. The title seems to invoke the Norse trickster god Loki and the piece strives to be a kind of crime comedy of manners, but this ambitious enterprise falls down in the doing. The actors battle with a wordy, lengthy script, a lighting design that sometimes has them in total darkness and a lot of furniture to lumber about for set changes.
This kind of piece doesn’t need the trappings of realism. It does, however, need to find a strong visual style. Browns and blacks and shy performances that need to play more directly to the audience will not carry something which feels like a mixture of Mission Impossible and The Lavender Hill Mob.
It is great to see a young writer at work but the script needs some urgent dramaturgy. And the company has to toughen up its design, directing and performance skills if they want to communicate the sharp and ironic kind of theatre that the script seems to be struggling towards.
I ended the evening lost and confused, seeing glimpses of wit and good ideas smothered.
I actually kind of appreciated this review. It was somewhat disheartening but dead-on accurate.-Finig
Featuring David Clapham, Gina Guirguis, Stu Roberts, James Langer, Felicity Pollard, Julia MacDonell, Linton Hartfield, Michael Bailey
From Danse Macabre, Artsound FM 92.7, Sat 21st April 2001, by Wendy Brazil
“The sinister notes of Death’s mistuned violin call the dead forth from their graves, and clad in white shrouds, they flutter round in a demoniacal dance. The quiet of the churchyard is rent by hollow cries and horrible laughter. Suddenly, as if seized by a terrible suspicion, they stop. In the icy wind, Death’s notes cannot be heard. A tremor runs through the ranks of the dead. The grinning skulls are turned, as if listening, towards the pale moon.” (Henri Cazali)
Finnigan and Lloyd the actors in The Dumb Waiter now transmogrify into the writers of Quiet Time. Five mattresses lie side by side on the floor. One is empty, but the other four are occupied by sleeping forms enshrouded by a white sheet. A name is inscribed at the foot of each bed. Slowly they wake – unknown people in an unknown place and unknown to each other – a blind man, a priest, a chorus girl and a husband. At first all is hazy memory and confusion, but gradually there will be memory and realisation. As actors they are David Clapham, Gina Guirguis, Stuart Roberts, James Langer, Felicity Pollard, Linton Hartfield and Michael Bailey and all have gradually diminishing parts to play and all are well played.
I am still thinking about this play with its Pinter overtones. It intrigues, but it becomes predictable – whereas Pinter is never predictable – and it may need a rethink about the ending, which is over-sudden. However it is a kind of Henri Cazali’s Danse Macabre, which is fascinating in its inevitability and itsdies irae.
I know not whether this is a first venture for Bohemian Productions, but I have a distinct desire to see more of them – and I think that the combination of an established play and an inhouse play is an excellent concept. But I do know whom they love: barb barnett, George Huitker, Anne Somes, Stella Wilkie and all their family and friends, except Tim. I have to wonder what Tim did to be so publicly excluded.
poster design by Felicity Pollard
from Lowdown Magazine, June 2001, by Estelle Muspratt
‘Quiet Time’, a new piece written by David Finnigan and Jack Lloyd, was far from quiet. Four people wake up in a room with five beds, at the foot of which is their surname written on a tag. The lifeless body of a young girl whose name plaque appropriately reads Dellamorte fills the fifth bed. The ensuing confusion – and exposition of character and scenario through finding out who they are, how they got there, why they’re there and why there’s a dead body – unfolds lineally, as each of them are removed, only to return minutes later dead. Or are they already dead and suspended in a waiting room between heaven and hell? I wasn’t sure.
Without a doubt there are some strong performers in this company. Stuart Roberts, as Sater, was a necessary keeper of the piece until his time came while Gina Guirguis as Malkin had a great deal of vocal strength but struggled to maintain character and focus throughout. David Clapham as Mott shared Guirguis’ vocal strength without the focus problems, but less is more and again screaming can carry a messy message rather than a clean story. The focused and truthful performance of James Langer, as blind Drake, impressed with both a devotion to the narrative and the other actors on stage.
Jack Lloyd as the Actor in Bohemian’s The Woman in Black. Photos by Tom Finnigan.
Bohemian’s fourth production, in April 2002, was a play by Stephen Mallatrat from the novel by Susan Hill: The Woman in Black, a proper gothic ghost story. This was easily the smallest group we’d worked with, and the most expensive and demanding set/tech/props script we’d ever worked with. Nevertheless it is fun to make people jump out of their seats in terror.
‘Thus, in such another house there is a haunted door, that never will keep open; or another door that never will keep shut; or a haunted sound of a spinning wheel, or a hammer, or a cry, or a sigh, or a horse’s tramp, or the rattling of a chain. Or else, there is a turret clock which, at the midnight hour, strikes thirteen when the head of the family is going to die; or a shadowy, immovable black carriage which at such a time is always seen by somebody, waiting near the gates in the stableyard.‘ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree.
Directors: Michael Bailey & Kim Gorter Produced: Boho Productions Sound: Rob Graf & Michael Bailey Stage crew: David Shaw & Nick McCorriston Poster design: Hamey Studios Photographs: Tom Finnigan & Rob Graf Costume design: Prue Bailey & Rachel Henson Lighting: Andrew Brightman & James Dyer Program design: Rob Graf Kipps: David Finnigan Actor: Jack Lloyd
image by R. Grafkin
Alanna Maclean, The Canberra Times, April 2002
The Woman in Black proves on stage to be one of those classic ghost stories that feel like M.R. (and Henry) James with a dash of Dickens. A man (Kipps) meets an actor in a theatre with a view to have him retell the events that have, in traditional style, blighted Kipps’ life. This is a lovely device that enables the audience to see the story unfold as the actor learns how to tell it. And, naturally, there is a twist at the end which you might see coming but which I cannot fairly reveal.
Bohemian Productions has managed to go a fair way with the mood of this piece. David Finnigan as the distressed Kipps and Jack Lloyd who plays the Actor both have something of the required conviction and intensity – even if it is not always fully sustained.
The uncredited ghost is a disturbing image, but I could not help but feel that a less draped and more open use of the studio would have been more suitably surreal. The ghost had to push curtains aside at one point and the Actor had to work with a rather flimsy set door that was clearly meant to be solid. Perhaps the graveyard and the nursery would have worked better set outside the glassed end of the space.
It might also play more strongly without an interval. However, despite this interruption to the mounting menace, the cast do manage to create something of the requred atmosphere. This is a play with clear appeal for those who like their ghost stories mysterious and malevolent.
Jack Lloyd and David Finnigan in The Woman in Black. Photos by Tom Finnigan.
produced by NUTS, Bohemian Productions, the Masters of Space and Time, A Small Wooden Duck, Opiate Productions
C-Block Theatre, Sep 2005
The Witchdoctor (Max Barker) and Witchbringers (Rafe Morris) in Savage Dancefloor.
In September 2005, thirty young artists from various Canberra theatre companies assembled to produce three original plays. The C-Block Theatre was transformed into a concert for One Night Only: Dallas Rockwell’s Confessional Tour.
The three plays take place in one building on one night – the final performance of former boyband sensation Dallas Rockwell’s solo tour.
Savage Dancefloor – an ancient witchdoctor unleashes his evil upon the moshpit!
Flush – two music critics trapped in a toilet go rapidly insane.
Loose… Ships – backstage all is not well with the famed Dallas Rockwell.
Bob (Robbie Matthews) and Tara (Petra Elliott) in Savage Dancefloor.
BMA, September 20th, 2005, by Caitlin Croucher
Who would have known that Dallas Rockwell, performer and sex god to thirteen-year-old girls, was so popular? Indeed, I had never heard of the skinny bastard. But as we enter the Gorman House C Block, there are youths among us screaming his name. One homie loudly insists that P Diddy is the support act, and in the background a security guard is busy hanging someone trying to hand out religious pamphlets (security guards can do that?), to the gasps of gum-chewing teenyboppers. And this is before we’ve even entered the theatre…
For the first play – Savage Dancefloor by David Finnigan and Max Barker – the support act is not P Diddy (as apparently he has been beaten up in a Canberra bus interchange) but instead a folk act consisting of two guitar strumming Spaniards and a girl with knitting needles. Once they invoke a witch-doctor to inflict evil upon a less than supportive mosh pit, hilarity ensues…
Flush by Hadley takes the stage. An egotistical critic and a dickhead become stuck in a toilet block together. This is an example of brilliance based entirely between two people and a toilet. The comic timing was perfect, the digs at BMA reviewers were entirely appropriate and running with the overall theme, I almost wet my pants with laughter.
And then, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for… backstage with THE Dallas Rockwell in the last play of the night: Loose… Ships by Stuart Roberts. I contain the urge to scream in excitement. Dallas doesn’t want to mime the words to his songs, the label executive is trying to give up alcohol and his manager is so highly strung he’s almost got a pole up his ass. I was so busy laughing I forgot that this is actually a classic example of how fucked the music industry is. God, if only it were as intelligent as the writers of these three witty, well-acted and overall bizarrely brilliant plays. One night only? I would have been happy with a goddamn week!
The ghost of Buddy (Jack Lloyd) and Onan (Owen Collins) in Flush.
Label boss MS (Matt Borneman) and teen idol Dallas Rockwell (Pat Gordon) in Loose… Ships.
Canberra Citynews, September 28th, 2005, by Peter Hayes
One Night Only is three independently written and collaboratively wbonded pieces of local writing, all based around aspects of the music industry. It is also what children of the sixties would call a Happening. The show starts outside with a dishevelled drunk barking ROCKWELL! ROCKWELL! He then proceeds to take a pen to the poster of Dallas Rockwell and scrawl on the rock legend’s forehead.
Inside, the buzz was that Sean “Puffy” Coombes, aka Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy aka Diddy would shortly be onstage. No-one was surprised when Diddy wasn’t, and in his stead we got the Witchbringers, a gypsy folk trio whose misery laden songs conjure up a demon. The Savage Dancefloor of the title refers to the demon’s ability to stop-start motion with the clap of his hands. It is like an acid trip movie where you pick up snippets of conversation, none of which are particularly relevant, but you feel ever so grateful to have overheard a whole sentence that you give it more significance than it deserves. And the groovy dancing is enough to turn the strongest stomach. Naturally enough the demon gets his own back as the piece draws to an end. The devisors are Max Barker and David Finnigan, and they take stabs at pub culture and pseudo-Baltic bands. It’s lightweight, but never fails to engage.
Tara (Petra Elliott) and Beth (Tessa van der Hoek) try to make Christian (Nick McCorriston) feel good about himself (at the command of the evil WITCHDOCTOR!) in Savage Dancefloor
Canberra Citynews (cont’d)
The second piece is called Flush, by Hadley. Locked inside a graphically grafittied toilet are Onan Lovechild, a music critic for an irrelevant magazine, and Buddy, a wannabe pop-star. The play between the two is hilarious and the direction by Naomi Milthorpe is spot-on. Owen Collins as Onan and Jack Lloyd as Buddy are in their cups in these roles, working the comedy and pathos for everything it’s got.
Loose… Ships, by Stuart Roberts, shows popstar Dallas Rockwell (Pat Gordon) in the midst of a backstage tantrum. His sleazy manager (Arran Mckenna) and half-crazed label boss (Matt Borneman) want him to lipsynch on stage as usual, but Dallas has decided that tonight he will “keep it real” and sing himself. The fast-paced script was capably handed by the actors, but the real star was the lipsynched finale, when a pre-recorded soundtrack took over the actors’ voices. Also, the reference to the editor of this publication (The Canberra Review) was hilarious – but the actors are just lucky that I was reviewing and not he!
Onan (Owen Collins) in Flush.
Dallas Rockwell Pat Gordon Sobey Arran Mckenna Lucy Tain Stangret MS Matt Borneman
Sound design Dan Jobson, Trav Harvey & Jono Mullins Writer/director Stuart Roberts
Onan Lovechild Owen Collins Buddy Jack Lloyd
Hand/chainsaw Bryn Cummings Writer Hadley Director Naomi Milthorpe
Bob Winston Robbie Matthews Beth Tess van der Hoek Tara Petra Elliott Shane de Shane Johnny Barrington Christian Nick McCorriston No-one Jarrod Emmanuel
The Witchbringers Ry, Lucy and Rafe Lepers/devisors Max Barker and David Finnigan
Those responsible for this whole mess
NUTS Matt Borneman, Erin Pugh, Rachel Teding van Berkout Producers Alison McGregor, David Finnigan, Muttley Lighting design Gillian Schwab Set design Nicky J, Jack Lloyd, David Shaw Lights Muttley Sound Ali McGregor
Poster design Dan Jobson
With much and grand support from Linda McHugh and John Hunt of Canberra Youth Theatre.
A joint creation of Josh Inman and myself (Finig). Josh and I each wrote 10 pages of this 20-page autobiography of Gay-Spy-Bishop Dee Race, flipping coins to see who got which page. Then we wrote our halves of Dee Race’s life, without comparing or consulting at all. That is why Dee Race’s life is so awesome. Digit.
My name is Dee race, I’ve done some things that I haven’t been proud of, but always managed to scrape together some self respect. My pride has kept my mouth shut some 25 years and it took a shit load of money and a sweet faced publisher to persuade me to write about what you want to hear about and not about breeding big dogs.
So here it is on the first page: I drank beer, I sang songs, I fucked women, I fucked the government, I did time, and I cleaned up and bred dogs. Big dogs… and I smoked weed with Willie Nelson. My name is Dee Race and this is my
already in those days. I never resented my father for those trips. I had another set of fathers – better fathers in basically all respects – in the gypsy buskers that used to play in the dockside brothels and taverns. They took me in, and it was from them that I first learned to scrape a fiddle.
The gypsies sang exclusively in Ukranian and Russian, so to keep up with them I learned a smattering of both languages. On my 10th birthday, the gypsies inked my belly with my first tattoo – a crude depiction of the naked mouse goddess Klunskeivna, caught in a mantrap and trying to gnaw her leg off at the knee to escape.
Needless to say, when my mother discovered it she was furious, and I was locked in the attic room for 59 weeks as punishment. My only companions were the sun (mercilessly hot in the afternoon hours) and the battered violin I had stolen from a sleeping hobo. In this lonely, claustrophobic space, I first began to compose.
My ‘attic songs’ were essentially all revenge ballads, fantasies of what I would do to my parents when I was released, set to the mournful
Something else. I had kept all of our love letters, each one of hers has the date when I received them and I have copies of mine in triplicate. I still have them today. We were married at the end of summer after our Prom. We honeymooned in Cancun, where I bought my first guitar.
We would drink tequila and as Glenda could already play the trumpet, we thought of starting our own mariachi band. We moved to Arizona for about 40 months, I took a government job to pay the bills, sourcing a manufacturer for new lighter weight plastic cased rifles for the army. This didn’t sit well with my image by R. Grafkin
informed my parents that he would need to amputate my left leg below the knee. The operation was a grisly affair, with my chief memory being the certainty that I would kill the doctor as soon as I was allowed up from the table.
Afterwards, life at home changed drastically. My mother adjusted to my one-legged clumsiness by criticising the ‘filthy Slavs’ who had gotten their paws on me. My father dealt with his son’s maiming by absenting himself four or five days out of seven. We barely spoke to one another, even about the most mundane things, and he never again mentioned the lumberjacking apprenticeship he had spent so many months arranging for me.
And myself? How did young Dee Race cope with the loss of half of his left leg? Well, other than the cloying self-righteousness of my mother and the disappointed distance of my father, I found myself enjoying my crippling immensely. There was pain, certainly, but in those days it was easy enough to get a fifty-weight of Finnish Ibuprofen from the coastguard black marketeers, and the weeping stump-wound was rarely more than a bleeding itch. More important than any physical pain was the feeling of freedom – freedom
from all my commitments and obligations – that my injury allowed me. I felt as if a new Dee Race had been born, and his life was waiting for me to take it up.
That summer, 1962, I stole my father’s most valuable purebred monkey, Supreme, and hitched a bus to New York. From Greenwich Village I wrote a terse letter to my parents explaining that I was packing Supreme and I would execute him unless they paid a small ransom. $410 was couriered to my chosen drop-off box within the week. I mailed Supreme back via Express Post, then took the remaining $403 to Ostler Studios in Manhattan and produced my first album.
The studio executives were impressed with my money, intimidated by my beard and charmed by my exuberant fiddle-playing. They welcomed me into the Ostler Music stable and found a recording studio for me right away. While I was laying down the raw versions of what would become my first album – Nothing Can Kill Dee Race – the executives would frequently drop by to check on their one-legged folk-singer. They changed my bandages, made me cups of tea with lemon and honey, and offered me any number of backing musicians. I refused them all, and instead insisted that the executives themselves play on some tracks, tapping typewriters and ruffling sheets of paper. In less than six days, Nothing Can Kill Dee Race was
And ran offstage. Jefferson Airplane sat with Glenda, who was topless. The room was swirling with pot smoke. Outside in the darkness I could hear John Fogarty singing Fortunate Son, though I thought I had sent most of them to sleep with my heartfelt leftist folk music. Watching my wife, the mother of my children, dancing and kissing the Airplane’s bassist inspired what was to be my first hit song:
She could share her money / she can share her food
She’d share the work load wherever she could
She walked to old St Petersburg town where
She’d share her love with the men she found
She said she’d return, and I believed her of course
Returned with a letter, titled Filed For Divorce
but since by this time I was playing regularly with the Byrds and partied with the Who when they toured the US, I was able to simply ignore them. Around this time I encountered a young Texan outfit called the Thirteenth Floor Elevators on their first trip to the big city. These kids were so fervent in their appreciation of acid it was hard to relax in their presence, but we had several good afternoons tripping out of our tiny minds on Wall Street, running down the narrow alleyways and laughing at merchant bankers. It was around this time that I had a confrontation with a junky on a train (he was staring offensively at my sunglasses, so I punched him in the forehead and elbowed his windpipe a number of times until he started vomiting and choking at the same time) by the name of Lou Reed, who was at that time beginning to perform as part of the Velvet Underground.
It was around this time that I first met Glenda Snoxall. I had just released a double album entitled No-One Knows Where Dee Race Has Hidden His Leg to superb critical acclaim but poor sales. I was thinking of an international tour to boost my fan base in Europe, when I was assailed in the street one afternoon by a red-headed young lady with a trumpet, smoking a badly rolled cigar. She grabbed me by the shirt and told me that No-One Knows was my best album yet, and that this would be the record to finally show the Asians, all the Asians, that white Americans could outbreed them any day of the week. This was Glenda Snoxall – trumpet player for the Fist Gnomes and militant racist, an activist and member of a number of abhorrent
in the face. With our marriage looking increasingly like a rubber stamp and source of more heartfelt lyrics, my drinking was spiraling out of control. One night, in Tennessee when I was particularly drunk, I felt a pair of calloused hands help me out of the gutter. When my vision cleared I noticed it was Willie Nelson, with whom I had been touring. He threw me into his pick-up and we drove. After a while I started coming to, and he threw me a leather pouch. Inside was some grass and cigarette papers. I told him I had never rolled a joint before, and he looked at me straight-faced and said “What? You’ve got to know how roll them, how to hold them.” I think we drove to Washington that night, and the joke never stopped being funny. image by frosty
less than a week before the wedding. I told the small one with his peaked cap and his massive overcoat trailing almost on the ground; ‘I’m Dee Race, goddamn you! I won’t be pressured!’
The tall agent, who had not this whole time stopped patting his dog, shrugged. ‘It’s of no concern to us, Mr Race. We have enough on you to put you away right now, for twenty or thirty years without blinking an eye. We’ll arrest you at your wedding if you like, heighten the drama somewhat. Would you like some drama?’
‘What would I have to do?’ I asked, gritting my teeth, trying to pull myself out of the freezing cold water.
‘Report to us once every ten days,’ said the short man. ‘Anything that happens. Everything. Every dirty word at a party, every time someone trips over a microphone lead on stage – you scribble it down and pass it on to us.’
‘What does the CIA care about the people I know?’ I asked, on my hands and knees, shaking myself dry like a dog. ‘They’re all horrible people, sure, but they’re at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to drugs, and they don’t know the first thing about politics.’
‘We care because we care about America,’ said the dog-patting agent. ‘My mother cared about it, and her mother cared about it too, and I reckon I care just enough that I’ll get my hands dirty dealing with a goddamn heroin addict folk singer if it’ll keep the Reds from rubbing their filthy mitts all over it.’
They gave me my instructions, and then they left me alone in the shallow pondwater. I crawled home that night, and Glenda was so wrapped up in the wedding preparations she didn’t notice that I was soaking wet and frozen almost to the bone.
So that was that – I became an informant. I’d like to say that I was upset when I learned – years later – that the CIA agents by the pond were complete frauds, that I had been duped by undercover KGB operatives, and that all my information was being piped direct to Moscow. To be honest, though, it made little difference. Aside from the embarrassment of being blackmailed by KGB agents into supplying secrets to Communist Russia by their claims that they could trace a link between me and the Communists, it didn’t matter to me who I was selling secrets to.
The pathetic thing is that none of the secrets I sold were really very good. Consider that over the years that I was a KGB informant (1970 – 1973) my wife Glenda was involved in nearly nine militant ‘actions’ (I believe today they would be called terrorist acts) on behalf of a number of white supremacist extremist groups, that she spent nearly $41,750 of my earnings from record sales during this period (my 1971 double-album Dee Race Wins The Race Every Time There’s A Race sold exceptionally well and kept us in good comfort for some time), mostly on small armaments to provide to guerilla activist groups, and that both the American government and the Russians were keeping serious tabs on her (after her attempted bombing of a low-income tenament house in New Jersey, the FBI opened a special file on her in which she was codenamed ‘Emperor Fu San’), and yet I never had a clue. I was too busy to keep track of Glenda, and she seemed happy enough whenever I did manage to catch up with her.
Instead, my reports for the KGB (which I dutifully addressed to Agent Powder of the CIA, in the mistaken belief that I was serving my country) were filled with the exciting minutiae of the folk/rock/pop scene of the time. “DEAR AGENT POWDER I THINK THE NEW YORK DOLLS MIGHT BE GAY, ALSO THE MC5 CAME AROUND TO MY APARTMENT ON FRIDAY BUT I WAS OUT AND FRED SONIC SMITH TAPED A PHOTO TO MY DOOR FROM THE VIETNAM
That’s how I did it and it was easier than I thought to sell one’s national secrets; I was approached at what was both my 35th birthday and farewell gig. The show was about halfway through and one of the reserved tables still was empty. A well dressed man with a pinched face came to take the seat. He was accompanied by two very burly men dressed in suits with crew-cut hairdos. They stood out because they were not the usual type of characters to appear at a concert.
Backstage the two burly men approached me after my post-gig shower. They said ‘Hello’ in a curious accent that I’ve later identified as Baltic. They told me to have dinner tomorrow night in a restaurant on 21st street at six o’clock. A private table will be booked under my name. The restaurant was the Gay Bishop. The bigger of the two then snatched my towel from my waist and left and that’s how it happened.
Another story to do with the reds is the strange disappearance of my old music manager. He was due around at my place for a dinner that I was cooking, the table was set for four and my two guests were left waiting until we decided to eat. I was cooking a soufflé and there was no way to leave it any longer. We were talking about my divorce to Glenda and how she reverted to her maiden name of Snoxall and in the settlement took most of the money from the Russians. The silly thing is I had kept exact records of all the transactions, which would have been inadmissible in court if I wasn’t prepared to fight the US government capitalist bastards in their highest of courts… the media. Instead of bravado I took it meekly and in the only interview I told Miss Snoxall to stick her trumpet in her brass section. Next to her balls.
To sum up my life I released a 50th birthday album, with each track being related to a certain portion of my life, from childhood to my birthday. It was given a frosty to lukewarm reception. However I have boxes of it so write to my publisher and we’ll send you a free copy. This is the track listing:
1: awkward smiles in class
2: virgin waltz
3: mariachi wedding
4: six kids and a six pack
5: a slab and a slap
6: sharing with Jefferson
7: carrots in my beard
8: two fat legs that walked out
9: 35,000 (lies dollars and lines)
10: on the lam
11: all you fucking pigs
12: hard time
13: fucking like a dog
14: that big blue sky
suicide in court, maybe get a bit of that press focus on me, see if the tide of public opinion doesn’t swing in my favour…’ My lawyer was doubtful, but I was sick of listening to his advice, and anyway, the man listened to the Eagles and he refused to believe that Creedence Clearwater weren’t actually born on the bayou. Fuck him, I thought. The worst I could expect was that I’d have a scar on one of my forearms, and what’s that but something else to tell the ladies?
In the event, the stunt went wrong in a number of ways. First of all, I foolishly chose to attempt it on a Thursday morning before 10.30am, when there were barely any reporters in the court. Secondly, I chose a moment when a particularly huge bird flew into the courtroom window, cracking the glass and drawing everyone’s attention. Thirdly, when people did notice that I’d slashed a dirty great slit in both of my wrists, they responded with genuine turtle urgency. I remember the doctor tapping the ash off his cigarette, then balancing it carefully on the edge of the ashtray, quickly combing his hair and picking his teeth on his way to my rescue.
To cut a long story short, I was in a coma for 71 weeks, and when I woke up it was 1979 and I was sentenced to 13 years in prison, starting as soon as I was well enough to be shipped there. Glenda had for Papua New Guinea only a few weeks after my courtroom wrist-slashing, and was wanted as a war criminal in the US and Canada for her so-called ‘Northern Summer Sabbatical’. I saw her on
the news while in the hospital – she was somewhere in the jungle waving a flamethrower around. I later found that she had divorced me six and a half years earlier (the cocktail of hypnosis tapes and injected steroids I indulged in virtually daily throughout the early 70s resulted in a fugue state in which I would sign anything Glenda gave me and remember almost none of it). That was depressing, but the worst moment was when the package arrived containing my new fake leg. My usual fake leg was made from the rear spar of a British ‘Vickers Valiant’ nuclear bomber, and contained ‘prohibited metals’. I was supplied with a prison leg made from the same plastic they constructed Barbie dolls with, and it crumpled under my weight the first time I leaned on it. It was not a promising beginning.
But prison was far more enjoyable than I could have predicted. All the cons rubbed noses with me in a friendly greeting gesture when I arrived, and invited me to participate in one of their many constructive projects. I assisted in the construction of a hot-air balloon (reinforced newspaper balloon and a tinfoil gas cylinder filled a trickle at a time from the prison stoves) in which a murderer named Orthodox Greg escaped, and after that I was given Orthodox Greg’s old stomping ground: the dog kennels. It would be wrong to say that I did not like
I met the second love of my life in 1997, tied to a pole outside the local canasta club. Her name was Apsu-lutely. She had the most wonderful colour and lines and then I knew exactly what it was that I should be doing to fill my time on the outside, now I was no longer drinking, singing or packing supreme in prison sex. This dog was magnificent to me, though in time I would learn it was only a mediocre dog, but the sight of its powerful body and short hair, I knew this was a dog for me. Also the idea of a political statement made through a dog appealed to me.
I made some enquiries and bought a pup for $2500, and started it in obedience classes real early. I joined the American Lhasa Apsu breeding society with my first dog, Emperor Fu San, but it seems I was given the wrong advice, and as a novice breeder, as with marriage, I had bought the wrong dog.
Across from Hong Kong. This was the bitch my fledgling kennel needed, its blood lines were strong, but there were few examples in America. Her temperament was sound, backline perfect, and her face angelic. I named her Forbidden City Forbidden Dreams.
She won judges commendations two years in a row and a third placing. I then had an offer to join her with China Commands, the top dog. I agreed and we split the litter. I had a dog and a bitch pup. The bitch was named “Tibetan freedom” and went on to win best in show. The dog turned out too aggressive to show, but I kept him for my own companion dog, as some teenagers had started jumping the fence and stealing souvenirs that they could sell on eBay along with plenty of counterfeit memorabilia. His name was Emperor Fu San Tu, or just San-tu. Now his teeth are less formidable, but his eyes are bright as he rests his head on my lap. image by arran mckenna
The only fly in the ointment was that the higher I progressed up the ladder, the more intense and, well, psychotic the people became. My first few dog-shows were a joyous relevation to me – fresh out of prison, exploring the delights of freedom with my beloved Fu San yapping at my side. Now I was in the professional leagues, the competitions had a desperate, hungry yearning I had not encountered since 1967, the night we locked Jimi Hendrix out of the apartment building and made him wait in the snow for four and three quarter hours while we taunted him from the window. Fu San was still performing brilliantly, and I had no intention of backing down before I reached the top of the pile: a gold medal for Fu San in Santo Domingo. Still, certain clauses in the rulebook of the 1990 International Dogshow Championship Tourmament did not sit well with me:
Upon attaining first prize, the victorious DOG is assumed to have attained Godhood, and will be shot through the head and dressed in the sacred oils and herbs for its ascension to heaven, accompanied by the gravegoods of its possessions in life and its human companions;
But I decided I would cross that bridge when it came to it. In the meantime, I bought a bicycle with a sidecar, made several modifications (cut away the left pedal and made a holster for my wooden limb), placed Fu San in the sidecar with a big fresh bone, and began to pedal one-legged to the city of Santo Domingo. When we reached the shores of the Atlantic ocean in Florida, we waited on the docks until dark. When it was completely black and deserted, I sealed up the sidecar tarpaulin, trapping Fu San inside, and tipped the bike into the water. With one arm clutching the handlebars, I swam with one leg and one hand across the bay towards the Vaccination, a sturdy coalship bound for the Dominican
Republic. I swam as hard as I could, but even so, Fu San’s air had nearly run out by the time I was able to attach the bike’s electro-magnet above the waterline of the ship’s hull.
The trip across the Caribbean was not fun. A bike seat is not a comfortable seat on which to perch for seventeen days and nights, especially when you are barely metres above the swell and constantly heave up and down into it. I ate all of my dry biscuits in the first three days, and had to look forward to a solid fortnight of no rations. What was worse, however, was the lack of drinking water. I was surprised to find the ocean water was salty and not to my liking. Fu San was willing to drink it, though, so I splashed handfuls on to his snout and drank his urine whenever he was able to go. In this way, we travelled to the tournament, feeling very sorry for ourselves and wishing we’d paid the $61 for a plane ticket.
When I dragged up the mostly shrivelled remains of Fu San onto the Dominican Republic shoreline, the fishermen recognised me instantly. Some of them shrieked at me that I was dirty Commie asscrack fluff, and someone else threw a jagged slab of concrete at me. I tried to reason with them, but in my state of mental and physical derangement, I only made things worse. Soon I was lying staked to the side of a small hill while above me, the villagers prepared to loose an enormous boulder to roll over me and crush me. Fu San they had set fire to, and his twitching hide was black with ash and flecked with flickers of burning dog skeleton. He lolled his head to look at me, as
I reconciled with my eldest daughter recently, I wonder if this was due to the low level media attention that has surrounded the book deal. It’s the way of children, interested in their aging parents only when they have money. Its true that it was an inordinate amount of money for a shitty little memoir, and perhaps it could have been more interestingly if I did take up Roy and Tom’s suggestion I joined their band so they didn’t have to ask Dylan, but I thought at the time a band like that would fail comically. I did allow them to keep the name I suggested, and last year their ‘Best Of’ was released. I saw no royalties, and wasn’t in “thanks to” section of the booklet, but if you listen to “End of the Line” Orbison croons “Dee Race, for the name, thanks”, its really quiet and backwards masked. But its there and that’s what counts. My name is Dee Race, and this was my life.