Sycophant 1 : : Sycophant 2 : : Sycophant 3 : : High Priestess : : Madwoman 1 : : Madwoman 2
Madwoman 3 : : General : : Victor : : Blind Poet : : Neanderthal Man 1 : : Neanderthal Woman 1
Neanderthal Man 2 : : Neanderthal Woman 2 : : Neanderthal Man 3 : : Tyrant : : Clown : : Executioner
Slave Trader : : Magician : : Astrologer : : Public Crier : : Actor [male performer] : : Actress [female performer]
Female Candidate 1 : : Male Candidate 1 : : Female Candidate 2 : : Male Candidate 2 : : Mannequins, Slaves
(The curtain is up. Semi-darkness on a bare stage. Yelp of a single jackal. Then gradually, a chorus of grunts and animal cries: cackling, bellowing, elephants’ trumpeting, neighing, lowing, mewing.
Various pantings. Shrieking of a siren. Volley of shots, gusts of wind.
Tamtams and crotales cover the animal sounds.
These sounds calm little by little while the jackal’s yelp again becomes audible, relieved by a snare drum playing a death march of a condemned man to the gibbet. To the rhythm of this music, the three sycophants appear one behind the other, wearing tights.
At the back of the stage, a floodlight flashes on and off on the High Priestess, her face covered by a leather mask, wearing a red chador. Motionless, eyes closed, like an Egyptian goddess, she holds a scepter in the shape of a phallus with a jackal’s head.
The sycophants dart about. Cries and encouragement as in a circus act. Various acrobatic movements.
—Ha! Ha! Ha!
The music ends abruptly. The three sycophants fall, lightning-struck. The High Priestess comes to life, advances seductively, swaying her hips. She touches the sycophants with the jackal’s head, and they rise.
Siren, tamtam, and crotales.)
High Priestess: Everything has been prepared as ordered?
The 3 Sycophants, in chorus: Yes!
High Priestess: The exits?
Sycophant 1: Completely blocked.
High Priestess: The security guards?
Sycophant 2: The imbeciles have been overpowered.
High Priestess: Communications?
Sycophant 3: Cut off.
High Priestess, indicating Sycophant 1: You, tell them now.
Sycophant 1: Ladies and gentlemen (pardon me, bitches and bastards) whether you are fearful or not does not matter to us. But I have the extreme, dubious, and troublesome pleasure of announcing that you are truly fucked. From this moment until the uncertain end of the play, you are our hostages.
Sycophants 2 and 3: Ha!
Sycophant 2: Don’t shout or cry, don’t turn your heads. No outside help can reach you, and you can’t escape. You knew this, subconsciously, when you agreed to play the game. Because tonight there will be a Jackal’s baptism.
Sycophants 1 and 3: Ha!
(Lively dance music. The High Priestess moves backward toward the back of the stage. Dance of the three Sycophants.)
Sycophant 1: Stay calm, sheep, incredulous lambs. Close your eyes and re-open them on the limp, bleeding mob of your nightmares.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3 (along with the music): Badadam, badadam, badadam.
Sycophant 2: The Earth is moving further away now. I see it, a ball of fire blown by a sidereal wind toward the black hole of oblivion.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: Badadam, badadam, badadam.
Sycophant 3: You, and us, accidental survivors, weighing anchor in the Ark of a not-so-rosy future. Together
we are going to re-read the garbled text.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: Badadam, badadam, badadam.
Sycophant 1: Re-read, not with head or eyes or the sonorous and slippery reasons of intellectual surgery
Sycophant 2: But with organs revealed.
Sycophant 3: Nerves exposed, cartilage, guts of a beautiful, ravenous, bloody, and vitriolic sap of taboos.
Sycophant 1: For once, don’t think
feel the smooth buds
the uprooting of the soul.
Sycophant 2: Bathe in the
masculine and feminine waters
in an incredible confusion of the senses.
Sycophant 3: Be reborn far away
in the third eye
of infinite memory.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: Badadam, badadam, badadam.
Sycophant 1: There will be a baptism
Sycophant 2: a pagan baptism
Sycophant 3: painful
Sycophant 1: ascensional
Sycophant 2: burning, succulent, aphrodisiac
Sycophant 3: a jackal’s baptism.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: Badadam, badadam, badadam.
(The High Priestess runs forward. She has abandoned the scepter with the jackal’s head. The three sycophants lift her up. She assumes the pose of the Statue of Liberty while artistically revealing her legs and thighs.
(The High Priestess is seated in the middle of the stage on a cardboard throne. Dressed as she was in scene 1 and fixed in the same attitude. Sycophant 1 stands behind her, Sycophant 2 to her left, and Sycophant 3 to her right. The three sycophants are armed with thighbones on shoulder straps and speak on walkie-talkies
Throughout the scene, the High Priestess hums alternating songs about the pains of childbirth and funeral dirges.)
Sycophant 1: We, the Organization of the Poetic Jackalist Jihad, proclaim what will happen next.
Sycophant 2: The Sixth cell of Mutant Kamikazes has seized today (performance date) at (time of performance) in (exact location of performance) where we currently detain (number of audience members) people.
Sycophant 3: No negotiations are possible until the Baptism is completed by the audience.
Sycophant 1: Once we have accomplished our apostolic mission, you will be released—but only if you follow our demands.
Sycophant 2: Note that we say the hostages will be “released,” not “freed.”
Sycophant 3: ONE: End the rechanneling of rivers.
Sycophant 1: TWO: Decree habeas corpus for all wild and domestic animals.
Sycophant 2: THREE: Return to trees their stolen fruit.
Sycophant 3: FOUR: Allocate the entire budget for “Star Wars” and the rest of the military industrial complex for the search for Atlantis, its resurrection and restoration.
Sycophant 1: FIVE: Assure each citizen a free tombstone.
Sycophant 2: SIX: Transform all prisons, death rows, and internment camps into public gardens for the mentally handicapped, young mothers, and family men.
Sycophant 3: SEVEN: Recognize the right to dream while the principle of reality becomes as tight as a tourniquet.
High Priestess: Dream of human heaven
embers of the divine
which we protect in the palms of our hands.
Sailor who sails before the wind
having lost the anchor cables.
The ocean swells as high as the
flowered beards of the stars.
Dream a dream of Paradise on Earth as in heaven
A gift from one man to another.
Sycophant 1: (interrupting) EIGHT: abolition of states of emergency, high alert, mobilization, siege, martial law.
Sycophant 2: NINE: Free vacations, books, plays, movies, museums, concerts, circuses, and drinks on sunny terraces.
Sycophant 3: TEN: Priority given to lovers in matters of employment, space travel, public transportation, and all lines.
Sycophant 1: Also for lovers, the price of flowers, pineapples, chocolate, and light colognes will be merely symbolic.
Sycophant 2: ELEVEN: Restore to children their stolen childhoods, to peoples their confiscated memories, to the Earth its stolen minerals.
Sycophant 3: TWELVE: (and that’s all for now) Entrust to unknown artists the task of building, wherever men meet, monuments to the glory of the worker.
Sycophant 1: The Mutant Kamikazes are not kidding, or rather, we’re joking without joking.
Sycophant 2: We won’t be satisfied with words.
Sycophant 3: Take us at our word.
Sycophant 1: We can do what we say.
Sycophant 2: Enough!
(The chant of the High Priestess gets louder at the same time as Arab dance music is heard. Sycophant 1 and Sycophant 2 mime a swordfight with their thighbones, while Sycophant 3 dances alone, his thighbone slung across the back of his neck. The music becomes gradually softer. The High Priestess stops chanting and stands up.)
High Priestess: This is my body. A mirror without the silvering of carnivorous hieroglyphics. Decipher your cowardice. Pore by pore. In my wounds, read the horrible, bloody saga. Ah! Aïe! How can we love henceforth with this half-darkness over our hearts?
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: You are mad with love, mad, mad.
High Priestess: To love the birth of the sun,
In the smallest drop of dew
Sipped by the Sahara fox
When the heart rises and surrenders to the voracity of the ploughman’s stream
When the stiff and bruised body hides from discovery
For the good of its center and
Rests in the foam of the ocean’s apples
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: (prostrating themselves at the feet of the High Priestess) Glory to you! Glory!
High Priestess: I see you, my lost planet, even if you are behind eternal veils. I don’t know if you are moved by any movement. You don’t move farther or closer. You row in place in sudden choking leaps. You can’t speak. Your message is not audible; the cacophony of the world is too loud. Who can hear your internal music, this compassionate fear for mankind? I see you, in the lines of the palm of my hand.
Sycophants 1, 2, and 3: Glory! Glory!
High Priestess: I feel the grief of the Word. Bring the cloak of prophecy. Cover me. Cover me completely.
(The three sycophants bring the cloak, covering the High Priestess who has lain down on the ground. Her voice breaks and multiplies. The light dims slowly.)
High Priestess: —Who are you to dare to speak in the mouths of others?
—I have drunk from the source.
—Have you forgotten compassion?
—I fight as I can against indifference.
—How far will you go?
—The Earth is not an accident along the way.
—Bitch, false messenger, crass idealist, false priestess, old woman of society’s dregs, wisp of a woman hated by the masculine.
High Priestess: Sleep, sleep, my little inquisitor.
Your mama is here
Who has not known the joys of love
For 20 years
My little toothless monster
Your daddy will come home
He’ll bring you presents
Killed by his own hands
All of you
(Song of Victor Jara in the darkness. The stage lightens gradually.
Entrance of the chorus of madwomen. Change and choreographed movement, as of a Greek chorus.)
Madwoman 1: Beware!
Madwoman 2: War to oblivion!
Madwoman 3: The world is small.
Madwoman 1: Beware!
Madwoman 2: War to oblivion!
Madwoman 3: The world is small, but evil is huge.
Madwoman 1: Insidious.
Madwoman 2: Infinite
Madwoman 3: Incalculable.
Madwoman 1: farther than the farthest point
Madwoman 2: in time
Madwoman 3: in space
Madwoman 1: than the courtesan called History.
Madwoman 2: in us
Madwoman 1, 2, and 3: (beating their breasts to punctuate their words) In us is evil, evil is in us. In us is evil, evil is in us. In us is evil, evil is in us.
Madwoman 1: When we open our eyes in the morning and we don’t look grim against the grayness of the day
Madwoman 2: against the argument, counter-arguments, the snares, the litany of lies
Madwoman 3: against the sterile scandals in the columns of jumbled facts
Madwoman 1: When we trample the grass inadvertently
Madwoman 2: and we don’t even think about apologizing to the grass
Madwoman 3: when a familiar dog winks at us
Madwoman 2: to tell us for the millionth time that he knows how to and wants to speak
Madwoman 3: and we turn our eyes shamefully away from this unacceptable miracle
Madwoman 1: when we are shown the black child of seven who weighs little more than he did at birth
Madwoman 2: while our forks continue to click against our oily, creamy plates
Madwoman 3: when survivors of all the holocausts tell us calmly and with dignity about their Calvary
Madwoman 1: and we say, stupidly: That’s not possible!
Madwoman 1, 2, and 3: (beating their breasts and pacing) In us is evil, evil is in us. In us is evil, evil is in us. In us is evil, evil is in us.
Madwoman 2 (touching her forehead): A tumor there
Madwoman 3 (touching her breast): A tumor there
Madwoman 1 (touching her sex): there
Madwoman 1, 2, 3: There, there, there, there. (They run to the left of the stage, which lightens.)
Madwoman 1, 2, 3: (pointing to the General): —There!
(The General leans on his elbows at the bar. Victor is seated on a small rostrum with a microphone. He is wearing a red penitent’s robe.)
Victor (showing his right hand, which is missing its fingers): So, General. What do you say about this? You’re not going to trot out that old story of discipline, carrying out orders.
Madwoman 1 (to the General): Take off your helmet before answering.
Madwoman 2: Weigh your words carefully.
Madwoman 3: Beware, war to oblivion.
The General: I demand the presence of my lawyer.
Victor: After consideration, request denied. The three lawyers here will take the roles assigned to them.
General: But they want my death.
Victor: No prejudice. Be reasonable, accept. It’s in your best interest.
General: This is illegal.
Victor: Illegal? Illegal! You’re in contempt! You make your case worse. Beware.
Madwoman 1, 2, and 3: Beware, war to oblivion.
General: Furthermore, you don’t respect the public nature of trials.
Victor: But you’re dreaming, my friend. You want us to air our dirty laundry in front of light-fingered journalists and other who turn up their noses over supposed violations of human rights. Have you forgotten your education?
General: Mr. President, I demand to be examined immediately by a doctor. I want him to attest to the ill-treatment I endured during the preliminary interrogation.
Victor: Ill-treatment? You know, we do torture.
Madwoman 1, 2, 3: Hou, hou!
Madwoman 1: He claims to be a general.
Madwoman 2: He’s so delicate, sensitive.
Madwoman 3: Like a little angel.
General (trying to undress): I’ll show you, Mr. President.
Victor: Enough! There are ladies present.
General: A last request, Mr. President. In prison, they took away my books.
Victor: Which books?
General: My Bible, the complete works of our poet laureate.
Victor: That communist?
General: But he is a good poet, your honor.
Victor: Enough nonsense. Reading tires the eyes, and gives a prisoner impure thoughts. Let’s return to the facts. With your permissions, madam lawyers, I demand a reconstruction of the most famous crime committed by the accused. Thus, the victim Jésus-Al Hallaj-Bruno, known as Victor, a popular singer, was martyred and executed by the express order of the accused. The accused is called on to describe objectively the order of events.
General: I will do so, your honor. However, I ask in advance the indulgence of the court.
(Victor gets down off the rostrum. He gives his penitent’s robe to the General, who puts it on. The General assumes the role of Inquisitor. The three madwomen assist him.)
General: So, Victor, caught like a rat in a trap!
(Victor is silent.)
General: We’re going to stuff you with straw, you dirty mouth. Once your head’s on fire, we’ll turn you over to our best reduced of hotheads. Word of a hyena, we’ll show you where fish piss. Go ahead, fellows, sluts. Put him to the first degree.
Interruption of the scene.
(Black. Then a play of colored lights and music appropriate for a commercial. Three spots should be acted on the stage as if they could be filmed.)
General (pointing to a poster—I Know How to Torture):
The last in the series, available in paperback. All good, all new: I Know How to Torture.
Madwoman 1: A simple, practical, inexpensive guide.
Madwoman 2: Learn and practice the techniques of famous torturers at home.
Madwoman 3: Gentle methods have also been included for beginners.
General: Free certificate. Plain wrapper. You’ll love it.
—fashion show (off-stage announcer)
—Chador Ayattolah, by Cardon (applause)
—Chador Mafia 2000, by Sam (applause)
—underclothes for barefoot nuns, by Bacchusot (applause)
—underclothes for fighting sisters, by Eroticus (applause)
—slim red chador, by Apparatchik (applause, “bravos”)
—underclothes for regular nuns, by Rarissimo (applause)
General: And finally, the ultimate aphrodisiac
Madwoman 1: Yes, ladies and gentlemen
Madwoman 2: Here’s the elixir you’ll all been waiting for.
Madwoman 3: Simple design. A small flask you can slide into your holster.
Madwoman 1: Open it.
Madwoman 2: Breathe deeply.
Madwoman 3: And you’ll send your partner to seventh heaven.
Madwoman 1: Paradisical.
Madwoman 2: Aphrodisiac.
Madwoman 3: Henceforth yours.
Reprise of Scene 3.
(The three madwomen put back on the men’s masks. They seize Victor, undress him, lay him down on an inclined bench, tie him up. Techniques of water torture and bastinado on the soles of his feet. The General supervises.
A moment later.)
Victor (choking): What do you want from me?
General: Nothing you’ve thought of in your stupid resistance manual. Ha, ha, ha! (With a strong Spanish accent) You didn’t see anything at Hiroshima. (Then in his normal voice) We’re not going to ask for the names of your acolytes, where you’ve hidden weapons. That’s too easy. You resist because you must and then you crack. You crack and then you relieve your conscience. Hee, hee, hee. I don’t give a shit about this pointless battle of wits. What interests me when I inflict pain is only my own pleasure.
General: Sing away. But I’m going to crush you. I’m going to chop you up in the collimator of pain, the holy of holies.
Victor (sings in Spanish) Venían del desierto, de los cerros y del mar…
General: Put him to the second degree.
(The three madwomen set to work. Technique of the parakeet’s roost. Victor’s hands and feet are tied. He is suspended from a metal rod. His body hangs upside down. His head brushes the ground. One of the madwomen pulls out his toenails with pincers.
After a moment)
General: Well. You surpass yourself. How I love to hear you sing. It’s this song that will survive your utopian tribulations. (With a strong Spanish accent) Hiroshima was nothing. (In his normal voice, to the madwomen) Go ahead, my sweets, my vestals. Harder! I want to hear more of that pure music that even Wagner could not match.
(The women continue the torture.
General: Ah! It’s like that. This man wants to cheat. He wants to deprive me of my daily quota of pleasure. (to the madwomen) The third degree!
(The women proceed. They tie Victor to a flat bench and administer electric shocks.)
General: Yes, yes, yes. Give it to him everywhere: nipples, mouth, penis, anus, eyelids. Don’t leave a single inch where skin or organs can breathe. I want to hear that music again, my nursery song, my lullaby, my divine symphony. I want pleasure, pleasure to die for. (Tearfully) Come on, little Victor, make and effort. Give me some music. I need it. Do you want to make me crazy or what?
General: No, no, enough. I’m sick, sick, sick. Stuff a rag in his mouth. Yes, like that. (with a Spanish accent) Hiroshima was nothing. (In his own voice.) You! Bring a block and axe. Yes, that’s it. Take his right hand. Cut off his fingers!
(The madwomen do it. The axe comes down on Victor’s fingers. Victor spits out the rag and screams.)
General: Yes, yes. Marvelous! It’s coming. Continue, my little Victor, more.
General: No, no, stop. Stop that! The other hand. Cut the fingers off the other hand.
(The madwomen do it. The axe comes down on Victor’s fingers.)
General: Wonder of wonders! Go to it, my sweets, my celestial bitches. The highest, the high C.
(The madwomen do more. Relief.)
General: Sublime. Alleluia. Go ahead, sister, tear out his soul. I want to watch.
(The madwomen do so.)
General: You have it? What’s it like? What color?
Madwoman 1: We can’t catch it, sir. It slides like a fish in water.
Madwoman 2: It’s sometimes red, sometimes black, sometimes rainbow-colored.
Madwoman 3: It spreads and rolls like quicksilver.
General: Catch it, you three. Circle around. I want it. I have to have it. Quick, quick!
(The women catch it.
General: No, no, have mercy. You don’t know the pain you cause me. My hands, armed vipers against my heart. Their wings blind me. This well is bottomless. The night rumbles in the middle of the ocean in flames. I did nothing, mama. I washed my hands well. I scrubbed them until they bled. I won’t hit my little brother again. The army awakens. The tanks will crush the anthill that swarms around my toast. My shroud is too tight. I curl up in the fetal position. My gun, where’s my gun? I must tickle the sides of the gravedigger. Victor! What victor? Who are they, all these victors? Fire! Fire! Fire!
(the light dims. Victor sings. In the darkness, shots are heard. Victor stops singing. Blackness. In the darkness, voices of whispering women.)
—Beware, war to oblivion.
—In us is the evil, the evil is in us. In us is the evil, the evil is in us. In us is the evil, the evil is in us.
—Beware, war to oblivion.
(Entrance of the blind poet with his cane. Robed in a long cape, black glasses. Whispering voices of men and women off stage.)
Voice 1: Who’s there?
Voice 2: It’s the bard, the prophet, the wandering poet.
Voice 3: Where’d he come from?
Voice 2: From the wings, by God.
Voice 1: Poets still exist, do they?
Voice 2: He’s one of the last survivors of the species.
Voice 3: What does he live on?
Voice 2: Love and water.
Voice 1: Cut it out.
(The voices question the poet facetiously.)
Voice 1: Little Poet!
Voice 2: Po-ette
Voice 3: Po—ette—ohz
Voice 1: Pou – ette, pou – ette
Voice 2: Potatoes!
Voice 3: Hey, po-po! The password.
Poet: In the beginning was the Night.
Voice 1: Verify.
Voice 2: That’s it.
Poet: The primordial night
Then the secondary night
Then the tertiary night
Then the quaternary night
The sun has never shone on this world
Ah, the beautiful illusions of seers
When they conceived the succession
of day and night
Of spring and summer
And when they projected on the heavens
An innumerable constellation of utopias
Voice 1: That’s seriously demoralizing.
Voice 2: We have to shut him up.
Voice 3: No, let him dig himself a little deeper.
Poet: It was the waltz of the gods
Mythologies followed and reassembled
But no flood came at the end of the planet
Night devoured the Universe
Its compassionless jaws
For the cries of the son of woman
And its belly stuffed with all the animals
Of the cyclic holocaust
That it gave birth unreasonably
To the irrationality of the word.
Voice 1: Full of hot air, the idiot.
Voice 2: Let him keep going. He’ll end up like a despairing scorpion.
Poet: So, I lost my sight
To open my eyes
Since then, I’ve never known fear
Death became a tame panther
Lying at my feet.
I eviscerate the cocoon of Night
And in my hand
I felt burning the emerald of eternity
A voice spoke to me.
“Take the emerald,” it said,
Put it under your tongue
I did so
Then the tempest spoke
From the entrails of the new oceans
Escaping from the forest, woodland harps
The warbling of children-birds-gazelles-waves
I felt rising on my extinguished face
A warm glimmer of amber and myrrh
This inward light came from hope
And my fingers spouted
Like streams of rushing water.
Voice 1: He’s going to break the meter if he goes on like that.
Voice 2: We have to stop him.
Voice 3: Let’s do it.
Poet: Then, I cried out.
Voice 1: cui, cui, cui.
Voice 2: Croa, croa, croa.
Poet (raising his voice): In the deserts of hearts
Voice 3: Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
Voice 1: (imitating the wind) —fhou, fhou, fhou!
Poet: But no echo in the lead shroud of hears
Voice 2: (echoing) of h-e-a-r-t-s, of h-e-a-r-t-s
Voice 3 (echoing): s-h-r-o-u-d, s-h-r-o-u-d
Poet (irritated, heads for the wings) A curse on you! A curse on you!
Voice 1: What should we do? Should we let him leave?
Voice 2: Oh, yes. He won’t go far.
Poet (from the wings while the lights dim): I said
My incredulous brothers
Let the flood be with you!
(The three sycophants enter.)
Sycophant 1: After this voluntarily ambiguous homage to poetry, we’re going to return
Sycophant 2: whatever the chronology
Sycophant 1: to the story of terrible mutilation
Sycophant 3: We’ll show it in several quick flashes, like cartoons, short or long.
Sycophant 1: It depends on how much time we have
Sycophant 2: on the whim of the moment, on the seriousness of the subject
Sycophant 3: and on your visionary spirit of collaboration.
Sycophant 1: You’ll see everything, there, on your left.
Sycophant 2: And we’ll stay here, in the shadows.
Sycophant 3: To punctuate, explicate, and to boo or contradict, as you wish.
Sycophant 1 (clapping his hands): Begin!
(The stage is lit on the left. Two Neanderthal women and two Neanderthal men are crouched around an evening fire. Game cooks on a spit over the fire.)
Sycophant 1 (from the shadows): For those who lack imagination, let us explain that a good fire crackles in the midst of this noble assembly, and, above the fire, game is cooking.
Neanderthal Man 1 (grunting): …m…m…m…m…
Neanderthal Woman 1 (grunting): m…me…
Neanderthal Man 2 (grunting more precisely): m…..m…..mi…
Neanderthal Woman 2: mi…mi….mi-n-e
Neanderthal Man 1: mine!
Neanderthal Man 2: mine!
All four: mine!
(A brawl ensues. Blows. Shouts. The two women and Neanderthal Man 1 fall out of the fight. Neanderthal Man 2 grabs the game on the spit. He dances and shouts in triumph.)
Neanderthal Man 2: Mine! Mine!
(Set goes dark on the left.)
Sycophant 1: And so ends the prehistoric paradise on earth.
Sycophant 2: The convivial society of early man.
Sycophant 3: It’s over! Private property is born!
Sycophant 1: Let’s follow them. Lights!
(Lights go up, stage left. A Neanderthal Woman sits with a baby in her arms. Three Neanderthal Men surround her.)
Neanderthal Man 1 (drawing near the baby): guili, guili, guili!
Neanderthal Man 2 (brutally pushes first man away): guili, guili, guili!
Neanderthal Man 3 (shoving aside the second man): guili, guili, guili!
(The Neanderthal Woman jostles the three men and tries to move away while rocking the baby, murmuring “guili, guili, guili.” The three men fight each other, still following the woman. Neanderthal Man 1 knocks the other two down. He approaches the woman and tries to talk to the baby. The woman pushes him away. The man and woman fight. Finally the man wins, snatching the baby, baby-talking to the baby. Then he puts the baby on the woman’s back, puts a rope around her neck, and pulls her off the stage.)
Sycophant 1: This is called the great subjugation of women.
Sycophant 2: The brute power of men is established for good.
Sycophant 3: Half of the vault of heaven collapsed.
Sycophant 1: Say then, Marx must be rolling in his grave.
Sycophant 2: No, he’s smiling.
Sycophant 3: I knew it. He was a jackalist, that guy.
Sycophant 1: Let’s keep going. From prehistory to history. Lights!
(Stage left lights up. The tyrant sits on his throne. Two slaves fan him. On his right, the executioner. On his left, a clown.)
Tyrant: Bring them in!
(A convoy of female slaves is presented to him.)
Slave Dealer: My lord, these are the most beautiful slaves, brought at great expense from Circassia, Barbaria, and from tropical countries and lands of eternal ice.
Tyrant: Hum, hum…..
Slave Dealer: Pure jewels, my lord, selected from many thousands.
Tyrant: We’ll see. Have that one turn around. (He points to one of the slaves. She turns her back and shows her derriere suggestively to the Tyrant.)
Tyrant: Too skinny. Let’s see that one. How old is she?
Slave Dealer (opening the mouth of another slave and showing her teeth, as one would a horse): As you can verify, my lord, she’s barely fifteen.
Tyrant: Too old. You want to bury me or what, you dog. Outside with your shoddy wares. (Signaling the Executioner) You know what to do. (The Executioner grabs the Slave Dealer and pushes him off the stage. The slaves follow. The Clown whispers something in the Tyrant’s ear. The Tyrant guffaws and shouts.)
(The Magician enters, followed by the Executioner, who is putting his bloody sword back in its sheath.)
Tyrant: Magician, you who know how to unravel all enigmas, even those of enemy sphinxes, I’m going to ask you today a very simple question. Even a child could answer it. (The Tyrant holds out his closed fists.) I hold in one hand my magic ring. Think and tell me where it is. Here or here?
Magician: My lord, I dare to guess it’s there (pointing to the right hand).
Tyrant: (bursting with laughter and opening his right hand) Wrong! And he calls himself a magician. Who can we trust with our most serious business?
Magician: My lord, may I ask you to open your other hand? It’s the rule of the game.
Tyrant: What? What? You doubt my word, dog! That’s intolerable! Executioner! You know what to do.
(The Executioner grabs the magician and drags him off. The Tyrant and the Clown laugh gleefully.)
Tyrant (calls out): Astrologer!
(The Astrologer enters, followed by the Executioner who is putting his bloody sword back in the sheath.)
Tyrant: Astrologer! I’ve just discovered that the Magician had betrayed me. So, pay attention. (Holding out his closed fists.) My magic ring is hidden in one of my hands. Tell me right now which one.
Astrologer: My lord, this is not to say that you got up on the wrong side of the bed today, but I dare to guess it’s this one (indicating the left hand.)
Tyrant (bursting out laughing and opening his left hand): Wrong! False Astrologer! Fraud! Traitor! Executioner! You know what to do.
(The Executioner grabs the Astrologer and starts to drag him off.)
Astrologer (protesting): But my lord, I see that the magic ring shines like a full moon on the middle finger of your noble left hand. I was not far from the truth.
(The Executioner gags the Astrologer and pushes him off the stage. The Tyrant and the Clown burst out laughing. The Clown whispers something in the Tyrant’s ear. The Tyrant pushes him away.)
Tyrant: Enough, you scamp. We’re just at the beginning of the head-harvesting season. Let’s go. It’s time for me to visit the prisons.
(Black on the left side of the stage.)
Sycophant 1: History moves forward.
Sycophant 2: It’s not yet a bulldozer.
Sycophant 1: But it does a lot of harm, in a funny way.
Sycophant 2: But all the panoply of the crossroads is already there.
Sycophant 1: The rest is just splitting hairs
Sycophant 3: Wait a minute! You call “splitting hairs” the genocides, enslavements of peoples, holocausts, and there, under our eyes, ordinary despair, the shipwreck of utopias, absolute exile. We’ve barely begun.
(A drum is heard, getting louder.)
Sycophant 1: Enough talk.
Voice 1: Are we going to replay that scene?
Voice 2: No. We’d have to show too much.
(Entrance of the Public Crier followed by male and female players. The High Priestess, holding a lion tamer’s whip, directs them.)
Public Crier (beating a drum): Let’s start again! [Compose yourselves!]
Male player: My dear voyeurs
Female players: My dear voyeuses
Public Crier: We break in a woman rocking a baby. And now, action! Imminent baptism!
Male player: The hour of the jackal approaches.
Female player: Unbelievers, abstain.
Male player: Likewise, sensitive souls, Sunday painters
Female player: Those who are constipated, paternalists of all kinds
Public Crier: Let those who would like to participate know the rules.
Male Player (as if outlining): Capital A: Anything that happens is undertaken at your own risk.
Female Player: There will be no complaints, exchanges, or reimbursements.
Male Player: Capital B: The candidates must meet the following conditions:
Female Player: One: you may not have a clean police record.
Male Player: Two: you must never have killed a fly.
Female Player: Three: you must have experienced, at least once in your life, a grand passion.
Male Player: We mean a really great romance.
Female Player: Not a weekday affair, based on the need for some dirty habit or sexual gratification.
Male Player: But a mad love that turns your heart and guts inside out as if you were parachuting out of a plane at 30,000 feet for the first time.
Female Player: A love that kills your appetite and restores your ability to experience delirium.
Male Player: Four: You must never, even as a small child, have thrown rocks at sacred prostitutes, the simple minded, or migrating storks.
Female Player: And five, because five is a cabalistic number: you must never have turned the left cheek, or the right cheek, either cheek, in fact!
Public Crier: And now, those of you who meet the requirements, come on stage. Imminent baptism!
Male player: Of your soul and your conscience, take the measure, judge, make the leap.
Female Player: Yes, yes. Let yourself slide on the guy wire. Go ahead!
Male Player: Courage! If I can express myself thus.
Female Candidate 1 (coming from the audience): I’m coming.
Female Player: Bravo, madam. Thanks for taking the initiative. That will teach the men.
Male Candidate 1: Here I am, here I am!
Male Player: Bravo, sir, for picking up the women’s gauntlet.
Female Candidate 2: I’m coming, too.
Female Player: Bravo, madam, for riposting quickly.
Male Player: Okay, men, let’s make another couple. Let’s balance things out!
Male Candidate 2: I’m your man.
Male Player: Great—it’s done. Bravo, my friend, God will reward you.
(The candidates are all on the stage. They are dressed in jeans or slacks and long sleeved shirts or blouses.)
Public Crier: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. No one else? No one? Going, going, gone!
High Priestess (cracking her whip and addressing the candidates): Take off your shoes and socks and line up there! (addressing the players) Let’s get started. First, search them.
(The two players begin the search of the candidates, which is quickly completed.)
High Priestess: Vestimentary disorder!
(The players tear with quick slashes the left leg and right sleeve of each candidate’s clothes.)
High Priestess: Ritual tattoos.
(The Public Crier brings in a container of paint. The players mark the cheeks and foreheads of the candidates with tattoos.)
High Priestess (cracking the whip): Hop! In a little cluster. Players, show them!
(The players, followed by the candidates, circle the set in a cluster. The High Priestess directs them.)
High Priestess: Relax. Inhale deeply. Exhale. Expel, erase your black thoughts. Tune in to the beating of your heart. Feel your organs. Oil your muscles with your own sap. That’s it, that’s it. Stop! Don’t shrink. Rest! Rest! Now then, let’s begin at the beginning. Let’s start walking again. Yes, just walk. See how you should not walk. (She signals the players, who demonstrate different ways of walking, stilted or fatalistic, eyes on the heavens or fixed on the ground.) Candidates, decondition yourselves. Shake off your robot epidermis, walk from the interior to the exterior of your bodies, show us, while walking, the circulation of your blood. Join with the ground you step on, the air that your limbs displace. And above all, look straight into the eyes of passers-by. Greet and bless everyone you meet. Smile in answer to the slightest smile you see.
(The candidates attempt to follow her instructions.)
High Priestess: That’s not bad for a start! Hold hands and assume the walk and make the sounds of the animal of your choice. Believe me. It’s healthful. Put yourself in the skins and voices of our silent brothers. Recover the beginnings of the world. Forget your biped curse.
(The candidates do so. One imitates the silent walk of a spider. Another imitates a dog. Another a cat. The last a rooster.)
High Priestess: Okay, breathe, breathe. Sit down. But learn how to sit: feet under the buttocks, knees on the ground as much as possible. There. Let’s continue with some games stupidly abandoned by adults. Stick out your tongue and try to touch the end of your nose. Try. Don’t be discouraged. It takes practice. Another exercise: Try to rub your tummy with one hand and pat your head with the other. Like this!
(The candidates can’t do it. General laughter.)
High Priestess: Try again. Yes, yes, good. But you laugh badly, very badly. Recover your laugh, your real laugh when you don’t have to worry about the disapproval of the audience and the rules of appropriate laughter. Let it spill out of your throat. Let it loose. Really laugh, so much that the artificial dome might blow open.
(Candidates and players laugh.)
High Priestess: Now, lie down on your backs. Relax, exhale deeply. Laughter brings tears. Dialectic, they call it. So, regain your ability to cry, find your tears. It’s enough to cry in hiding or in solitary hysteria. Find the original tears of the nursing baby agitated by artificial lights and the noise of adults ignoring his presence. Cry and wail as if your body were nothing but lungs and vocal chords. Expel your black blood with the mucus of silencing death.
(The candidates cry: chorus of babies crying.)
Public Crier (bringing on the Jackal’s Head and giving it to the High Priestess): Enough! Sit down! Now the High Priestess will anoint you with the precious saliva.
Female Player: This is a serious moment.
Male Player: The thread is invisible which will mark henceforth for you before and after.
Female player: You will leave the realm of the living dead.
Male Player: Hell filled with armed corpses.
Female Player: The tumor of Absolute Truth will burst like a boil in your head.
Male Player: Likewise the gene that causes all intolerance.
(The High Priestess moves forward and anoints each candidate with the precious saliva.)
High Priestess: Touf, touf, touf! Anoint your face, limbs, belly, sex.
(The candidates, ecstatic, pass their hands over their bodies.)
High Priestess: Touf, touf, touf! Evil, be gone! Pride, mistrust, be gone! Deafness, aphasia, blindness, be gone! Let all narrowness be gone—from hips, hearts, and minds. Fear of being yourselves, be gone. Let the selfishness you feel when you make an offering be gone. Let the demon of hate that governs men and things be gone.
I place in you the balm of tears, blessed worry.
I place in you the seeds of astonishment and wonder.
I restore to you the blessings belonging to mankind which have long been taken away to heaven.
I restore to you your miraculous identity.
Touf, touf, touf. (She taps the candidates with the jackal’s head) And now, rise and spread transparency around you. Spread the joy!
(The candidates rise. Trancelike music.)
Public Crier: Joy on earth! Joy to mankind! Communion!
(All dance, High Priestess in the middle. Cries of joy. The music gets faster. The actors are in a trance. Abruptly, the lights go off and on quickly, as in a bombardment.
Communiqué from the World Government in a voice off-stage. The actors freeze during the reading of the announcement. They must appear to hear nothing.)
Voice (nasal and robotic): From the World Government to the so-called Organization of the Poetic Jackalist Jihad. We have studied your ridiculous conditions. We refuse absolutely to negotiate. You have fifteen minutes to turn yourselves in. When the time is up, we have ordered the end of your circus. Enough jackalizing! Give yourselves up! Give yourselves up!
(The music and dancing start up, as before.)
High Priestess (addressing the players): Okay! Set up the circle. Put the celebrants inside it. Let the festival be that of bodies cured and incurable, organic harps, imbroglios of musky sweat under the arms, nectar for the tongue, shouts, great shouts rising from the soles of the feet to explode in the brain. Set up the circle. Rejoin the Night of Original Sin. Set up the circle of infinity.
Players: Night of Sin! Night of Sin!
(They set up a circle with stakes and ropes. Everyone gets inside the circle. The lights dim perceptibly. The people pair off. In the near darkness, caresses, sighs, panting, orgasmic cries. Ever-increasing sounds of lovemaking, while the High Priestess declaims.)
High Priestess: Love
Harvest-feast of the drunken sun
Desire of the river for the high seas in spasms
the redemptive flood
Rebels against the word of Genesis consigned
Living by you
The most distant life inhabits us and
We inhabit it
We are the human face
Of a fragile god
Dragged in a mire of dogma
O desire of desire
Take your blessed liberties
And let no siren song
Stop your periple of wandering
(During the scene, projection on a screen of images of fields of ripened wheat, fruit trees, showers watering the earth, people plowing.
The lights blink strongly. Second announcement from the World Government.)
Voice off-stage: Only five minutes left! Turn yourselves in! Turn yourselves in!
(The music starts up, a little quieter. Languorous dance of the actors.)
Female Candidate 1: Our bodies united in the trance
Male Candidate 1: Our eyes unbound to eat and drink
Female Candidate 2: Linking of our hands to give and receive
Male Candidate 2: Abolition of walls
Female Candidate 1: I’m talking. I’m talking! At last my voice has come out of its cocoon. It lights up. I have conquered my internal death. In me is a butterfly that expresses the rights of life.
Male Candidate 1: I can see. I have recovered my sight. We’re not alone here in the universe. Innumerable eyes see through my eyes and make me see.
Dance of ancient walls
All comes alive and sings
Through hands and smiles
I leave in you all
Female Candidate 2: Scents return to me
from hidden forests
The name of these transports
Dilates in me the secret juice
It doesn’t matter
Male Candidate 2: I also can hear
Hear the fracas
Of the tower of Babel
The plural song sounding the alarm of exile
Oh, yes, and I can talk, see,
Hear, and touch this music
Inscribed on the umbilical cord that
Creates the link for our romps of the
Earthly madness of love
Female Player: and hope, let’s not forget hope.
Male Player: Pay attention.
Female player: War to oblivion.
Male Player: Long life to you, beautiful utopia that sustains us.
Female Player: Worthy
Male Player: Even in the deepest pits of ignominious waves
Female Player: When the heaven of ideas grows dark
Male Player. When tyrants dance in the furrows of the tears (rips)
Female Player: And let nothing move in the no man’s land of mortal order.
Male Player: You alone, beautiful utopia, you continue to stir your small miraculous flames under the tons of ashes and the verdigris boots of despair.
Female Player: You alone remind us, now and always, that our mutant roots germinate and swell, somewhere in the carnal ooze of the future.
(The music becomes more lively, as does the dance.
Abruptly, Female Candidate 1 is overcome by manic laughter. She contorts, falls to her knees, and continues to dance, rolling her head and tossing her hair from front to back. Then she rolls on the ground. The players and Public Crier encourage her with wild shouts.)
—Ha ha hahahahahaha!
(Male Candidate 1 is seized in turn by manic laughter. He joins Female Candidate 1 in her trance-like dance. Same scenario for Female Candidate 2 and Male Candidate 2. Wild shouts from the layers and Public Crier.)
—Ha ha hahahahahaha!
(Dance. The lights flash furiously.)
Voice off-stage: Attack formation. Attack!
(A volley of fire explodes; gas bombs are set off. The actors are cut down one after another.)
Public Crier (before falling): Beware
Female Player: War
Male Player: to oblivion
Female Candidate 1: Beware
Male Candidate 1: War
Female Candidate 2: to oblivion
Male Candidate 2: Future
(The High Priestess is hit. She has taken up the scepter in the shape of a phallus with a jackal’s head. At the back of the stage, she declaims.)
High Priestess: And if the earth did not exist
The harlequin costume of evil
The sad scales of justice sowing impeccable order in cemeteries
The litany of the executioner wasting the weakened eyes of dawn
The fears of mankind fighting against the insomnia of it beautiful death
The spiral of Time deaf to the voices of prophets
The books scourged publicly like a pogrom of blood
HIROSHIMA AMONG US
Oh, to dream of another world
Of baby unicorns
Roses in the snow
Clusters of stars
Not forbidden to
The feet of shore birds
Refreshing with vigor
The ewes of high pastures
NAGASAKI will be there
The rainbow tent of a nomad
Like a banner
At the forks of rivers
Where obelisks with crowns
With a list of martyrs
Sweeping away in its march
The rusted weapons
Of the world’s predators
(A volley of gunfire shakes the High Priestess.)
High Priestess: End of holocausts
Earth surrendered to celebration
I die for this
Word of a woman [word of honor]
(She faints. Animal cries, as in scene 1. Siren. Volley of shots, gusts of wind. Tamtams and crotales that cover the animal cries.
Calming slowly while the jackal’s yelp is heard above the other sounds. The Blind Poet enters. In the middle of the stage, he takes off his glasses, throws away his cane. He claps his hands.)
Blind Poet: So! Let’s get this morbid ending over with! Stand up, everyone! Stand up for the sharing dance.
(The acrobats enter, one after another. They do some circus tricks. The other actors rise, as does the High Priestess. Laughter and congratulations.
The dance starts up again. Everyone participates. The spectators are invited to join in.
This “barbarian” invasion into the theater.
I’ve been wanting to do this for years. For many years, the theatre has been for me like a frustrated young love.
In 1964 I founded with a few other people in Rabat the Moroccan University Theater. We performed plays by Arrabal and Brecht—a daring enterprise for the time which had already run up against censure. It lasted only one ardent season.
Since then, I have written novels and especially poetry. I say especially poetry because poetry is my first essential calling, the native energy that drove my writing, that which made me take professional risks, even those which are not directly related to literature.
But poetry as I practice it is far from something conceived for the eye and the solitary meditation of the reader. It’s connected to the archetypal poetry that is part of every time, every place, every cultural milieu in knowing its oral origins. Poetry, in this sense, is the spoken word. It cannot be communicated expect in an open forum. It gathers and represents the memory and deeds of a community, of which the poet is the undisputed repository and defender. The rehabilitation of this function of poetry did not result for me from a theoretical choice. It was imposed by the fact of my organic relationship with writing. Because, speaking of poetry, can one establish a direct rapport with thought? Is not one written by the poem as much as one writes the poem? What spills from the fingers, the cover of the vital flow that spreads from the conscious and unconscious overflow, isn’t it in large part formed in us before we release it?
Thus poetry is not for me an invertebrate product from the gray sketches of thought. It’s a carnal voice, maturing over a long journey in the labyrinth of the body, beating to the rhythm of organs in the confines of the world and the memory of the human race.
Talking out loud is an act of sharing, both of the conception and the vision. It’s a communion in the sovereign act, defiance of death, liberator of life that gives life a reason for being. In this sense, poetry is the Siamese twin of theater. Both proceed from the same magic, letting us see and hear the same vibrant body from whose diaphragm issues the high Cs.
Le baptême chacaliste
This play was written without any contemporary theatrical culture [in Morocco]. But should we regret not being part of a chain of history? The fact of operating with a clean slate or of investigating outside a circle of established conventions, doesn’t that give us some kind of free pass? It seems to me that, in the domain of literary creation (as in so many others), the idea of a line of continuous or ascending evolution is an aberration. If this creation is transformed, renews itself, it’s because the lines of force appear where one least expects them and they come to jostle the inherited forms.
I can also apply this analysis to my own career as a writer. I was the first to be surprised by this text. What I know is that I was carrying it inside for a long time, like the need for Gargantuan derision, like the desire to finally set myself on fire, like a fascination with the unsolvable contradictions which are the last resort of the human soul, the strange cohabitation in us of destructive impulses participating from the principle of death to the mad impulse growing from the realization of life and the human.
The text must also move across cultures without stopping in one place or time. To go therefore outside the signed and dated culture to reconnect what inspires mankind in its many manifestations: seizing them with the upheavals of human beings, given an infinite body and memory, and this capacity to carry far the instinct for life like the never-failing source of utopia.
Utopia, this key word, torn here from the contingencies of politics to become a just wager, placed against inquisitions and holocausts. Utopia, our only message from landowners.
Jackal, jackalism. The totemic significance of these words doesn’t matter. One could of course explain that in Morocco the jackal is an outcast predator and that when my poet friends and I used these expressions in the 60s at the time when we were publishing Souffles, it was for us a little in the manner of the surrealists, secret and distinctive words of the process or revolt, of the voluntary secrecy and the perversion with which we operated in the literary field of the times.
About the mise en scène
Just a few words.
How to accomplish the “lyricism,” permanent ambiguity, and carnival atmosphere of this text? It seems to me that the nearest way to fulfill my intentions and fantasies is to give body, voice, and movement to the madness that pervades the text. On this tightrope, to stand aloof at all costs from the first degree of speech situations. Make the visions real in their exaggeration without removing their meaning and structure. To sufficiently sustain the rhythm so that the spectator cannot for a moment distinguish between illusion and reality.
Avoid parsimony: Nine to 12 actors at a minimum, well prepared for their roles by preliminary discussions. The stage is bare, but what is on it cannot be. Serious research in the matter of music, with a truly original score. Dance and trance scenes must be minutely choreographed and performed. The use of projections is desirable.
While the stage directions are meant to be followed, they may need modification according to the performance space.
“Barbarian” theater? Why not?