A DWARF ON THE COTHURNS
This is a drama with music and songs in a reversed-time dimension : the events move from the present into the past, the hands of the clock move counterclockwise: we are watching a life story that proceeds from the end to the beginning, from death to birth.
Note: A Dwarf on the Cothurns has not yet been staged. It is available for production.
A brilliant actor who died much too early is given a stately funeral. The people gathered at the funeral: his sister, his girlfriend (ghost), his colleagues. The speeches held (pantomime, songs).
THE ACTOR is lying on his bed, seriously ill. He gets up and plays his favourite scene from Pelleas and Melisande in front of the mirror. From the depths of the mirror a strange LADY IN BLACK (Death) rises to meet him.
THE ACTOR is getting better. His sister brings him a basketful of apples fresh from the garden that are covered with dewy drops. (Songs. Joking. Reminiscences about his childhood, parents and friends. We get to know his girlfriend for whose death he is indirectly to blame.)
THE ACTOR arrives at his home town, a small provincial town. It is spring, the birds chirp cheerfully and distant church bells chime. He is filled with renewed hope, but when he absent-mindedly touches his neck around which a scarf is wrapped, the smile leaves his face: he is hopelessly ill.
A travelling bag in his hand, the ACTOR walks from the railway station towards his home town. On his way he drops in at a church. A spontaneous dialogue develops, based on mutual understanding, between him and the CHURCHWARDEN, the father of his dead girlfriend.
One step backwards: the railway station. THE ACTOR is returning to his hometown. The orchestra is playing loudly, a huge crowd has gathered on the platform and children with flowers run to meet him. The ACTOR, who is moved to tears, stretches out his hands…
But the children run past him to another carriage. Somebody shouts:
“The General has arrived!”
The ACTOR has enough self-irony to laugh at himself; this is interrupted by a fit of cough: THE ACTOR feels that this is the terminus, the end: from here the path to fame and theatre will lead through death and grave.
The wheel of time is turned backwards again.
THE ACTOR is the leading actor in the national theatre of a large city. He is at the height of his fame…
And suddenly he falls ill. He has contracted TB of the throat (dust and stress). The grey-haired USHER in the theatre lobby is reading a newspaper, a magnifying glass in his hand, and notices an announcement which says that the ACTOR is coming back. “Thank God, he's well and coming back!”.
The ACTOR enters in silence; he has a travelling bag, he is gaunt and weary. From the dialogue that follows we get to know that the ACTOR is not allowed to go to the stage and act as it is dangerous to his health. From one of the rehearsal rooms above music and singing are heard, and throwing his coat and bag to the USHER, the ACTOR
Dashes into the rehearsal room.
“What's the sense of living… without the theatre”, the USHER shrugs his shoulders.
Prior to these events… THE ACTOR is at his prime, he is gifted, strong and healthy. He is loved by his colleagues and by his audiences. He wants to bring innovative theatre to the audiences and rebels against the tyrannical theatre director. THE ACTOR has a secret love, a frail girl in the audience. After his favourite stage personage THE ACTOR calls her – MELISANDE. However, Fate joins their paths in death.
At one point when the ACTOR is playing in Moliere's The Miser
A LADY IN BLACK appears on the stage and plays the role of an infatuated girl. They kiss passionately, and the ACTOR has to admit that death has its attraction.
The wheel of time is turned back again. An imaginary scene “Christmas Eve with Melisande” (the Actor and his Melisande have never met and are never going to meet). This is his fantasy lover: sitting by the Christmas tree, the ACTOR is writing a letter in response to the girl's letter. MELISANDE, a pretty girl with a pale complexion, has been in hospital for a long time. She takes her seat opposite the ACTOR and gets down to writing her letter. They converse via letters. The last words in MELISANDE'S letter are: “I've just had my second heart operation.”
Lifting his head slowly from his writing THE ACTOR realises that MELISANDE has passed away.
The wheel of time is turned back.
On one fateful, damp and windy November night the ACTOR decides to take the bouquets of flowers he got at the first night to the cemetery to pay homage his fellow actors. At the gateway to the cemetery he meets a woman who sells wreaths, actually THE LADY IN BLACK. He wants to buy four memorial wreaths for the dead actors.
“Why not buy five?” the woman says hoarsely.
“Five? Why five?” asks the ACTOR.
“One for yourself,” is the answer.
The wheel of time is turned back again, to the beginning of our story:
A small provincial town as in Part I. The interior of a SMALL STREET CAFÉ. It is early in the morning and the café is empty ( except THE LADY IN BLACK, who is sitting in one remote corner and blowing smoke rings, indifferently). Suddenly the bell tinkles and a boy and a girl enter the café very shyly. It soon becomes clear that they are newly-weds. The girl has a bunch under the shawl, this is the BABY. The waitress comes and they order tea and speak lovingly of the BABY.
MOTHER: What do you want him to become?
FATHER: A carpenter like me.
MOTHER (somewhat abruptly): What if he doesn't?
FATHER: Let him …
The young MOTHER puts her finger to his lips and looks in sudden fear towards the LADY IN BLACK.
THE CURTAIN falls and during the final song the crying of the hungry BABY is heard.