LOOKING FOR BECKETT’S TREE
Loud mechanical clanking contemporary music noises.
Sound of off-stage coughing.
A country road.
Mwangi stands, hands on hips, waiting.
Mugo, limping and coughing, eventually enters. He stops, hands on his knees,
has a coughing fit.
Mwangi waits till Mugo’s coughing fit subsides.
Mwangi: We’ll never get anywhere at this rate. What kept you?
Mugo: I was thinking. ( Gogo snorts)
Mwangi: Thinking! I got tired of that particular activity ages ago. Cogito ergo sum. What a load of nonsense. When did thinking ever get anyone any where? So, what was his majesty contemplating?
Mugo: I was writing a play. In my head.
G: You’ve become a writer in your spare time, eh ? Not a very successful one by the looks of you.
D: I was going to call it ‘Stanley’s Tree’.
G: Wait a minute. Didn’t we go to see a play once?
D: What play? Where? When? Who with?
G: Whom. With whom. We’ve only ever seen one play. The one we went to in Paris. In our blue period that would be. It was called….called…..
D: Waiting for Somebodyorother.
G: Well done! Yes, that was it. Waiting for Somebodyorother. Did you like it?
D: Mmmm. Did I like it? Let me see. Did I like it? Mmmm.
G: I didn’t. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me. Like life itself. (They laugh uproasriously)
D: (shaking his head) Like life itself. Cogito ergo sum. ( They laugh even more uproasriously)
G: Exactly. Dum spiro spero, as they say
(Sudden darkness. The loud clanking noises begin again.
Sudden light and the noises stop. A tree has appeared. )
D: Ah. There you are. At last.
D: . There it is. What we’ve been looking for.
(G looks around)
G: There what is?
D (pointing): The tree. The tree.The tree.
D: The tree. Are you blind? There it is at last.
(They examine it, walk round it)
G: It’s a tree all right. But is it the tree?
D: Yes, it’s the tree all right.
G: How do you know?
D: How do I know what?
G: That it’s the tree.
D: Look at it.
(Gogo looks at it)
G: Well what?
D: Does its shape not signify something? (He imitates the shape of the tree )
G: Oh yes. Mmm. I see what you mean. (He imitates Didi’s imitation) Umbrelliferous
D: I beg your pardon?
G: The tree. Umbrelliferous. Umbrella shaped.
D: I suppose so.
G: You don’t sound very convinced.
D(angry): Why have I always got to be convinced about everything? It’s a tree. I’m convinced it’s a tree. But all trees…. (he adopts Didi’s tree imitation) ….more or less….droop. So is this the tree? Just because it…..droops.
G: There you go again, letting yourself get ….how shall I put it….up set….. down cast….. Over what? A mere trifle. A bagatelle. Do you see what I’m driving at?
D: You’re driving me crazy. All that thinking. All these questions. I’m no Epstein.
D: All right, all right, all right. It’s just a tree. Like you’re just a man.
G: A human.
D: A man.
G: A creature.
D: A man.
G: A being
D: A – ( He clamps his hands to his ears, bends over, groans . Takes his hands away) What was that? Didn’t you hear it?
(They stand and listen. G shakes his head)
G: Tinnitus. Remember when you accused me of snoring?
D: I beg your pardon.
G: Tinnitus. You’ve got tinnitus. That noise you hear. It’s all in your ear. Like my snoring. It’s not in my nose. It’s in your ear. Tinnitus. Caused by long exposure to loud sounds. Causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea.
D: The what?
G: The cochlea. A spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear.
D: And who gets this tinny tuss?
G: Oh carpenters. Pilots. Rock musicians. Street-repair workers. Landscapers. Not playwrights usually though. For the most part people who work with chain saws, guns or other loud devices. Not to mention those who repeatedly listen to loud music. Are you with me so far? ( D puts his hands over his ears, groans. G speaks more loudly) Of course a variety of other conditions can lead to tinnitus, including blockages of the ear due to a build up of wax or rarely a benign tumour of the auditory nerve. Am I boring you with all this medical stuff?
D: Go on. Go on. I’m all ears.
G: It’s hard to treat. Certain drugs can reduce its effect – most notably aspirin, several types of anribiotics, sedatives, and quinine medications.
D: I see. Mmmmmm. Yes. I’m beginning to –
G: Of course the natural ageing process itself can cause deterioration of the cochlea. How old did you say you were?
D: Are. Oh probably just about to enter my prime.
G: And then there’s Otosclerosis. It stiffens the small bones in the middle ear. And high blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes. Anaemia. An under-active thyroid gland. For reason not entirely – (A ruined cottage appears beside the tree )
D: Would you look at that? This is the place all right. We used to run across that field down to the river.
G: Why did you do that?
D: To get away from our father. He’d stand in the doorway waving his belt and shouting for us to come back. But we never did. ” Come back, ya cowardly wee buggers!” he used to shout, waving his big fists after us. ” Come back and get your just deserts!” But we never did.
G: It’s a bit of a mess. The house I mean.
D: Ah, you should have seen it in the old days. Spic and span. Very ticketyboo.
G: Ticketyboo….that’s –
D: – Our mother kept it spotless, always scrubbing and dusting and polishing she was. And enjoying every minute of it.
G: How do you know?
D: How do I know what?
G: That she enjoyed every minute of it.
D: Do you think she would have done all that all day every day if she didn’t enjoy it?
G: Any way that’s not the tree, is it?
D: We used to climb up that tree – of course it was much smaller then.
D: Because it was younger, we were younger, the world was younger.
G: No. Why did you climb the tree?
D: To hide. But you’re right. It isn’t the tree we’re looking for. Look!
G: I don’t remember anyone mentioning these stones. What are they anyway?
D: They’re Standing Stones.
G: I know that but what are they?
D: They mark the burial place of a very important man. These stones aren’t local. They were brought here all the way from Wales. Because he was such an important man. All the way from Wales they brought them. Up hill and down dale, Day after day. Week after week. Labor omnia vincit improbus. Haraka haraka haina baraka.
G: How did they do that? They must have weighed tons.
D: They didn’t have tons in those days.
G: Well whatever. Boogles. They must have weighed boogles. So how did they transport them here?
D: They rolled them. On logs. Oh it must have taken ages. And hundreds of men. But that’s how they did it. Some of the stones have carvings on them. Fish and things like that. But not these ones. Isn’t that curious?
G: Very interesting. I find all this most extraordinarily interesting. Ah! At last!
Light falls on the tree. A dull mechanical noise is heard. They both listen. The noise ceases as suddenly as it began)
G: This is it then.
D: Yes. This is it.
G: No leaves.
G: A bit of a disappointment all the same.
D: You think so?
G: No leaves. Small. No particular shape. A bit…undistinguished, wouldn’t you say?
D: I suppose you’re right.
G: I preferred the other one.
D: What other one?
(Gogo does the Didi tree imitation)
D: Oh that one. Yes. I must admit I rather liked that one. But this is the tree all right. We could quite easily have passed it by but we didn’t. We found what we were looking for. How many can say that, eh?
D: That they found what they were looking for.
D: Anyway we found it.
D: But we found it. That’s the main thing.
G: Voyager, c’est mieux qu’arriver.
G: Partir, c’est mourir un peu.
D: More or less. More or less.
D: So what?
G: So what do we do now, now that we’ve arrived?
D: I can take these boots off for a start.
G: Oh? Are they causing you some discomfort?
D: You haven’t noticed?
G: Noticed what?
D: That for the last mile I’ve been limping.
G: You’ve always limped.
D: But more so than usual. And now I’m going to sit down under this tree and set my poor old tortured feet free.
G: That’s a very poetic way of looking at it.
D: ‘ I wandered lonely as a cloud’….Miss McLaughlin made us learn that by heart. And there’s no way it can be unlearnt. It’s stuck in here. Forever and ever. World without end. I’ve always held that against her.
G: ‘ Quinquereme of Nineveh from distant Ophir…’
D: ‘ rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine….’
G: ‘Kings may be blest (joined here by D) but Tam was glorious!’…
D&G: ‘ o’er a the ills o life victorious’….
D: ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’…
G: ‘ But always at my back I hear
D: Time’s tumtitumti hurrying near’….
(They join arms and do a little dance)
D&G: Here we are again,
happy as can be,
all good friends and
jolly good company.
G: We can still sing and dance, is that not so, Didi?
D: Even when there’s nothing to sing about .
G: Especially when there’s nothing to sing about.
D: Or to dance about. We manage all right.
D: Manage what?
G : To make the best of a bad job. Did you hear that noise?
THEY PAUSE. THEY LISTEN. DIDI SITS DOWN.
G: So. What am I supposed to do while you’re taking your boots off?
D: Watch. Watch and listen.
( Gogo sits down. The lights dim except for the spotlight on the tree and the mechanical sound starts up again and becomes louder and louder and the tree slowly floats away above their heads followed by the cottage and then the stones)
G: Listen! (Blinding flash)
D: Look! ( Loud noise)
The noise slowly diminishes. Darkness/Light/Darkness/Light/Darkness/Light… into which they disappear, reappear, bow, disappear, reappear, bow, disappear, reappear, bow, disappear