LOOKING FOR BECKETT’S TREE
Darkness. Loud mechanical clanking noise. Then silence. Sound of coughing. Lights. A country road. Gogo stands, hands on hips, waiting for Didi to appear.
Didi , limping and coughing, eventually enters.
G: We’ll never get there at this rate.
D: I was thinking. ( Gogo snorts)
G: Thinking! I got tired of thinking ages ago. When did thinking ever get anyone any where? Anyhow, what was his majesty contemplating?
D: I was writing a play. In my head. ( Gogo snorts. They continue walking)
G: So you’ve become a writer in your spare time, eh ? Not a very successful one though by the looks of you.
D: I was going to call it ‘The Prince of Denmark‘. ( Gogo stops. Didi walks on)
G: Wait a minute. ( Didi stops, turns) Didn’t we go to see a play once?
D: What play? Where? When? Who with?
G: Whom. With whom.
G: We’ve only ever seen one play. The one we went to in Paris. In our blue period that would be.
D: Waiting for Somebodyorother.
G: 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.
D: Like life itself then.
G: Exactly. Sub specie aeternitatis, as they say.
( Sudden darkness. Loud clanking noises. Sudden light. A tree has appeared.
D : Ah, there you are.
D: There it is.
( G looks around)
G: There what is?
D: (pointing) The tree. The tree. The tree.
D: The tree. There it is At last.
G: Well I never. There it is.
(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)
G: I beg your pardon?
D: The tree. Umbrelliferous.
G: I suppose so.
D: You don’t sound very convinced.
G (angry): Why do I always have to be the one to be convinced? It’s a tree. I don’t dispute that for one nanosecond. 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.
D: There you go again, letting yourself get ….how shall I put it….up set….. down cast….. Over what? A mere trifle. A bagatelle. You disappoint me sometimes. You try my patience. Don’t you see what I’m driving at?
G: 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 makes a sudden movement, pressing both hands to his ears. After a while he removes first his left hand then his right. G watches. ) Dear God, what was that? Did you not hear it?. (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 is all in your ear. Like my snoring. Your tinnitus. Caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds. The noise 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: Carpenters, pilots, rock musicians, street-repair workers, and landscapers for the most part. Not playwrights usually though. Mostly 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 nods) Of course a variety of other conditions and illnesses can lead to tinnitus, including blockages of the ear due to a buildup of wax, an ear infection, or rarely, a benign tumour of the auditory nerve.
D: Go on, go on. I’m all ears.
G: Certain drugs can reduce its effect — most notably aspirin, several types of antibiotics, sedatives, and quinine medications.
D: I see. Mmmmmm. Yes. I’m beginning to –
G: Of course the natural ageing process itself causes deterioration of the cochlea or other parts of the ear. How old did you say you were?
D: Are. Oh probably just about to enter my prime.
G: And then there’s Otosclerosis, a disease that results in stiffening of the small bones in the middle ear and other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, circulatory problems, anaemia, allergies, an under-active thyroid gland, autoimmune disease, and diabetes. Tinnitus can worsen in some people if they drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink caffeinated beverages, or eat certain foods. For reasons not yet entirely clear to researchers, stress and fatigue seem to –
( A ruined cottage appears beside the tree )
D: This is the place all right. Yes, I remember it well. 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 little buggers!” he used to shout, waving his free fist at us. “Come back and get your just desserts!” 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!
( Two Standing Sones appear beside the tree)
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. The dull mechanical noise is heard again. 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. Not many can say that, eh?
D: That they found what they were looking for. How many can say that?
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.
G: Ca ne vaux pas la peine.
D: C’est vrai. Le cygne chasse l’onde avec ses larges palmes et…. et…
D ( making a gliding gesture with his hand): Exactly. You always come to my rescue. Where would I be without you? Glyssse. They both laugh) C’est ca….. glysssssse
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 SING 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 dance about. Yes, we manage all right.
G : To make the best of a bad – 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: The usual. Wait. Like it says in the bible. Wait and it shall come to you. All will be revealed. What is this life, if full of worry, we hurry hurry hurry hurry.
( Gogo sits down. The lights dim except for the spotlight on the tree. 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. (tremendous noise)
DARKNESS. THEY DISAPPEAR, LIGHTS. THEY REAPPEAR, BOW, DISAPPEAR. REAPPEAR, BOW, DISAPPEAR