July 3, 2007

Peter Barnes

{in (just a few of) his own words}

So what was I trying to do in these plays? I wanted to write a roller-coaster drama of hairpin bends; a drama of expertise and ecstasy balanced on a tightrope between the comic and tragic with a mult-faceted fly-like vision where every line was dramatic and every scene a play in itself; a drama with a language so exact it could describe what the flame of a candle looked like after the candle had been blown out and so high-powered it could fuse telephone wires and have a direct impact on reality; a drama that made the surreal real, that went to the limit, then further, with no dead time, but with the speed of a seismograph recording an earthquake. . . a drama glorifying differences, condemning heirarchies, that would rouse the dead to fight, always in the forefront of the struggle for the happiness of all mankind, an anti-boss drama for the shorn not the shearers.
. . .
At times I feel I could not track an elephant in six feet of snow, but at least I have provided a good home for scores of old jokes who had nowhere else to go. I have laughed a lot when I did not feel a lot like laughing, and of course I have made a mess of my life, but then I have made a mess of all my shirts. I write hoping to make the world a little better and perhaps to be remembered. The latter part of that statement is foolish, as I can see, quite plainly, the time when this planet grows cold and the Universe leaks away into another Universe and the Cosmos finally dies and there is nothing but night and nothing. It's the end, but that is never a good enough reason for not going on. A writer who does not write corrupts the soul. Besides, it is absurd to sit around sniffing wild flowers when you can invent them, and new worlds.
---Barnes Plays One, pp. viii-ix

13th Earl of Gurney: Touched him, saw her, towers of death and silence, angels of fire and ice. Saw Alexander covered with honey and beeswax in his tomb and felt the flowers growing over me. A man must have his visions. How else could an English judge and peer of the realm take moonlight trips to Marrakesh and Ponders End? See six vestal virgins smoking cigars? Moses in bedroom slippers? Naked bosoms floating past Formosa? Desperate diseases need desperate remedies. (Glancing towards the door.) Just time for a quick one. (Places noose over his head again.) Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. There's plenty of time to win this game, and thrash the Spaniards too. (Draws his sword.) Form squares men! Smash the Mahdi and Binnie Barnes!

(With a lustful gurgle he steps off.But this time he knocks over the steps. Dangling helpless for a second he drows the sword and tries to tear the noose free, gesturing frantically.)

. . .

14th Earl of Gurney: My heart rises with the sun. I'm purged of doubts and negative innuendoes. Today I want to bless everything! Bless the crawfish that has a scuttling walk, bless the trout, the pilchard and periwinkle. Bless Ted Smoothey of 22 East Hackney Road--with a name like that he needs blessing. Bless the mealy-redpole, the black-gloved wallabye and W.C. Fields, who's dead but lives on. Bless the skunk, bless the red-bellied lemur, bless 'Judo' Al Hayes and Ski-Hi-Lee. Bless the snotty-nosed giraffe, bless the buffalo, bless the Society of Women Engineers, bless the wild yak, bless the Picadilly Match King, bless the pygmy hippo, bless the weasel, bless the mighty cockroach, bless me. Today's my wedding day!
--from The Ruling Class

Carlos: Has Christ died that children might starve?
And whole towns made poor t'raise up the merchants' walls
(They turn bread t' stones; the Devil'd more charity,
Turning stones t' bread; 'tis no wonder men worship him).
Why shouldst some ha' surfeit, others go hungry?
One man two coats, another go naked?
Now I see Authority's a poor provider
No blessings come from 't
No man born shouldst ha' 't, wield 't.
Authority's the Basilisk, the crowned dragon
Scaly, beaked and loathsome.
Born from a cock's egg, hatched under a toad
Its voice is terror, glance, certain death.
Streams where 't drank once are poisoned
And the grass around turns black.
'Twill make a desert o' this world
Whilst there's still one man left t' gi' commands
And another who'll obey 'em.
Release all suspects!
I'm not bewitched or possessed,
'Cept t' right the wrongs done my people.
I'll show you the good life, if you'll show me pardon
F'not knowing thy needs and miseries.
I raise my hat t'you three times in courtesy.
---from The Bewitched

Lilly: Their first question was, 'Is there intelligent life on earth?' I thought for a long time before answering that question. I still believe it was a trick. With their vast powers they would've known whether there was or not. Anyway I finally answered choosing my words with care, 'Yes. . . you could say there was intelligent life on earth.' I wasn't going to be caught making wild generalizations. They must've thought the reply satisfactory because they asked me there and then if I'd help the cause of Cosmic Uplifting by becoming their P.T.M.R.C.
. . .
It seemed strange at first conducting Operation 'Dog Star Evening Star' from 14a Willowside Avenue, East Sheen. For in this world-spread spiritual operation twenty four mountains in countries from Peru to Tibet, from the Rockies to Fiji were charged, through me, as New Space Centres. I made these mountains great batteries of power which would radiate through the world thus renewing the vital psychic energy banks of Mother Earth. Instructed by the Alphan High Governors I was able to recharge the Earth's batateries by supreme mental concentration and silent prayer. In Cosmic time this Solar Recharging lasted some five years or 1 1/2 minutes in Earth time. The mental concentration demand was enormous but so was the importance of the operation. One miscalculation and it would've turned out a failure, vast worlds would've been thrown out of orbit and this Earth would've dropped out of Vector Balance with the Cosmos, never to return. But it wasn't a failure. Far from it. Thank Zorn, I was equal to the task. . . Satellite Number One Magnetic flux in this quadrant is eight and holding. Magnetic flux eight and holding. . .
. . .
I have been a humble instrument of Great Powers. I could've taken this world apart and put it together. The greatest terrestrialman this world has seen since the great Avatars who also acted as agents, Shri Krishna Buddha, Moses, Christ and Mohammed. I am of their country. . . 'Come in Satellite Number One, Satellite Two, Satellite Three come in. . . ' But I'll slip away, no trace in the snow, no hand print in the dust and they'll continue delivering the morning paper as if nothing had happened, as if they hadn't lost a great Avatar. . . 'Come in all Satellites. Come in all Satellites. Come in. . . ' I could've been all-mighty and no-one would've smiled. But who knew? You don't know. How could you know?. . .
---Confesssions of a Primary Terrestrial Mental Receiver and Communicator: Num III Mark I

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