In Catholic Taste by D McConville
D McConville Newartplease@gmail.com 07796 387963
ACT I SCENE 1 SCENE ONE. FATHER CATOLICA's church is arranged on the stage. Every object looks homemade; as if a church has been recreated from the memory. There is an altar; a holy water basin; a decanter full of communion wine and some shopping in bags. It's a traditional setting; three tall paintings which almost look like stained glass show, respectively: * St George slaying a dragon * The Popemobile, dome smashed open * A sniper in the roof of a church Tinny organ music blasts out as the lights swell. Father Catolica himself is lowered from the ceiling, arms raised in blessing to the Lord. An ANGEL accompanies him, carrying Catolica down from the heavens. Catolica addresses the crowd. FATHER CATOLICA Remain seating, brethren! Though you are in the company of an angel and a man of holy convenience, do not be confused about hierarchy. You may suckle at our feet. We are blessed with fine souls in our audience tonight. A congregation of great rhythms beat inside your hearts, my beloved, and they beat as one. I grasp the weight of your devotion and I reflect it back toward you. Catolica lands and waves the Angel off as it retracts into the heavens. ANGEL I'll set you here.
2. CONTINUED: FATHER CATOLICA Here's fine. A kiss? The Angel pecks him on the cheek. ANGEL Be good today. We're watching. FATHER CATOLICA What else would you do? The Angel vanishes into the sky. ANGEL We're watching, Catolica. Don't stretch the infinite patience to snap. CATOLICA calls up to the heavens. FATHER CATOLICA You're always a watcher if you don't participate! (to the audience) I think we're alone, wouldn't you say? Alone at a distance, or together apart. ANGEL (offstage) We're still here. FATHER CATOLICA Voyeurs, Peeping Toms, perverous pederasts. Of course they're watching. Down here's where all the chaos happens. There's nothing to see up there, you know. (CATOLICA shuffles the papers on his altar.) And so, we bring blessings upon our new church; newly minted, freshly Catholic and strongly scented with the glory of the bountiful goodness of the church of Italy. We owe them this all; a bargain when we renounced our former ways. GENEROUS (from audience) Amen and believe! FATHER CATOLICA We'll break later for Amens, Amos, Amases... A mass, our first mass. No longer Church of England, this is now the church of plenty and church for all. And all are welcome, including you. (CONTINUED)
3. CONTINUED: (2) Catolica steps down towards the audience. FATHER CATOLICA (CONTâ€™D) We have an audience. And so we have expectation. As it is with the Lord, who we expect to bestow great gifts on us for our glorious service. What good a lifetime of selfish manner that spirals into the gaping maw of hellfire? No, for these good souls, you good souls. Not for you the torment of ages. Because you belong to me. And I am God's servant. God's tax officer. And which of you will bear the price? Don't. Ignore me. Ignore me. All I'm doing is trying to be saving your eternal soul. It's not urgent. GENEROUS (from audience) Why are we here, father? FATHER CATOLICA I'm no father to you. But I sense. a chorus in the mind of the flock. Here? Here in this earthly construct of fire and ice and concrete clad in stone; we're here to tumble down the rabbit holes enlarged by eternal rains and terriers bloody mouthed and sailor tongued. GENEROUS (from audience) Avoid all doubt! FATHER CATOLICA A wedding. We're here for a wedding. What happy days. Calm your minds and witness the union, fusion, words and illusion of bonds in gold and sealed by wine. Catolica strides to the altar and uncorks the wine. He raises it to the audience, a toast. FATHER CATOLICA (CONTâ€™D) This is to your health, you who need this more than I. I'll accept the burden. I preach not to the converted but to the unsure. The undecided who sit among me. I have confidence, I alone am blessed and free to be. Catolica drinks deeply from the decanter. GENEROUS (from audience) Alive amongst us!
4. CONTINUED: (3) FATHER CATOLICA Alive and serving. Who of you wholly, holy, sidelined sheep here, who will commit to entangle their affairs with another? To swap bank balances and trade punching. To beat around the bush for the sake of peaceful foreign affairs. To lay down the urges of the sane and the baits of mankind and strive, strive, strive, strife and rare fire, rare fire into the belly, the being, the saintly... A chair is pushed back in the audience. A voice shouts. GENEROUS (from audience) Your terms are lunatic. FATHER CATOLICA That may be, though I see no sane alternative. GENEROUS (from audience) I accept, for reasons I can't yet reveal. FATHER CATOLICA Then that is all there is. CATOLICA turns away. GENEROUS walks up the aisle. GENEROUS I'll do it, I said. I'll be married today. I'll take that burden of responsibility for another. FATHER CATOLICA Why? GENEROUS steps up on to the stage. GENEROUS Because I'm lacking in purpose and I heard this expands to fill your time. Because, I want my bed to be effortlessly full and not strained by empty silence. Because the hunt has grown long for me. You wouldn't understand, father. You've never had to hunt. You tend to your flock. Protect them from predators like me. I'm built for fast-acting love. Not you, dad.
5. CONTINUED: (4) FATHER CATOLICA I'm not your dad. But I'm not a wholly man, either. I've not always been a holy man. Some time was spent in pieces. Reconstructing myself out of a broken shell was agony. Have you ever- of course not. You seem the type to give up, take a menial task in life. Ever been a temporary being? A temporary life, you've lead before this day. This day is the end to your temporary life. GENEROUS Is this an interview? FATHER CATOLICA A questioning. This marks your progression in life. But you have to be worthy to progress. GENEROUS Worthy in what aspect? FATHER CATOLICA The right kind of person. A submissive dominance. GENEROUS I can only be as I am. My circumstances circumvent me. My fears cut off empathy and stifle emotion. FATHER CATOLICA Good. Empathy has no place, not here. GENEROUS But I was christened - not in a church, you understand, but by the god of clerical paper and typewriter ink - with the name Generous. It has only held me back. Suffocated the selfish self who wants to stand up and shout loud. FATHER CATOLICA Then today we reChristen you. I'd baptise you but the pool's sprung a leak. Of which class are you, sir? Where do you mark yourself on the scale of social adhesion? How tight are the binds of glue? GENEROUS I don't hold a class. FATHER CATOLICA Then you're one of the mass who doesn't know they're of a class. Not the have-nots with their temporary meals and papier-mache homes. Not the have-yachts. You're the silent, the violent, the vocal, the choking middle. (MORE)
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FATHER CATOLICA (CONT'D) The expanding waistline of the wasteful excess. Too rich for great art but too poor for the sacred trappings of truly excess health. GENEROUS Your church considers excess sacred? FATHER CATOLICA What else could it be? GENEROUS Excess weight, chairs that break. Buy another, unencumbered. The rich; the rich; horror breathing, wealthy breeding. Let's not make this personal but these creatures you describe, these perverse controllers of wealth. They are the excrement. The bacteria that grow where the sweat of the majority oozes out. They are the mould cultures, contagions. Symptoms of an unclean body. FATHER CATOLICA You demonize the rich because you carry envy in your mind, Generous. They are not demons but custodians of money. Shepherds of a willing flock. GENEROUS Money is fickle. Monstrous. It is a beast and no sheep. FATHER CATOLICA You will need money. To keep a wife. GENEROUS On the other hand. If it is on your side, you can tame the beast. Money can stand guard over your home; keep your affairs safe. FATHER CATOLICA And you're willing to allow the beast entry? GENEROUS As willing as I could be at this point in my life. FATHER CATOLICA Your life has no other point but now. GENEROUS True. FATHER CATOLICA Then, your bride. You did bring a bride? (CONTINUED)
7. CONTINUED: (6) GENEROUS Did I..? FATHER CATOLICA (snaps) A bride, a bride! You didn't bring one? Of course not. CATOLICA walks, agitated, towards GENEROUS. He snaps his fingers. A scream from off-stage. Then PRINCESS enters, still screaming. She wears a bridesgown, stained with oil and sooty. She is followed by two Police officers, one holding a whip and the other a wedding cake. She wheels round and sees Catolica. PRINCESS You again. You feeble, rotted carcass of animated bones. You weak ghost of a man dabbling in a church that misunderstood the message. A church build on the lies of the money lenders who came back in through the back doors disguised in robes and mouthing bare allegiance. Firm prejudices over loose flesh. PRINCESS tears off a sleeve of his dress and throws it at him. PRINCESS (CONTâ€™D) Here's all you'll get of me, father. A part of a clothing that claims I'm something other than myself. GENEROUS He doesn't like to be a father, beloved. PRINCESS turns to GENEROUS, eyes burning. She advances on him as she speaks.
8. CONTINUED: (7) PRINCESS The whore of a man speaks? Where did you come from? Out there? Let loose your tongue, let it fall into the altar. And strike it off. You don't know what it is that you want. You're already of unfaithful mind. Your biology and mine are even now at war. Our shared goals are momentary in nature and nature has decreed it. All your thinking thoughts and words. Intentions and goals forged when your mind and bodyPrincess grabs Generous's crotch. PRINCESS (CONT’D) - are cold. Inflame them and see how your plans look. Your intentions are false and your delusions insult me like all the rest. FATHER CATOLICA Daughter. Be still. PRINCESS Be still what? A product of your mistakes? FATHER CATOLICA Be still virginial and silent as you are in my mind. PRINCESS Your mind is a fetid, dank place. FATHER CATOLICA One which you'll never travel to. PRINCESS But you can still read minds, father? Princess starts to advance on Catolica but the Policemen block her. PRINCESS (CONT’D) Cage me, then. FATHER CATOLICA No more caging. PRINCESS Why not?
9. CONTINUED: (8) FATHER CATOLICA You've grown to like it. PRINCESS That was my right. FATHER CATOLICA You undermine torture. Now stand, daughter. Stand for judgement day. PRINCESS Already? Princess stands behind the altar, as if on trial. Catolica and Generous sit, forming a jury with POLICEMAN 1 as their head juror. POLICEMAN 2 walks to the alter. POLICEMAN 2 Princess Catolica? PRINCESS Yes. POLICEMAN 2 You're here to be sentenced to a life of plenty with this man. PRINCESS What about my trial? POLICEMAN 2 We'll get to that. But we're here for the sentence. PRINCESS For what crimes? You've only known me as a criminal. POLICEMAN 2 And with good reason, then, that I be your lawyer, prosecution and judge. Best I know your mind. POLICEMAN 1 And I, your head juror. We have been watching you. POLICEMAN 2 Waiting for mistakes.
10. CONTINUED: (9) POLICEMAN 1 Listening for regrets. POLICEMAN 2 You've been very quiet on regret, we noticed. POLICEMAN 1 Regret is important. PRINCESS I've nothing to regret! Generous asks Catolica: GENEROUS Is that possible? FATHER CATOLICA Not in a mortal life. POLICEMAN 1 My jury is composed of your peers. I, your guardian since birth. Loyal on pain of death. Enforcer of all that you should be. Your father, heavenly priest sent from the Love. And your groom, chosen from an audience of many as the lone willing man. So the best man, also. PRINCESS How do I plead? POLICEMAN 2 Profusely. But without merit and in a costume demarcating the guilt you already carry. PRINCESS steps out from behind the altar. She has become pregnant, swollen with child. PRINCESS No baby, bald baby, fighting me with knives baby. Don't want a baby so keep it inside, don't want a mouth with a wail coming out like a light. Who did this to me? FATHER CATOLICA The burden of expectation. Isn't it what you intended? Anything you want happens with work, beloved. PRINCESS Never. You. You did it. (she points at GENEROUS). How did you touch me? Don't you ever touch my body.
11. CONTINUED: (10) GENEROUS We mustn't be selfish, baby. Don't panic, baby. We're in public. Everyone's safe. Princess starts to sway, clutching her belly. PRINCESS Be generous? That's it, I'll try that. I'll give you baby and this baby more than you could ever want. I'll share myself with the world. Spread myself out, thinly, thickly, sweetly soured. FATHER CATOLICA Princess. Sit down. You're causing a scene for two. POLICEMAN 2 Immaculate is a blessing. It shows your desire. Your body is telling you what you won't admit. This baby is a symptom of a great maturity. PRINCESS How can it be? It's not even born. POLICEMAN 2 We have much time in this life, much time to mature. If you don't believe me, try shooting your television. POLICEMAN 1 No. Through television, friend, we lead many lives. POLICEMAN 2 All incomplete. Princess, will you sit and deliver your warning? Princess sits at the altar and births the baby. PRINCESS Here, then, is your warning. I have poured my life's dwindling energies into this bundle. It is the seed of my destruction. Princess walks out from behind holding the bundle, a child shape swathed in cloth. PRINCESS (CONTâ€™D) I was a seed of destruction once. And I destroyed my mother immediately. In nature, flowers throw their seeds away. Most animals are free of their young as quickly as the young are able to walk away. (MORE) (CONTINUED)
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PRINCESS (CONTâ€™D) An adult tiger will fight its own offspring, parents, cousin or aunt. Or worse. We must harbour our destroyers close to the womb for decades. I got out early. I escaped, east, towards the morning sun. I wanted creation, I thought, over destruction. But it didn't take long before I returned to arson; my art. It takes work to set a fire for patterns. Not the random shapes of fire's natural ramshackle paths but the palette, the brush, the gift of the artist. But I never watched. Do you understand? I never looked closely at the violence. It was best at distance. Through a mirror, the blaze would shrink and vanish, into the beauty of memory. Princess drops the bundle on the lap of Policeman 1. POLICEMAN 1 Your child is healthy. It will grow into a tall sapling and face the blades of the poachers and trappers. POLICEMAN 2 The die is cast and the mould ready. You'll be wed, now. POLICEMAN 1 Won't you? GENEROUS I'll try. POLICEMAN 1 Then stand, on ceremony. All rise. They arrange themselves as at a wedding, couple facing Catolica who looks out at the audience. PRINCESS Why are we facing him? The priest of my woe? I'm not giving myself to him. GENEROUS Then let us face our audience. They turn to face the audience. GENEROUS (CONTâ€™D) We're getting hitched. PRINCESS To be wed. (CONTINUED)
13. CONTINUED: (12) GENEROUS Tying the unbreakable knot. PRINCESS Twisting our knickers together. GENEROUS Melting down our souls as two impure ingots of gold, searching for the lesser purity within. PRINCESS I'm lost. GENEROUS Still, still, still, still, still be still where you are. Lost? Is a future concern and we can't make our home in what doesn't exist. Tattoo your now on your every pore. This is your only reality and there's nothing to be lost in. There is only now. And now is where we start, over and over again. Every now is new. PRINCESS Don't take fright so, dear. I'm the villain and everyone knows it. FATHER CATOLICA Beloveds. How gracious of our volunteers to steps forward on this day to accept the task of outliving. How glorious of them to be the actors in our play of life, embodying for one moment and one day the conceit of the heavens; that two people will try to suffer each other for the remainder of their mortal lives. This day marks the beginning of this task; not one of the tasks of Hercules; without glory and with an ending we speak of only as death. POLICEMAN 2 I've done it. FATHER CATOLICA And regard, we may, his healthy pallor. The complexion almost of a free man, you'll agree. We draw then to asking if there is any soul who knows of the reasons why these two should not be bound as one. Princess breaks free of Generous' grip and runs down to the audience. PRINCESS Anyone... someone... souls or skeletons, make yourself heard! Surely you detect some offkey note, some wrong chord, some screeching violin? (MORE) (CONTINUED)
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PRINCESS (CONT'D) Soem dissonant desire? Don't sit idly by and let this pass, for I will wither without sunlight. FATHER CATOLICA Ignore her, congregation. Guards! The policemen go down to retrieve her. FATHER CATOLICA (CONTâ€™D) She knows nothing. I have failed to teach her the true meaning of obedience. Obedience serves the master. We can't all be master, Princess. Better then to be a good and decent servant. PRINCESS I will not serve! I've not the constitution, nor the calloused ego! Debar me from marriage, I've not the time! It is waiting and it is death. I'm done waiting. I am a hunter. I prowl, not wait. I move, or die, or drown, or lie. I will not. I can not. FATHER CATOLICA Bring her! Tame her, harm her, hairs of the head and all! PRINCESS Mercy! Mercy! Princess and the policemen arrive onstage. The angel descends, bearing ill will and a sword and a blowpipe. He fires twice, and the policemen crumble to the floor. ANGEL Are you all deaf? Mad? Sad? FATHER CATOLICA Begone, friend! You can't interfere, not here. Outside. But we built this place to keep your kind out. ANGEL I must interfere. She cries so. GENEROUS She is a siren. I hear it too. A harpy and harlot and cannot be trusted. The Angel holds his sword to Generous' neck.
15. CONTINUED: (14) ANGEL You are a charlatan, masquerading as a man. But you'll not have this Princess. FATHER CATOLICA You're a figment! You are my servant in this place, figment! Angel turns and cuts his sword across Catolica, who collapses. FATHER CATOLICA (CONT’D) I am slain! ANGEL You will not join us above, my father. And you? What is your path? GENEROUS I can... return. To the audience. I do not have to particupate. I renounce my participation. ANGEL It may- it is too late for that. You've been involved from the start. It's what drew you here. GENEROUS Nothing drew me. I just said yes. ANGEL You didn't say no. Angel cuts Generous down. ANGEL (CONT’D) And you, my love, my only. PRINCESS And me? I'm the only one left. ANGEL And I. Do you believe in forever? PRINCESS How can I? ANGEL Tell me. PRINCESS I am temporal. Time catches me like a ray of sun a snowflake, destined to rot it into nothingless.
16. CONTINUED: (15) ANGEL And thus? PRINCESS Forever cannot be. ANGEL Quite. PRINCESS Then never is. ANGEL Come on up to where never lives. Take my hand. Call my bluff. PRINCESS I'm not looking forwards anymore. ANGEL Close your eyes, then, and clear your mind. No regrets about the past. Future hurtling here real fast. Are you ready? They start to rise. PRINCESS No. I'm unready. Stopped in my moments. ANGEL Remain there and they'll take us far. End.