Kisa Gotami

(A slightly ficionilised account of this ancient tale. Meant to be used as a short play for young people to act in. Ten minutes long. I wrote this for a Buddhist event in Glasgow. If you are using-just a credit to the author please)

Set. Three large painted cardboard boxes act as houses. The Buddha sits facing away from the audience. A point source of light shines his shadow on a wall. In the background the sound of traders dies away as Kisa Gotami, carrying her son, walks onto centre stage. Her son can be a doll. The Buddha cannot be shown on stage as a person (due to tradition)

 

Kisa Gotami. (To the audience). Have you seen the Buddha? Have you seen him? I have travelled in this heat for five miles and still I search in vain. I am looking for someone to heal my lovely boy. My poor son. My only son. A snake bit him and now he lies so still. So still and pale. My eyes were once so pretty. Or so men told me. Now they are stained with tears. My body is burning under this cruel sun and my feet are cut and bleeding. Yet, I would give away all my jewels and my fine dresses if only I could have my child back alive and strong. He needs medicine. Does no one have any? My name is Kisa Gotami. [To the Buddha]You sir! Please Sir! Are you the one they call the Buddha? I need you. If you have any magic powers then heal my child. His tiny body is filled with kindness for others. He does not deserve to die. He has never hurt another. No one will listen to me. I have passed through crowds of people yet none will answer my cries for help. All turn their faces away. My grief is but an embarrassment to them. I have sought other teachers but their words were frail and their magic was weak. I seek one who has power over life and death.

 

Buddha. I am the one you call the Buddha. If you seek for an answer to your pain then you must find me mustard seed. And it must be of a special kind. It must come from a household that has never been tainted with the touch of death.

 

Kisa Gotami. Kind sir, I will find the thing you need for your potion. I will look everywhere. Such an easy task you set me. Wait here. I will not be long. [Searches about the stage then goes up to an old man sitting outside his house]. My son is ill and needs a special kind of mustard. He needs mustard from a household that has never known death. This is the only thing that can save him. If you still have any warmth left in your old heart then you must help me. Quick. Be quick!

 

Old man. I can see that your son lies still. I can see that your lovely face is stained with tears and I can feel that your heart is filled with sorrow. But there is nothing I can do to help, I have mustard seed and yet l must tell you that it is of the wrong kind. My wife died last year and still I mourn her.  I still lie awake at night dreaming of her next to me. You must try elsewhere. I wish you well in your search.

 

Kisa Gotami. [To a young woman outside her house]. Kind lady. I need mustard seed to heal my child. Yet it must be mustard from a household that has never known death. I have been to Oh so many houses today. I am so tired. Please say that you can help me.

 

Young Woman. I have bags of mustard seed yet it will help you nought. My husband lies dead inside, his body barely cold. We only got married a year ago. I cannot feel sorrow for your child, for my own heart is filled with sorrow for my dear husband that has died so young [Crying.]  Ohhhh! What I am to do? You must try somewhere else. But, if you find any, then come back and share it with me.

 

Kisa Gotami. (To a boy outside his house) Young man. Fetch your Mother and ask her for mustard seed. Tell her that the seed must come from a household that has never known death. I need it to make a potion. Then my little boy will be saved from the snake poison.

 

Boy. My mother died three days ago. We buried her today. My stepfather has left me alone. I have nothing. No food. No family. Even if I did have seed, it would not be of the kind that you search for. I have much to do. All that I can do to help you is to join you in your grief. I wish you well in your search.

 

Kisa Gotami. (To the Buddha). Kind Sir. I cannot find the seed anywhere. It seems that the entire world is filled with death and suffering. Nothing stays the same. And now I see that my child is dead. He has been dead for a long time. All that I can do is bury him. You have taught me much. With all its pains and all its wrongs, this life is all I have. I must live it to the full. I cannot change the past.

 

The Buddha. I teach of many things. I teach of the old laws. Laws that have always been. Laws that you and I must live by. I would drain my lifeblood if it would save your child. But I have not that power. Kisa Gotami, the moment before you, you cannot know. The moment that has gone, is not worth the remembering. Live this moment to the full, for we are born anew each breath each moment. If you seek release, then you must love each creature as you loved your son. Love is special, for the more you give it away, the more you have. May all beings be happy. “Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta”.

Kisa Gotami bows before the Buddha and leaves the stage first.

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The Funeral

(Part 1 is 40 minutes long, Part 2 is 35 minutes long)

CAST.

Markos. Well spoken man in his forties or fifties. Must have a touch of evil to his voice.

Helene. Woman, who starts the play in her early twenties. Is fifteen years old in the final scene. Should be played by the same actor if possible.

Callidora. Attractive, young woman, working class, can also play 1st member of the Chorus.

Elpida, upper class woman in her early forties, can also play 2nd member of the Chorus. Slim and short.

Chorus. Of two young women dressed in white robes

Aphrodite. Goddess dressed in white robes. Looks 17 years old and is beautiful.

SYNOPSIS. The Funeral is a Play which (in Part 1) goes backwards in time scene by scene. i.e. the first scene details what happens at the close of events. It brings all the disparate threads of story together. The second scene portrays what happened immediately before that. The last scene deals with the earliest events which have taken place in the events chronicled by the play i.e. the meeting of Helene and Aphrodite.

The first scene has been written first by the author who then worked on Scene 2, and then Scene 3. Each of these scenes takes place further back in time. There are no flashbacks-just a gradual progression of scenes backwards in time. This lets the audience find out about why the characters acted in such and such a manner. Strange actions in Scene 1 (for example) will eventually be explained when the play goes back in time. Hopefully, the audience will be as interested as the author is (was) in finding out about the reasons for the characters actions. I believe that working back in time will make an audience look even closer at the reasons for actions and at how flaws and strengths developed in the character’s personalities. I genuinely tried to find out about the play and the characters scene by scene backwards. To start with in my first writings, I had only a very rough draft of the play.

As I wrote backwards, writing each new scene-there were a dozen possibilities i.e. possible conditions or events that could have brought the previous scene about. But when one writes in the normal way going forward in time, there seems to be only one or two possibilities. Fate seems less free. Writing “backwards” is a more liberated way of writing. It might not work for every play, but I think that it will be interesting for audience and author.

Just found out that Harold Pinter did something similar (backwards chronology) with his play, Betrayal. I didn’t know about that play before I wrote this one.

There are two main themes in the play. The first is about the feelings and emotions of Helene as she struggles to keep safe her own views and feelings. The second deals with the Evil that comes from Markos and how do ordinary people cope with it. I used to research and write about Ancient Greek History and Art and I thought that using Greek Gods and Goddesses, as part of the play, could be a good way to talk about the difficult concepts that are dealt with. I have tried very hard not to make the play voyeuristic in any way. I have tried to have respect for the character of Helene.

The play uses some ideas from Ancient Greek plays. For instance, the Goddess Aphrodite is a vital part of the story. Debates are used quite often (they appear in Euripides). A Greek Chorus is also used-to inform the audience. The play is set in modern day Athens.

Markos is married to Elpida who still loves him. However, Markos is more interested in his daughter, Helene. He abuses his position as father. Helene leaves home after breaking Markos’s nose. She is eventually helped by her counsellor Callidora who Helene meets in prison (after Helene severely beat up someone who attacked her). Markos then kills Elpida. The play finishes at its chronological beginning. Here Helene meets, and is willingly seduced by, Aphrodite. Aphrodite promises to eventually protect Helene, if she agrees to certain conditions.

The poem by Sappho is my “translation”. By that I mean that I worked with one literal and lots of poetic translations to work out my own interpretation of a very beautiful poem.

Callidora means, “A gift of beauty”.

The Greek’s don’t pronounce the “h” in Helene. Instead there is a rough breathing in front of the “elene”. It would be nice if this could be replicated in the play. Helene means, “Torch”.

Markos means, “Defense”.

Elpida means, “Hope”.

(In the text in swear words I have used x’s. Obviously in performance the swear words should be spoken as is usual.)

 

Scene 1. Takes place in someone’s lounge in Athens.

 

CHARACTERS:

Markos. Well spoken man in his forties or fifties.

Helene. Woman. Early twenties with hesitant speech. Intermittent bursts of anger.

Chorus. Of two young women dressed in white robes

 

 

Helene.          I’ve drank some of your expensive wine. The kind you hide from the guests. You don’t mind do you?

 

Markos. I thought I glimpsed you pushing your way through the hordes of unwelcome visitors.

 

Helene.          Yes, it’s busy. I didn’t know she had so many friends

 

Markos. Not friends. When someone dies, the maggots get fat. And what has my favourite fat maggot come to feed on? You weren’t invited.

 

Helene. I want my fair share of her money. She was very well insured. I deserve half. I deserve fxxxing half.

 

Markos. She died cursing you. I had to explain to her the intimate details of your betrayal. You are not even mentioned in the will.

 

Helene. You are scum. I still hate you. Hate every festering, stinking bit of you.

 

Markos. I had to confess to your poor dying Mother the real reason you never had a boyfriend – that you are a lesbian. She didn’t last much longer after hearing that. She was so ashamed.

 

Helene. When I return to Athens again now, I no longer see the broken Temples as just grandeur hiding ugliness. I now see a third layer. A deeper layer. Often, you spoke to me about sacrifice but it is the sacrifice that is freely given that is the greatest. You say you don’t believe in the Gods, yet you think you have the omnipotence of a Zeus.

 

Markos. You are no more than a thieve. You still speak to me about the Gods and yet you live the life of a criminal. Where are your Gods and Goddesses now? In the past, I used to hear you whispering her name. The beautiful one. Did she ever come to help you? In your pain and anguish, did she ever come?

 

Helene. I wanted to give my Mother her ring back. But I was in jail and have just got out. Now it’s too late.

 

Markos. She never forgave you for stealing her wedding ring. I don’t know why you took it. It didn’t even fit you.

 

Helene.          You couldn’t stop me taking it. That night, you had to be rescued by the police. For once you couldn’t control me. Were you scared of me? Scared of a child?

 

Markos. I tried to control you. But you broke my nose. From that night to this you have lived a life of crime. You rob and you attack with the ferocity of a wild beast. I have read the reports in the papers. You’re such a failure to your parents.

There were only two things in your life that you could do well. The first of these was your ability to keep a secret. That was praiseworthy. Your other gift was the ability to…

 

Helene. [Interrupting] Just shut up if you can’t say anything nice.

 

Markos. You want nice? You do look different. No longer ugly and stupid and…

 

Helene. And stammering, and wetting the bed, and… No. I don’t do that anymore. No! You fxxxing baxxxrd [shouts].

 

Markos. Quiet! People have come to this house to pay their respects to the memory of your Mother. She might have been a drunk, but you should have stayed here long enough to help her. She so missed her little girl being around. [Sighs]

 

Helene. I stayed as long as I could. Yes, I know I betrayed her by leaving. Leaving her in your hands. I don’t know most of the people here. Strangers. You have made everyone a stranger to me.

 

Markos. People are scared of you. You are famous for your senseless violence. They avoid you. They don’t want to be robbed.

 

Helene. I still have her ring. Look, it fits me now. [Triumphantly shows Markos the ring on her wedding finger]

 

Markos. Shush, now. Let me look at you. It has been years since I have spoken to you properly. Now you are mine. Mine alone. My pretty girl.

 

Helene. I am not a pretty girl. I am a beautiful grown woman. And I never was stupid. And I never was yours…

 

Markos. Your Mother liked it that we were friends and more than friends. She wanted anything that would please her darling Markos. Stay tonight! All your clothes are still in your room. I have kept every one. Your father is the only person in your life who has ever truly loved you. I was your only real friend.

Do you remember the fun we used to have together when I tickled you so hard that you laughed out loud? You laughed till you cried.

 

Helene. There was no laughter in this house.

 

Markos. Through all your years at School, I was the one who cared for you. In return for all my hard work, all that I ever took from you were some tears. Tears picked from your reddened cheeks. That was a fair deal wasn’t it? For all I did?

Even though you were fat, I still loved you. Remember, when I promised you a pet dog if you would only stay young for me. Your promises were not as pure as mine. You promised to stay young. But even though I gave you all the help and encouragement I could, each month your body revealed to me what a liar you really are.

 

Helene. On my sixteenth Birthday, you took me to see Iphigenia at Aulis. That was the only thing my father did that I approved of. Again and again, I think about that Play of Euripides, and of the brave sacrifice of Iphigenia. But it was only a genuine sacrifice if she actively willed it.

 

Markos. Clothes. You were the best dressed girl at that School. I kept you away from that group of poor kids who tried to borrow money off you all the time. I taught you discipline. And, as you said, I instilled in you a love of Theatre. I also cured you of your vegetarianism. I tried to make you into an interesting child, stupid but interesting.

 

Helene. Did you still beat her? Is that how she died?

 

Markos. She drank so I beat her. [Spoken in an off hand manner]

 

Helene. No. She drank because you beat her.

 

Markos. Does it really matter which came first? She did what it was in her nature to do. She enjoyed drinking. I enjoy beating people. What is hidden deep in your nature, Helene? Besides the robbing and the violence? [Laughs]

 

Helene. Did you kill her?

 

Markos. My Dear wife was a drunk and needed some discipline. Some times she fell downstairs and sometimes I helped her fall. It was a miracle that she lasted so long. Covered in bruises she was. I have always tried to make provision for every eventuality in life and so made sure that she was well insured. And yes, her death has made me a little bit richer. So, I welcome her death. But I have no one to beat anymore. I am lonely. I need a purpose. I need you.

Helene dear, I welcome you back to my house. I need you and you need me. Stay tonight. I insist. Do as I say!

[Reaches out to stroke her hair]

 

Helene. [Pulls away from him. Then bends over with a panic attack. Starts to stammer out words] One-One, two, three, four … One, two, three, four, five …

 

Chorus of two young women dressed in robes [speaking alternate lines to the audience]. Helene has knelt in prayer many times, and her prayers have been heard.

Our Goddess Aphrodite has granted Helene beauty and protection.

Many years had passed since the last human spoke to the immortal golden crowned Goddess.

In the heavens, far above, she sits on her sparkling throne waiting to be asked to help you.

She is a most kind Goddess and we are her handmaidens.

All you have to do is believe, and ask.

You will perhaps remember the words of Sappho when she asked for her help,

The moon has left the sky,

Gone too the Pleiades

Midnight comes and goes,

Moment follows moment

And I, on my bed,

Alone

[Helene is still getting her breath back]

 

Markos. What is up with you? Stop embarrassing me.

 

Helene. Last time, in jail… Counselling… I got taught how to control my anger. Control my hate for … How to relax.

One, two, three, four…

 

Markos. Please understand, we have to forgive each other our minor misdeeds. Your Mother would have wanted that. You owe her that, surely. Stay! This is an order, not a request. [Spoken with a voice of command]

 

Helene. I’m still s-s-scared of you. But not as scared as back then. Not senseless scared. There are two policemen waiting outside the door. They want to know more about your minor misdeeds. I can’t even keep secrets anymore. What a naughty, naughty child I am.

 

Markos. Listen, Helene. You are my darling girl. I love you. Don’t do anything you’ll have cause to regret later. Remember how you often came to me to beg me for forgiveness. Don’t make me angry. Don’t do this thing! [Raises his hand to threaten to strike at her]

 

Helene. Fxxck off, father. When you are stuck inside, I hope you suffer as I suffered

The time has finally come for me to find out who I really am. Find out what I like and what I love. You are in my past. Go away. Goodbye, forever.

[Moves away to open door for policemen]

 

ENDS SCENE 1

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 2. In an Athens flat.

In an Athens flat, Helene sits with Callidora, her counsellor from the jail.

 

Helene.                      Thanks for inviting me into your home. It means a lot, you continuing to help me even though I’m finally out of that Hell Hole. Sorry, [Nervously laughs.] Prison. What lovely clothes you have. Although, the skirts are a bit short.  [Laughs.] Very short. Aren’t you scared I’m going to steal some of your lovely, lovely clothes?

 

Callidora.       Last week, you were someone I was paid to help. You were work, challenging but worthwhile work. Very poorly paid work, I should add. Today, you are my friend. Just to let you know, I am not doing a kind of follow up treatment. Please be aware of that. I like you and I want to be your friend. And friends trust each other. If you want to borrow some of my long skirts, please just say. It would be nice to see you in something bright and feminine. Just ask.

 

Helene.                      I have never really had a close friend before. If I do or say anything wrong, please tell me. I am not used to social niceties.

 

Callidora.       Helene, you will make mistakes and I will make mistakes. We are humans and humans make mistakes. What you have been through means that you have always had to fight to survive. You need and deserve support, and I will support you. But mostly, I want to enjoy the company of an extremely intelligent and charming person. You know more about the Theatre than I ever will. Hopefully, we will have fun going to the Theatre together. You can explain the difficult bits to me.  And though you have done awful things-in the past-you are the most innocent person I know. Some times I think you are joking with me. The naivety you show towards other people. Unfortunately, you never had a proper childhood to let you learn about life. That’s not your fault though.

 

Helene.                      Yet, you, more than anyone else, know what I have done to people who hurt me or angered me.

 

Callidora.       Dear Helene, your mind and your body were close to breaking point. I don’t agree with everything you did. Though I understand why you acted in the way you did. However, I know that you will never hurt another innocent person ever again.

 

Helene.                      Then you know me better than I know myself. I have told you, I am going to his house after the funeral. And I know that you cannot be there with me. It is something I have to do on my own. My counselling comes from within. I have my own voice to listen to now. And I have my trust and faith in the Goddess.

 

Callidora.       I am glad that you no longer need me as a counsellor. I have done my job well. That leaves me free to just be a friend. I think we will be good friends.

 

Helene.                      He will not expect to see me. I will not go to the funeral itself. That would be too much for me to cope with. I have the relaxation exercises you taught me. Taught me again and again. They come instinctively to me now. You have trained me for this moment. I have to face my past before I can move on.

 

Callidora.       As a friend, and as an ex-counsellor, I advise caution. He is devious and manipulative. He will harm you if he can. Do not let him take control of your little chat. If he does, I will never see you again.

 

Helene.                      Thank you, my friend. Now that my Mother is dead, you are the only person on this unsteady earth that I can trust in.

 

Callidora.       Is it not too soon to challenge his authority?

 

Helene.                      If I do not challenge him now, I never will.

 

Callidora.       You are so brave, standing up to him. But if it goes wrong… I know I shouldn’t say this… But if he threatens to hurt you, then you hurt him. I showed you what to do. Don’t let him hurt you again.

 

Helene.                      If things go wrong, then neither of us will be leaving that house. I just need to stay calm. [Breathes deeply between numbers.] One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five.

 

Callidora.       Phone me as soon as you are safe. Don’t forget.

 

Helene.                      You are my ex-counsellor, meditation teacher, my substitute Mother, and my best friend. Yes, I’ll phone.

You have never told me. Do you have a boyfriend? I know you seem to dislike men as much as I do.

 

Callidora.       Perhaps it is too early in our friendship for me to talk about my strongly held beliefs. You have been hurt by men. But not all men are monsters like your father and that man that attacked you. Things have happened to me in my life that have influenced the way I feel about who to love and who I want to be with. However, you see me as a person you can trust. If I tell you my likes and dislikes, I am scared that you will be influenced unduly. Scared you will see me as a good example and try to copy my emotions, my desires.

 

Helene.                      I do understand your fears. My mind and my emotions are whirling all over the place. I agree that now is not the time to talk about those strong emotions.  Indeed I would never try and pressure you into talking about things in your past that have hurt you. At least I have that ability well trained in me.

I know you think I am a bit strange in my beliefs. But she – my Goddess – gives me strength.

 

Callidora.       Remember that Gods and Goddesses have a habit of not being around when you really need them. Have faith in your own body and mind.

 

Helene.                      I have some confidence in myself. But she will be there for me. [Shuts her eyes and prays] Beautiful Aphrodite, protect me. I need you so much now.

 

Callidora.       [Lightly holding Helene’s hands] Friends!

 

Helene                       [Scared, but trying hard to smile} Friends!

 

 

ENDS SCENE 2

 

 

 

Scene 3. In Elpida and Markos’s house in Athens.

Elpida. A woman in her forties. A glass in her unsteady hand as she sits on the couch.

 

Markos.                      Have another drink, Elpida. A big one. You need one. Go on. People find you such a bore when you haven’t had a drink. And, I suppose, it helps you forget your failings. Your many, many failings. You have failed me and you have failed your daughter. Failed my dear sweet Helene.

You were never much of a thinker, but once your body served its purpose well enough. Drink doesn’t flatter you my Dear. The reason Helene left was because she was so ashamed of your drinking. Having a Mother that’s an alcoholic must have placed an awful burden on such a young vulnerable person. It turned her into an unstable criminal. I so fear for her future.

 

Elpida.            We both know why she left the house. Because of the way you pestered her. If I ever thought that you had touched my girl, I would kill you with my own hands. [Tries and fails to get up.]

 

Markos.                      Elpida, you have difficulty getting up to pour yourself another drink. You have an adequate store of hate within you, but haven’t the strength or passion required to kill me. You are a weak and a silly waste of a life. All you have ever managed to do is to pass on your inheritance to me. Making love to you became more and more of a chore. And yet I did my duty as often as I had to. But when I had you in my arms, it wasn’t you that I was thinking about. Many times you told me that I was the greatest lover you ever had. Probably an accurate assessment.  Anything I do, I do well. Perfection is my motto. Now, you fail to arouse any passion in me. Apart from disgust.

You surely can’t blame a man for seeking pleasure where he can get it. Helene always had this strong crush on her father. It’s quite natural. Lots of girls find their Dad attractive. Do you still find me attractive? My face – filled with loathing for you – will be the last thing you ever see.

 

Elpida.            [Trying to get up while Markos pushes her back down into the seat] You are a horrible creature. Once I loved you. Once I found you handsome and charming. I must have been mad. I …

 

Markos                       But my Dear, you are going mad. Drink has affected your brain. You seem to imagine that I have thrown you down the stairs. Again and again you accuse me of that. I used to think you were just a drunk, but now I think you are going mad. You are no longer fit to be my wife. Your face and body have aged terribly. Your breath stinks of alcohol. When I first met you, you were almost attractive.

 

Elpida.            Get an Ambulance. I am in pain. And you did throw me down the stairs. I am not that drunk that I have forgotten what you have just done to me. You tried to kill me.

 

Markos.                      [Looking at her for some ten seconds.]Your face is a funny colour. The breathing is laboured. Nearly there! [Feeling her pulse.] I can feel your life force draining away. Let me at least be honest with you. Nothing you can do to upset my plans now. It is better for Helene and me if you depart this world. She said to me once that things would be better between us if only her Mother wasn’t always bullying her. She hated you. We can get to know each other properly without your interfering. I will have your money and your daughter. You jealous witch. Do both of us a big favour, and die.

 

Elpida.            [Sobbing.] Get Helene here. I need to talk to her. I need to tell her that I have not been a good Mother. Not protected her from you. You are an evil monster. A psychopath! No, better she doesn’t come back here ever again.

 

Markos. [Talking to himself.] Her slim neck once brought me pleasure. Now, I want to squeeze it and finish this thing off quickly. [She chokes as he strokes her neck then squeezes her throat. Her glass falls from her hand.] But no, I don’t want to mess things up now. Never let disgust get in the way of planning. Have some patience, Markos. Soon enough. [He releases his hold on her throat.]

 

Elpida.            Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting me like this?

[Puts handkerchief to her nose.] Look, I am bleeding. My nose is bleeding.

 

Markos.                      Let me sit down beside you and wait for death to come. I will be good company for you. Like the old days. We can have a nice chat. Sometimes it takes quite a while for someone to die. And I don’t want to put anymore bruises on your body. No need to quicken the inevitable process. Don’t want any questions asked… You’re not much of a talker are you? Hmmm… I will browse through our photo album. Anything to pass the time. [Examining pictures.] Here’s one of you looking quite stylish. Obviously taken before the urge for alcohol took over your life. And a nice one of Helene. She looks less fat than in most of her pictures. It must have been taken by an extremely gifted photographer. You loved stuffing food into her greedy little mouth. You did all you could to ruin her for me. But your corrupting influence on her finishes tonight, my Dear Elpida.

 

Elpida.            I don’t want to die. Just get the Doctor. You used to be a nice man. I used to love you. People said we were made for each other. Please, I beg you. Get the…      [Slumps along the couch. Semi-conscious.]

 

Markos.                      Die, my darling. Please die quickly and don’t be such a bore. You always took your time didn’t you? [Talking as if to himself] Time for all my fantasies to be fulfilled. The waiting and the planning has been worth it. Helene will, I am sure, be guided by my superior judgement. She needs the strong single minded direction that only I can provide. At last, to be rid of you, Elpida. At last.

 

Elpida [Panting] ..the Doctor. Please …Oh, Markos.

 

Markos.                      The funeral will be such a lavish affair. But I don’t want to waste your, sorry my, money on expensive food for our uncultured neighbours.  I will ask all the town’s dignitaries. And I shall cry at the Funeral. Cry as I remember how lovely you once were. And I shall support Helene. Be a good father to her. Yes, a good father. [Laughs}

 

Elpida.            Doctor… Please…  Aaaargh. Help… me…

 

Markos                       You are mumbling your words a bit. Please try and speak more clearly. Surely you want me to be a good father? {Feeling her pulse for ten seconds.] At last, dead. In a few moments I will phone for the ambulance. Somehow, I fear they will be too late. [Holds his face in his hands and fakes crying.] Ohhh. My dear, dear wife. My dear beloved Elpida.

 

 

 

ENDS SCENE 3

 

 

Scene 4. A prison room. Two chairs facing each other. Helene has her first meeting with her Counsellor, Callidora. Helene leans forward, staring at Callidora. Callidora is relaxed.

 

Helene.                      [Aggressively.] Are we finished yet? I don’t want to be here. You are forcing me to be here.

 

Callidora.       We are here for an hour. We have twelve one hour sessions together. Someone in psychological services thinks that you have some decency left in you and are more than just an aggressive “show off”.

 

Helene.                      If you insult me one more time, I will punch your ugly face. Apologise for what you said.

 

Callidora.       There is a guard outside the door. But I won’t need them. I am a Blue Belt in Aikido and can take care of myself.

 

Helene.                      Are you threatening me?

 

Callidora.       I learnt Aikido because I got hurt a lot when I was young. It’s not that easy to intimidate me now. It’s my opinion that every woman should learn some Aikido. Sometimes you need more than just the Law to protect you. You are here for an hour. You might as well enjoy the company. Surely I am an improvement on your cellmates?

 

Helene.                      You are just some stupid bxxxxrd paid to talk to me. You don’t want to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to you, bxxxxrd.

 

Callidora.       You might not believe this, but working with prisoners is a vocation. It’s not something you do for fun. And, I’m not really a bxxxxrd you know. My friends say nice things about me. Do you have any friends in here? [Helene stares into space.] I see from your File that you have never taken drugs. A lot of people in here are totally dependent on drink or drugs, or both.

 

Helene.          I have enough problems to cope with without dulling my senses and giving me another curse to deal with.

 

Callidora.       That’s good. You seem to be a very intelligent person. But you need friends in here. You can survive without drugs and alcohol, but you can’t survive without at least one friend. Could you see me as a friend? I am volunteering something here that isn’t really in my job description.

I interview lots of prisoners who have been hurt so many times that they just want to reach out and hurt someone else. As if that would cure them of their own hurts. Life doesn’t work like that. Not only do they cause pain to other people, but they hurt themselves in the process. I can see that you understand what I am saying. Usually I get blank stares from prisoners when I say that.

 

Helene.                      You think I’m mad don’t you? Because I stabbed that filth that attacked me. Do you think I’m insane? I stabbed him with his own knife. Made a bit of a mess of his face. It was him or me. Yes, he nearly died. And no, I don’t regret it. Any other questions? Are we done?

 

Callidora.       I am a counsellor, not a psychiatrist. But no one has ever said you are insane. Everyone I meet in here is full of hurt and anger and believes that life is out to destroy them. And that’s just the guards. A little joke there. Anyway, I have read your file and it doesn’t tell me anything. Let’s play a game. Let’s pretend I’m not an idiot who is here for a laugh, but someone who genuinely cares for you as another suffering human being. Talk to me about yourself. Tell me anything. Please, Helene.

 

Helene.                      The Theatre.

 

Callidora.       You like the Theatre? Yes?

 

Helene.                      I love the Theatre. Love it like you don’t know. Like you couldn’t understand.

 

Callidora.       Well, that’s quite easy to do because I’ve only been once to the Theatre.

 

Helene.          You are a Greek. You come from the nation that produced Euripides and you have been once to the Theatre.

 

Callidora.       You fake it a bit, but your accent is very upper class. I bet you didn’t get to talk to girls like me when you were growing up? I do know that you can’t talk fancy in here. You couldn’t survive in here talking upper class. As you can tell from my accent, I come from a working class family. We didn’t have the money to go and treat ourselves to expensive plays. Growing up, I always thought Theatre was just for the rich.

 

Helene.                      Ugly, stupid, and uncultured.

 

Callidora.       Just poor, Helene.

 

Helene.                      Sorry. Look, if I talk to you, does everything I say get written down and passed about between all the counsellors and prison staff?

 

Callidora.       I am not out to trip you up. Or, to get you to confess to anything. My notes are private, but I will make recommendations which will be based upon our talks and on how open you are to me. I am not looking for anything special. Just talk to me.

 

Helene.                      [After a few seconds of deliberation. Spoken quietly.] My father took me to the Theatre. He loved the Theatre.

 

Callidora.       Did he love you?

 

Helene.                      [Distressed.] Are we finished yet? Has an hour gone past yet? It’s too hot in here. Let’s break for a while.

 

Callidora.       Remember that I am trying to help you. Did your father ignore you, neglect you? He couldn’t have done. He took you to the Theatre. What was the first play that you saw together?

 

Helene.                      [Sobbing.] Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides.

 

Callidora.       [Almost sobbing.] Did you enjoy the play? I know the name   but… Helene, tell me what it is about, please.

 

Helene.                      For the Greek fleet to sail to attack Troy, Iphigenia needs to be sacrificed. Eventually, Iphigenia ends up arguing that she should be sacrificed-for such a worthwhile cause. She says that she wants to be sacrificed.

 

Callidora.       Does her father allow her to be sacrificed? Does he love her?

 

Helene                       The greatest sacrifice is the one that is done willingly? But does she die willingly? Does she have a choice?

 

Callidora.       I don’t know. Does she?

 

Helene.                      Fathers sometimes ask for sacrifices that are far too great for their child to give willingly. [Sobs.]

 

[Callidora goes over and hugs Helene and both cry together.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 4

 

 

 

 

Scene 5. In a Celestial realm, up “there” somewhere. Lots of white and gold trimming. The only furniture is one insignificant throne (on which Aphrodite is sitting). The Chorus of two speak alternate lines. They all look through “a mist” to see how events unfold on earth.

 

Aphrodite. She doesn’t need me. You can’t trust any of them. She said she loved me. Yet, it seems that she has a boyfriend. A hairy, smelly man? Look. The man has his arms around her. Forcing her to kiss him. But, she is fighting him off. Hitting him. He is punching her. Knocking her down to the ground. She is finished.

 

Chorus.

Ohhh,

No!

We beg you to

Save her

That man has a knife

He will cut her

And force her to…

Then kill her

Please,

Help her

 

Aphrodite.      You know the new rules. Celestial beings are no longer supposed to take any direct part in the life’s of humans. The days of our sending aid to diverse opposing Greek Armies has gone. Anyway, I’m not omnipotent. Not even that compassionate. And she isn’t particularly pretty. I do have feelings for her but humans are most ungrateful. Why help her? What’s in it for me?

 

Chorus.

Listen, she prays to you,

She calls on you.

You cannot ignore her call

What would the others say?

In her pain she whispers your name

She is your only follower on earth

And she will die

And worse,

If you don’t get off that throne and do something extremely quickly

 

Aphrodite. [Standing up and waving her arms about in front of her.]

Listen to me, Helene,

It is me, Aphrodite.

It is! Honest.

Don’t you recognise my voice?

I will smash away the knife from his hand,

There

Now grab it

Grab it.

Use it!

[Doing the actions.] Stick the blade into him,

Push it in, further

Good. Good.

[Shouting.] Go for the face. Into his spotty face. Yes!

Serves him right

Men are all the same

Now, run and hide

Yes, it’s me. Indeed, I have answered your prayers.

I said I would, didn’t I?

Don’t you trust me?

  1. Time for you to find a safe hiding place

Just one last kick, all right. That’s enough.

 

Chorus [Cheering as Aphrodite intervenes.]

She is safe

Well done

We thank you, Goddess

We thank you, Goddess

 

Aphrodite.      It hurts.

 

Chorus.

Immortal Goddess,

What hurts?

 

Aphrodite.

To care again for a mortal

Another Helene

Not as pretty as the last one though,

But much more intelligent, scarily intelligent

And cultured

And that innocent smile…

 

Chorus.

You can make her

Beautiful. Ohhhh, yes.

Like the other Helene

And sexy too

Helene was so…

Desirable

Aphrodite.

No human should be as beautiful as that

I shook nearly as much as she did when I went to visit her

The nights were…

You can’t guess and don’t try.

But, oh the trouble she caused.

This one needs a huge dose of beauty,

Immense amounts of looking after

And some new clothes

Something stylish

And look at her hair

Lots of work to be done

She will keep me busy

 

Chorus.

It will be nice for you both

To look at clothes together

It is such a long, long time

Since you had a tunic made for you

Yours is

A bit out of style

Sorry

Sorry!

 

Aphrodite.      I will get something new. More fashionable.

 

Chorus.

Will you love her?

Touch her?

Stroke her Hair?

Kiss her?

We could do those things for you,

If you were too busy

Or, will you find an attractive human for her,

To love,

Down below,

On earth?

 

Aphrodite.      I will let her choose her lover.

 

Chorus.

Shall her lover be mortal,

Or immortal?

 

ENDS SCENE 5

 

 

 

 

Scene 6. In the living room. Markos sits on the couch fascinated by Helene. Helene lies on the floor reading.

 

Markos.                      Come here and sit beside me my darling. Over here. I have a nice surprise for you. Honest.

 

Helene.                      I am reading one of Euripides plays. I need to know it for homework.

 

Markos.                      I’m not asking. Come and sit here! [Markos points to where Helene is to sit on the couch beside him. Slowly she gets up and sits where he asks her to.] You like jewellery don’t you? All girls like jewellery. For a girl like you with less than perfect features, jewellery can take a man’s attention away from your face. Your face isn’t your best feature. Don’t be angry with me. Only a loving father will tell you these things. [Pulls at her face.]

 

Helene.                      Leave me alone. Let me go. I have homework to do. I need to go.

 

Markos.                      I would never go outside the family and cheat on Elpida, with another woman. The family must never be broken up. Although you are not particularly attractive to me, I must find satisfaction for my natural desires with you. With your body and with your mind. This use of a daughter sometimes happens in ancient cultures. The family comes before everything else. It is not unusual. It is a practise most associated with royalty. If you just understood a little of what you read.  For once in your life, you should put your family before your own petty selfish interests. You go to a good School. You live in a fantastic house. Many poor people in Athens would be envious of your life. You owe your Mother and me a huge debt.

You are not as young as you once were and time does not improve your looks. Your body gets fatter day by day. Your skin ages. You should be glad of my attention.

 

Helene.                      Everything that you say is twisted and deceitful. I am not as stupid as you think me.

 

Markos.                      Listen to me, your poor Mother is a drunk. She is upstairs drunk in bed at the moment. However, she loves me and wants what is best for me. She knows that she can’t cook or clean the house anymore. She can’t even fulfil her other duties as a wife. Do you understand what I am talking about? [Helene nods.] She accepts that she has let me down by not being a proper wife to me. So, she has given me her wedding ring to use. Look, isn’t it beautiful? It cost a fortune. She insisted that you wear it instead of her. And that, just until she feels a bit better, you be like a wife to me. You will also get lots of nice treats like fancy meals out and trips to the Theatre. So, perfect for me and perfect for you. A new wonderful life full of opportunity will reveal itself to you. Trust me.  It’s what she wants you to do. She said, “Tell Helene it would make me happy if she pleased my dear Markos.” Here, put the ring on this finger, it’s the wedding ring finger. It will be just as if we were married. [Markos tries to push the ring onto Helene’s finger, but the ring falls off.] Stupid girl. Your finger’s too small for the ring. You should have told me.

 

Helene.                      [Moving away from Markos.] Please don’t make me do this. Don’t hit me. The ring is far too big. It fell under the couch. I will find it. [Helene looks under the couch.]

Markos.                      That ring cost your Mother a fortune. You better find it. And then you can try to apologise properly to me. A kiss will do for now. [Grabs Helene up from the floor and forcefully kisses her on the lips.] Don’t tell me you don’t know what to do.

 

Helene                       [Pulling herself away.] Please, I beg you. Leave me alone. I don’t want you as a lover or as a father. I hate you.

 

Markos.                      I am glad that I have earned your hatred. Love from you was never something that I expected. I would rather have hatred than have apathy. Let me put this simply to you. You can be nice to me. Or I can, again, beat you into submission.  You’re a grown up girl. You always wanted to be allowed to make your own decisions. You choose.

 

Helene                       [After a few seconds.] Close your eyes. One thing only I ask, close your eyes.

 

Markos                       [Smiling.] All right, my dear sweet wife. My eyes are closed. You are such a shy innocent young thing. That’s why I love you so much. [Closes eyes and opens his arms.]

 

[Helene moves up close to him then punches upwards hard against his nose.]

 

Markos.                      Aaargh. Aaaargh. You’ve broken my nose. Get away. I’m getting the police to arrest you. Get out. Leave my house, now. My nose! [Holds a handkerchief to his nose.]

 

Helene.                      [Picks up the wedding ring from under the couch.] Goodbye, and I hope you rot in hell.

 

Markos.                      Get out! I will tell your Mother what you did, you nasty conniving bitch.

 

Helene                       [Helene leaves waving her fist at him.] Don’t you dare hit my Mother again. Or, I’ll come back here and take revenge on you for all the hurts you caused to her and caused to me. I need revenge on you and all your kind.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 6

 

 

 

Scene 7. Helene and Elpida together on the couch.

 

Helene.                      It’s so nice to spend some time, just the two of us. And I’m glad that you’re not drinking. You look happier. I hope it lasts.

 

Elpida Sometimes I get sad and your father thinks that a drink will relax me. It doesn’t. It makes me sadder.

 

Helene.                      And it makes you so drunk that you can’t be part of my life. I want you here sober. Happy and sober

 

Elpida.            You made a lovely meal for me. Something vegetarian. Your Father would not have approved. Though, you really are a good cook. I told you that you would be. You just had to try.

 

Helene.                      Mother, what would you have been if you hadn’t got married to…

 

Elpida.            Perhaps I could have been an artist. I would have liked that. A big part of my life was art and artists.

 

Helene.                      I have never seen you paint. You should take me to an Art Gallery. If it is allowed.

 

Elpida.            Your father is the real artist. He is very talented. I just don’t like him bullying you into posing for him. You are our daughter, not an artist’s model. I still haven’t seen any of these paintings. Does he paint your face?

 

Helene.                      He tells me stories.

 

Elpida.            Tell me darling, what stories?

 

Helene.                      He says that I shouldn’t tell. I shouldn’t tell secrets. If I betray his trust in me, you might die.

 

Elpida.            That’s a horrible thing to say to you. I am not going to die anytime soon. Trust me and tell me what these things he wants kept secret are. You have to trust someone.  Your father can be a bit of a bully sometimes and is occasionally a bit selfish. But this is awful. Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand him? He is, underneath it all, a kind man.

 

Helene.                      All my life there have been secrets. But you have seen him hit me. He has even beat you up. He doesn’t hide the beatings. You know about them but do nothing. He knows we are both too scared to do anything. To tell anyone.

 

Elpida.            Men like to dominate women. Some women like it. I liked your father when he took all the decisions. Even when, at times, he was a bit rough with me. Very rough. Well, at first it was not that bad.

Things are now out of control. I don’t have a relationship with him. I am his toy. Please, get me a drink. I’m getting tense.

 

Helene.                      He wants you drunk and under his control. He thinks he can deal with us one at a time. He wants you drunk and me silent.

 

Elpida.            Perhaps we should leave him. I guessed, but didn’t really know, that he treated you badly.

 

Helene.                      What world have you been living in? A different one from me. You seem to be saying you don’t really know anything about him. Yet, how many times have you went off to bed. Leaving him alone with me. You could hear my cries. The bedroom isn’t that far away. Didn’t my tears disturb your sleep? You are meant to be my Mother.

 

Elpida.            Once he cared for us both. Perhaps he will become nice again. People change. He couldn’t have faked being a nice person. Could he? He spends all his time hunting for Galleries to display his paintings in. But people just can’t accept what a good artist he is. That is what makes him angry. He feels it’s wrong, us living off my parents money.

 

Helene.                      Father gets angry if the night happens to be dark. He doesn’t need an excuse to beat you or me. Stay sober. And then we can plan our escape from here. It’s not a home, just a well decorated prison with a sadistic guard at the door. We both need to be free. Be my Mother once more and promise me you will stay sober.

 

Elpida.            Hold me darling. [They hug each other.] I will stand up to him. I will try to have more respect for myself. Cut down on my drinking. You and I will plan how to leave. When to leave. Most of my family stay far away. Yet together, Mother and daughter, we will think of something.

 

Helene.                      I love you. Love you more than anything. Just, don’t die.

 

Elpida.            Wipe your eyes. I can hear his car in the distance. We must not let him guess for a moment what we are planning.

 

Helene.                      No need to wipe our eyes. He will think something is wrong if at least one of us is not in tears. I need you and you need me. Stay sober. I love you. [They hold each other’s hands tight as they wait for the door to open.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 7

 

 

 

 

Scene 8. All three sit on the couch.

 

Elpida.            Athens was so busy tonight. Nice. I liked the buzz. It was almost impossible to walk along the crowded streets. The evening is everyone’s favourite time. Glad we had an hour in which we could all get caught up in the huge crowd movements that epitomises Athens at night. Helene, did you enjoy the play?

 

Helene.                      I enjoyed it, yes. I still say it’s one of Euripides finest plays, and yet it is uneven and contradictory. And before I forget, thanks for taking me to see it. It was a lovely Birthday treat.

 

Markos.                      Sixteen years old today. Such an important point in your life. If I may, however, you are wrong about the play. It’s meant to be contradictory. It’s all about opposites.  The only constant in the play is the concept that a daughter must sacrifice herself – sacrifice everything – to save her father. If, of course, he asks for that sacrifice. The play convincingly argues that daughters have a debt to repay to their fathers.

Can I have my Birthday kiss now, Helene? [Markos leans forward to kiss Helene who turns away.]

 

Elpida.            Lucky that the play is set in a time thousands of years ago and is of interest mainly as a glimpse into Greece’s barbaric past. Glad we don’t sacrifice daughters today. Isn’t that so, Helene?

 

Markos.                      An interesting question. What would you say in answer, my daughter?

[Helene puts her hands over her face.]

 

Elpida.            We’re only joking, Helene. Don’t get upset. Here, have a glass of wine. She is sixteen, Markos.

 

Helene.                      I don’t really know what the play is about. It is very deep. And it asks questions that are hard to answer. I like that about it.

 

Markos                       Answer the question we asked.

 

Helene.                      If a father has shown his daughter true love all her life, then he can ask for a sacrifice from her. Just ask. He can’t take. The sacrifice is the daughters to give, not the fathers to take.

 

Markos.                      [Spoken in an off hand manner.] An interesting opinion.

 

Elpida.            Very warm at the theatre tonight. I think we are in for a hot spell. I’ll have that wine, if you don’t want it?

 

Markos.                      Drink up, Elpida. It’s good to relax. But Helene, if you were Iphigenia, would you sacrifice yourself for your father?

 

 

Helene.                      She doesn’t have much choice. She either fights against crowds of people and then gets sacrificed. Or, does a strange kind of a victory speech and then get sacrificed. As happened in the play. The lady doesn’t have many options. She doesn’t have a free choice.

 

Elpida.            Why don’t we go outside into the garden?

 

Markos.                      Excuse me for asking one last question on the subject. If you could escape but knew that your father would be punished instead of you…

 

Helene.                      [Interrupting.] I would escape as quickly as I could. I would run and run until I collapsed from exhaustion. Mother, time to go out into the garden. It is meant to be a full moon tonight. It will be lovely to see. No more questions!

 

Elpida.            I’m lost. It didn’t happen. It’s a play. There was no Iphigenia. No sacrifice.

 

Helene.                      As usual, it depends upon your point of view. Emotions can be just as real as the full moon that shines on Athens in a summer’s night. No more wine, Mother. I need to get some fresh air outside.

[They leave with Helene taking the wine off Elpida.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 8

 

 

 

Scene 9. Empty stage in darkness. No furniture. Helene wears a mask. Also wears a wreath (a ring) of flowers on her head.

 

Helene.

 

In the black of deepest night, I wake again,

It is that same dream, or perhaps a remembering

Sounds of anger and hate, rising,

Sounds of sword on shield, clattering

Excited soldiers cover every inch of this hill,

Even the sea, in its shame, hides from my gaze under a thousand ships.

 

My father asks too much of me,

His dead eyes look through me.

I fear this death, and more,

I fear the long dying

Let me go back to the palace,

My toys and my friends are waiting

 

The Goddess Artemis whispers in my ear,

Curses and the like.

Should I run, and be called a coward,

And yet still die?

Or, cry out against the Trojans?

I do not hate the Trojans

But I can curse them in eloquent phrases,

Words borrowed from my storyteller

 

And what prize shall mighty Greece gain from this?

Another war, another ruined city, some slaves.

My beautiful young head in covered in tiny flowers,

My noble throat is made ready for the knife.

As my body begins to shake, uncontrollably,

A strong wind comes out of nowhere

Please, do not join in the cheers of the mob,

Just, call me Iphigenia, and pity me

 

 

ENDS SCENE 9

 

 

 

 

Scene 10. Markos and Helene in the living room. Markos is on the couch. Helene on the floor in front of him, a book in her hands. Markos has a sketching pad and pencil in his hands.

 

Markos.          It would be nice if you would relax and let me paint you as if you were just one out of a hundred other Greek women whose bodies were destined to be forever remembered on canvas. If we go up to your room you can take off these ugly clothes and reveal the beauties that you do have. No need for shyness. Don’t you want to be immortalised like the models who posed for the world famous portraits of Aphrodite? Don’t you want to honour your Goddess, the Beautiful One? You are not perfect in form, but an artist can see the many good qualities that you do have and can see in his imagination the qualities that you don’t have.

 

Helene.          I would prefer that you stay out of my room. Even though you don’t usually allow me the privacy that I need. Mother never goes into my room.

 

Markos.          In my ten years of painting, I must have painted about twenty naked women. I have painted your Mother.

 

Helene.          You have never painted Mother naked.

 

Markos.          She didn’t want anyone to know, so I don’t talk about it much. But there is a painting that I sold, for quite a bit of money, where the naked model is your own dear Mother. Honest!

 

Helene.          Perhaps you aren’t lying. Though you have told untruths to me many times before.

 

Markos.          True, I lie. I have these bad habits. The one true and pure thing in me is my art. At the moment, I see you just as a model. You have some qualities that are very fine. As an artist I recognise that. I don’t often praise your looks, though perhaps I should. I want to work. I want to paint a masterpiece and you could help me. If I say or do anything that is not in keeping with my professionalism as an artist, then I have failed the gifts that I have been born with. As well as that, to hire an artist’s model costs me more than I make from the painting. I can’t afford one from my own money, and I am not asking your Mother for money. I need my own money.  Look, just let me sketch you with pencil and pad. If you don’t like what you see, then I will never ask you to pose for me again. Your Mother won’t be back for a couple of hours, so I will compromise and initially draw you here in this room. All I ask of you is that you be undressed and that you don’t move for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is all it will take to sketch you.

 

Helene.          I don’t trust you. I am scared.

 

Markos.          You are right. I don’t give you much reason to trust me, do I? I am many things. Most people are made up of many different things. Things that sometimes are not connected, or that even work against each other. I am your father. And, I have other very strong feelings towards you that, that you know about. However, I am also an artist. Speaking to you as an artist, please just stand before me and pose as if you are stepping out of the sea. As you are. No need to undress. For this sketch my imagination will work overtime. I want a look of innocence on your face. Not a look of fear.

 

[Hesitantly, Helene takes the required position in front of the couch and looks towards Markos.]

 

Helene.          Is this OK? I am not that pretty. I do genuinely want to use any gifts I have in order to please her.

 

Markos.          With a bit of work. Only a little bit of work, I will make your drawing appear so beautiful that you will honour your Goddess. When I have finished, it will be up to you if you want to be painted. And in what manner you want to be painted. I swear on my dear wife’s life, I will never pester you ever again. Helene, thank you a lot for this.

Just lift your left arm a little to place it on your hip. That’s it. Now try and get comfortable. I will be about twenty minutes. You are coming out of the warm blue sea. The waves lap around your knees. And let me see you smile. I know it’s usually me that stops you smiling. Your smile is beautiful.

[For half a minute Markos quietly sketches Helene. He then starts fidgeting and staring at Helene. His looks become furtive and he wipes sweat from his head. After another minute he puts down the pencil and pad and continually stares at Helene. She comes out of her pose and she looks to the ground. Both are frozen like this for ten seconds. Then the scene ends.]

 

ENDS SCENE 10

 

 

 

Scene 11. Helene and Aphrodite on Helene’s living room couch. Aphrodite looks seventeen and is beautiful.

 

Helene.          I don’t normally ask back strangers to my house. When I saw you in the museum, my shyness disappeared. All I had left was an overwhelming urge to speak to you. To find out more about you. Your accent is so strange. Strange and lovely. Do you come from Athens?

 

Aphrodite.      Many times I have walked through the streets of Athens. But I was not born here. I do like that little Museum where we met. It’s so nice. Full of unique, beautiful things. And the coffee’s drinkable too.

 

Helene.          Whenever I have some free time, I go there to look at the painting of Aphrodite that is there. It is my favourite painting. I try to go when the museum is quiet, so I can look at it for as long as I like. Which is quite long. She is beauty without limit. Without explanation.

 

Aphrodite.      I too have a fascination with art that tries, however, unsuccessfully, to depict one of the many forms that Aphrodite uses.

 

Helene.          The same wonderful mystery that is in the painting is in you. I have never asked anyone back here like this before. You can’t understand what a pleasure it is, just having someone cultured, like you, to talk to. Luckily, today my father is shopping for art materials. Hopefully his return will be much delayed. I want time to speak to you. To get to know you.

 

Aphrodite.      And I want time to speak to you, Helene. We both love beauty. Indeed, I also have a love for many things from Greece’s ancient, but troubled, past. To you, I seem like any other girl. Perhaps slightly older than you. As you said, I have a strange quality to my voice. Also, there is a power and a beauty in me that can more than fulfil all the fantasies that are beginning to surge through your lovely body. I have no time for chit-chat or for false modesty, for I leave Athens today. I will be gone for a long time.

 

Helene.          Excuse me, but I do not even know your name.

 

Aphrodite.      For the moment, you may call me Aphrodite. That would be appropriate. A few times today, you have mentioned your father. I can see the fear that is in your eyes when you speak of him. If you willingly sacrifice your time and energy and love to the worship of Aphrodite, then I can promise you that in time she will protect you. You must prove your love for her first though. As a reward, she will make you more beautiful than you can imagine. Your father will be here soon. I need your promise to do these things, and I need a kiss to seal the bargain. The kiss should be easy for you. Your body burns with strange and exciting desires. Remembrance of the sight of my body, and the smell of my skin, and the touch of my hair, and the taste of my tongue, and the sound of my voice, sensual and seductive, will all be reasons for you to survive. Reasons not to let that baxxxrd of a father destroy you.

 

Helene.          I fear the love that I am discovering within me.

Aphrodite.      Do not confuse the deviant fantasies of your evil father with the deep love that we are discovering. Do not feel ashamed of the love that we create, that we share between us. Rejoice in it. Perhaps, in time, you will truly understand who I am. In the meantime, read the poetry of Sappho and, with faith, sing songs of worship to the Goddess Aphrodite

 

Helene.          I promise to do all that you ask. I will miss you. I will be here waiting for you.

Yes, my body and my mind are on fire. My body is not used to these desires. Fires of desire are flickering over my skin, my tongue, my… I am overcome with passion for you. Although we have just met today, yes, I do love you. Let me hold you and kiss you.

[Helene passionately embraces Aphrodite, strokes her hair, and looks into her eyes. Then kisses her, deeply, on the lips. After a few seconds Markos enters the room.]

 

Markos.          [To Aphrodite.] Get out of here. Trying to seduce my daughter are you? You, lesbian! You are not welcome here. Never come back. Helene, I forbid you from seeing her ever again.

 

Helene           [Looking at Aphrodite as she leaves.] I love you.

 

Aphrodite [To Helene.] I have friends in high places if you ever need them. Remember that I am looking out for you, Helene. I love you, Helene.

 

[Markos is bemused and scratches his head as Helene and Aphrodite exchange big smiles, Aphrodite is by then at the door. Aphrodite then leaves. End of Scene 11.]

 

 

ENDS PART 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2 is called: After…

(After the Funeral) Part 2 Length, 35 minutes long, plus 3 min 21 sec for the song.

 

Synopsis: This is the continuation of the play (This is Part 2) – written in backwards chronology – called, The Funeral. This play starts at the chronological end of the previous play. However, this play resorts to forward chronology (to make the audience work a bit).

Characters names: Callidora means, “A gift of beauty”.

The Greek’s don’t pronounce the “h” in Helene. Instead there is a rough breathing in front of the “elene”. It would be nice if this could be replicated in the play. Helene means, “Torch”.

Markos means, “Defence”.

(In the text in swear words I have used x’s. As I can’t send emails to people if there are swear words in the text-the server blocks these. Obviously in performance the swear words should be spoken as is usual.)

Music. Would be nice if before the start of the play, Ipne Pou Pernis Ta Pedia by Savina Yannatou was played (a lovely Greek song). It is track 20 on Rough Guide to Music of Greece. It is also on her CD, Nanourismata (ML3396)

 

CHARACTERS:

Aphrodite.    Looks 17, beautiful, wears white tunic.

Helene. Attractive, early twenties, with upper class speech. Modestly dressed.

Callidora. Very attractive. Working class accent. Short skirts. Late twenties. Moves very well.

 

Scene 1.  Takes place on the couch in Helene’s lounge (in what was her parent’s house in Athens).

 

 

Callidora. I think this must be the first time that we have been able to have a proper conversation since that night that you stood up for yourself.

 

Helene.          What do you mean? There wasn’t a time that I didn’t try to stand up for myself. I was a frightened child and he was a big strong maniac. Still is. Not many people could have…

 

Callidora.       [Interupting.] Sorry. I didn’t mean that you … Sorry. Why don’t we go away for a few days? I am as stressed… Well, nearly as stressed as you. I have some holidays owing from work, and the weather is fantastic. Let’s visit Lesbos.

 

Helene. Now you’re making fun of me.

 

Callidora. I just mean that it’s lovely there. But yes, I know its reputation. I know its history. Is it that you don’t want to go with me? Do you want to go there and have a short romance with no ties? Leave me behind here. You know I don’t ever want to put any pressure on you. I just would, one day, eventually, like to know how you feel about me.

 

Helene.          Feel about you? In what way?

 

Callidora.       Whatever you feel for me, I will always be your friend. Whatever kind of friend you want. Your only really strong friend just now is floating about up there in the heavens.

 

Helene.          Whether you believe me or not, I was helped by the Goddess Aphrodite. One day in my house I met her. At least I think it was her. She was beyond description. She took all the love and desire that was in me and asked for more, and then more. She broke my heart and turned all my emotions round and around and…

 

Callidora.       Who did? Aphrodite or this girl you met?

 

Helene.          Aphrodite. I mean, the girl. Both. The girl was Aphrodite. I think she was Aphrodite. When I need to, I pray to her.

 

Callidora.       To the girl who is Aphrodite?

 

Helene.          No. To Aphrodite who is the girl. I mean, to them both. They are the same person. The same Goddess, I think. If I understand right. Perhaps she would come to meet me now. Now that my father is in jail and awaiting trial for what he did to me and what he did to my Mother. You would like her. Well, maybe not.

 

Callidora.       Why not? Is she not very nice then this Goddess?

 

Helene.          She would break your sweet adorable heart into tiny little pieces. You might not act so superior around her. You tell me nothing. I don’t know if you prefer men or women. I know nothing about your past: who you loved, and who loved you. Who was kind to you and who hurt you. For I know that you have been hurt at some point in the past, and hurt deeply. I tell you everything about me and… And you make little jokes. Just because you are prettier than me doesn’t make you the decision maker. Does it!

And why do you have to wear skirts like that? Have you managed to get some part-time work as a prostitute, or are you just trying to show me that your legs are nicer than mine? Why is it always a competition between us?

 

Callidora.       Calm down, Helene. Let me give you a hug. [Tries to hug Helene but is shrugged off.]

 

Helene.          He denies everything. I will have to go to Court. How can I enjoy myself when I have that hanging over my head? I’m not good company. I want to strike out at someone. Perhaps you should leave.

 

Callidora.       Better that you direct all your anger towards me, rather than hit someone, a stranger. I know you don’t really dislike me. Forget all your dreams about your Goddess, and settle for someone mortal and real. Let’s watch some television, please. The news should be on soon.

 

Helene.          Greek Television should be the best in the world. Yet, it is aimed at an audience of working class morons.

 

Callidora.       Like me, you mean? You don’t have to know the finer points of Choral Song in order to be intelligent or kind. As a friend, I have to ask you again, not to be such a snob. [Helene sulks.] If it will cheer you up, we can go to that new play you were telling me about. We can both be snobs together for one night.

 

Helene.          Really! You would do that for me? If we rush, we can get to the Theatre in time. Thanks, Callidora. Next time, you can take me to the Karaoke. Just joking. Joking. [They both laugh and then get ready to leave.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 1

 

 

 

Scene 2. In a Heavenly Realm. Everything is white.

 

Aphrodite.      You have been asking to see me. And I want to speak to you too, about a couple of pressing matters.

 

Helene.          Mainly, I just wanted to see you again, to hear your voice. Your really are as beautiful as I remember. And the girl I met, you… you are Aphrodite.

 

Aphrodite.      You knew that from the first time I said, “Hello”. I have protected you and I will continue to protect you, as you will find out in a moment. However, you must make offerings to me in the appropriate manner. You must first create a pleasant sanctuary in your house.

 

Helene.          I have been trying to do the right things. But, tell me what I need to do, need to have.

 

Aphrodite.      You must make offerings to me on an alter. Just a small flat square of white marble will do.

 

Helene.          I am a vegetarian. Please, is there any way I can worship you without having to harm sheep and goats?

 

Aphrodite.      To speak to me, to ask for my favours, you need to make offerings to me. You don’t need to do anything that you think is wrong. Yet, in my Temple at Paphos, the alter was never polluted by blood. I most readily ask for offerings of incense. I am a Goddess who delights in myrtle, flowers, jewels, and perfumes. Incense is a purifier. All around the precincts of my Temples people tried to tell the future by examining the entrails of animals they had slaughtered. It was like an abattoir. Not something I asked for.

 

Helene.          Should I have a statue of you?

 

Aphrodite.      I don’t expect a proper statue, like the one there used to be in Athens, but a nice replica would do. Wash it in rainwater to purify it. Also, a reproduction of one of the paintings of me could be nicely put on show. I know that your father was an artist and used you as a model for the famous scene of me being born from the sea foam. But, I do understand, that, even if it were a good picture, it is something you would not want to see.

 

Helene.          No, never. Is this heaven? Why are there no rivers or clouds? No beauties, apart from you?

 

Aphrodite.      I am not really supposed to bring mortals here. So, I have had to hide my handmaidens and all the wonders of this vast realm. They are not for your eyes. At least, not for now. I know that you worship me and your mind is filled with fantasies about me. You desire to touch me, every bit of me. That is quite right. I expect that and am pleased by that. I have feelings for you. You are attractive and I could make you beautiful. If I spend too much time with you, you will love me and no other. Yet, Callidora loves you. She is a poorly paid working class uncultured atheist who thinks she is the most beautiful woman on earth.

Why do you think so much of her, when all you do together is quarrel?

 

Helene.          I don’t understand.

 

Aphrodite.      I have never done this before, but you have a choice. Choose the mortal or choose me. She will be faithful to you. I could never be faithful to a mortal. And yet, I am the most beautiful creature that has ever existed. Also, I can make love better than your most amazing bedtime fantasies can imagine.

 

Helene.          I love you both

 

Aphrodite.      Take your time. Go to Lesbos with her and enjoy yourself. I don’t know if I should tell you this, but she keeps a secret from you.

 

Helene.          I know. It annoys me but there is nothing I can…

 

Aphrodite.      [Interrupting.] She is frigid towards you. Could you have a frigid lover? Is such a thing possible?

 

Helene.          That is cruel.

 

Aphrodite.      Cruel? It is true. I don’t know why she is frigid, perhaps another secret, but she can never hold you and kiss you and make love to you. Love you like I can. You have a big decision to make. If you choose her, I shan’t be angry. Not very angry. And you can still worship me. Your body becomes more attractive to me each time I see you near to me. Making love to you would be nice. I haven’t needed to make you more attractive, that has evolved naturally from your increasing sense of freedom. It comes from your confidence in your own body.

 

Helene.          {Sobbing.] Happy tears. Happy tears. To be loved by a Goddess and by Callidora. Such happiness.

 

Aphrodite.      Before I forget, one last thing to do before you go back to Athens. I have been, once in a while, listening to your father in his cell. He has been trying to get names from his cellmate.

 

Helene.          Names? Whose names?

 

Aphrodite.      Markos has money stored away at a secret location in Athens. He wants to use it to hire someone to kill you.

 

Helene. Kill me. Why? I had thought the worst of it was over.

 

Aphrodite.      If you die, he believes that there will not be any evidence to convict him. Assuredly, if you don’t attend court, he will walk free. And of course, more and more he hates you. He believes you have betrayed him.

 

Helene.          Please help me. I don’t know what to do. You are my Goddess, again I pray to you on bended knee, please help me. [Bends down before her]

 

Aphrodite.      Over there, put your hand down and feel for something. [Points downstage.]

 

Helene.          [Groping about for a few seconds.] There is nothing I can see, but I can feel a face. An invisible face.

 

Aphrodite.      Markos hurt you, night after night. He murdered your mother. If he can, he will have you murdered. Your hands now move through space into his prison cell. Feel down and place them about his throat.

 

Helene. My father. I can feel his throat

 

Aphrodite.      Many times you have told me of the hate you feel for him. Many times you have wished him dead. Now, another choice. You strangle him to death, or he has you murdered. I have him paralysed so he cannot turn away or fight you. However, he has a strong neck and throat and you are weak. You must decide to do this thing and work hard at it. Think of your mother!

 

Helene.          [Squeezing hard at an invisible throat for two minutes in total.] This is such a terrible thing to do. This is for you, my mother.

 

Aphrodite.      And for you, Helene. Keep squeezing harder. When you are done, things will be better for you. Harder! His cell mate will get the blame. Remember he was conspiring with Markos to have you murdered. Nearly there. You must squeeze even tighter now. Do this thing properly. Don’t give up. Think of what he did to you, what he would still be doing if he could get away with it. Twenty more seconds, that’s all. I think you and Callidora should go to Lesbos for a lovely break. Be nice for both of you. Get something short and sexy and make her eyes swivel in their sockets. It’s fantastic there.

 

Helene.          {Sobbing.] For years you bullied me, assaulted me, rxxxd me.

[Panting.] Am I nearly done? Am I? Die Baxxxrd!

 

Aphrodite.      Three more seconds. Keep it up. Three, two, one. Well done. I am proud of you. You finally did get vengeance on that baxxxrd after all.

 

Helene.          [Falling forward.] Where is he?

 

Aphrodite.      He has no life force left. Nothing left to squeeze. His body in the cell is already decaying. Serves him right. No need to cry. When you get back home, phone a few people from your home phone. This will prove where you have been. The police will be visiting you late morning tomorrow. Try and look shocked. Don’t be too jubilant

 

Helene.          It was hard work. I am exhausted. Exhausted and so very pleased. [Sobs.]

 

Aphrodite       Enjoy Lesbos.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 2

 

 

SCENE 3. On a balcony in a hotel in Lesbos. Both Helene and Callidora sit on deckchairs.

 

Helene.          Well, after today I no longer need to worry about my looks. The stares of the men were a nuisance, yet one I could cope with. The women looking at me, in that particular way, that was nice. Glad I brought this lovely two piece swimsuit. Isn’t my bottom amazing? [Shows Callidora her bottom.] You look very sexy yourself, Callidora.

 

Callidora.       Thanks. You are very pretty. Very nice.

 

Helene.          You never say anything too complementary about my looks. I know you don’t like men too much. Though you do wear the sexiest of outfits and love all the attention you get from the other sexy women. I never seem to get any looks from you. No meaningful glances. Your hand never touches my knee a second too long. You never smell my hair when it’s just washed. I don’t believe that you are frigid, but you have a secret in your life. Please trust me enough to tell me. I need to know why you behave towards me as if I am a distant relative or a work mate. Don’t you find me attractive? I trusted you.

 

Callidora.       My mother was a drug addict. We lived in a dreadful part of Athens. One you have never visited. When she had money, she bought drugs. Rarely, she bought food for either of us. I learned to steal. She was too high on drugs to steal properly. She was attractive and made some money by prostituting her body and by nude modelling for artists. My father was someone that I never met. When she had clients or was modelling, she chased me out of the house. Eventually after weeks of asking her who he was, she told me his first name. She said that she would have to speak to him first, before she told me any more about him. She was scared of him. A few days later he was to come over to the flat to speak to her. She asked me to give them some time alone together. I presume he turned up. Three hours later I returned to see the flat in flames. She burned to death before I could hear any more about him. The police knew what kind of a person she was and wasted no time on looking for a possible killer. Me, I think she was murdered by my father who didn’t want his secret to pass out of his control.

 

Helene.          His name?

 

Callidora.       She just told me his first name. Look, there are hundreds of people called Markos in Athens.

 

Helene.          And that is why you are too scared to hold me or touch me? You think we are sisters?

 

Callidora.       I think the odds are very much against us being sisters. And we look nothing like each other. Do I look like him? Your father?

 

Helene.          No. I don’t believe for a second that he would have betrayed my mother by sleeping with someone outside the family. At least, that is what he said. In truth though, we never knew much about his life before he met my mother. You were born three years before he met my mother.

Callidora.       I love you, and I do think you are beautiful and sexy.

 

Helene. You are the most sensual woman I have ever met. I get excited just watching your body move. And your legs are… At this moment, I am filled with desire for you. You know that I love you. There is a double bed inside. I promise you that by the morning, we will both be exhausted and we will both be lovers. Never mention this “sister” thing again.

 

Callidora        [Reaches over and pulls Helene’s face nearer for a long kiss.] May your Aphrodite grant us enough passion and strength to last this long happy night together.

 

Helene. [Speaking to the night.] Aphrodite, we crave your blessing on our lovemaking. [Whispering.] Be happy for us, please. [Callidora leads Helene inside.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 3

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 4. The Heavenly Realm of Aphrodite. All is white.

 

Aphrodite.      Welcome again to my heavenly realm. Well, those bits I am allowed to show you. I am glad you managed to escape to Lesbos, away from the journalists and from your father’s funeral. Wasn’t well attended.

I was only a bit jealous, a bit angry.

 

Helene.          Angry at me?

 

Aphrodite.      It’s difficult, having a mortal that I care about, reject me for another. And for a human at that. Not your fault, but I went out Clubbing in Athens. I decided to put on my shortest designer skirt and to break a few hearts. Only fair. Had to find out if my features were absolutely perfect. They were.

 

Helene. Don’t be angry. I still love you. Still worship you.

 

Aphrodite.      Are you listening? Anyway, this woman kept staring at me whenever I danced near her boyfriend. Hadn’t noticed him till then. I was in a bit of a mood, so I did a detour past her hulky man and while pushing past him, stroked his thigh. Oh, and I gave him one of my, “This is going to be my first time” looks. I didn’t need to try too hard but was in a bit of a hurry. We spent about an hour together. He spent most of the time whispering obscenities in my ear and trying to force me to do things I didn’t want to do. Normally, I would have walked away a long time before, but I was desperate for it. Eventually, I had taken enough and said, “Leave it. I was just in for the dancing. My boy friend is waiting for me outside. I don’t want any more of your horrible behaviour.”

I left the Club followed by the hateful stares of his girlfriend and by the big guy and two of his friends. I headed for a nearby dark avenue that I know about. It is secluded and has a dead end to it. I could hear one of the guys arguing with the others and saying, “Leave her alone.” Eventually I turned and said, “I don’t want any of you near me. You don’t have my permission to do what you are wanting to do. If you come near me you are breaking the law. If you attack me I will resist. I started Karate Classes last week and am nearly an Orange belt. You have been warned.”

The big guy pushed the nice one out of the way and grabbed me by the wrist saying, “You’ve been asking for it all night. Now you’re going to get some.”

He was rough with me and I was very angry, so I grabbed his arm and snapped it in a couple of places. What a noise it made. He fell to the ground in agony.

 

Helene.          You should have run. It wasn’t safe.

 

Aphrodite       The other angry friend ran straight at me. I sidestepped and tripped him as he went past. There was another satisfying crack as I kicked into his right thigh and broke the bone. Quite a messy fracture I would say.

 

Helene.          And the decent guy?

 

Aphrodite.      He said he would phone the police for me. However, with the sound of the Gods laughing in my ears I said, “I need to sit down and have a rest. I don’t often do this, but you can come back to my hotel room and we can have a coffee or whatever. You are so very kind.”

 

Helene. [Laughing.] And did you have a coffee?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, we did. And we had a very enjoyable “whatever” too. Worth waiting for.

 

Helene.          Don’t ever let me go out Clubbing in Athens with you.

 

Aphrodite       We’ll see. Have you heard anything about your father’s will?

 

Helene.          He never had time to change it. Everything goes to me. Apart from one painting which goes to Callidora.

 

Aphrodite.      Is it a painting of her mother?

 

Helene.          It’s a nude paining of her mother. It also means that Callidora and I are half-sisters. It’s not a big worry. We weren’t brought up together. We had a different mother. We aren’t going to have babies together, so no mixed up genetics to worry about.

 

Aphrodite.      I hope you can cope with it. I would like to meet this famous Callidora. You speak so highly of her. I have seen her through the mists of distance but would like to see her up close. Can we all be at your house for a chat next week?

 

Helene.          That will be lovely. Having a Goddess over for tea ensures that the house will get a really good tidying. You are the two most important people, sorry, person and Goddess in my life. I hope you become friends.

 

 

 

ENDS SCENE 4

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 5. All three on Helene’s couch.

 

Aphrodite.      My Dear Callidora, what a lovely name. It means, “Gift of beauty” doesn’t it? It is certainly a most accurate description. One small point though, I understand that you think me a liar, and by extension, Helene a liar, or a fool, or mad. [Holds out her hand to stop Callidora speaking.] Please, allow me one minute to speak. You are a strong effective debater and I will let you speak in a moment. [Waits a few seconds.] Helene is telling you something totally outside your understanding when she tells you I am Aphrodite. But, if you truly love her, you must try to accept what she says. At the very least, don’t make fun of her belief in me, a belief in something beyond your limited understanding.

 

Callidora.       You are just an ordinary woman, a girl, sitting there. I love Helene and would do anything for her. I just can’t allow her to be so deceived. I do believe that she loves you. You are beautiful and quite lovely in your speech. Maybe 2,500 years ago your little talk would have been more convincing. Back then, people were either slaves or poor, or they were rich and powerful. There was no room for honest questioning.

 

Aphrodite.      I assure you, there was lots of “honest questioning”. You will have seen Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides by now.  I know it is Helene’s favourite play. What did you think of it? Was there “honest questioning?”

 

Callidora.       Euripides was very brave. He wrote a play which made the audience question their own ideas about war. Brave when the audience of Athenians were fighting a savage war that they would lose. The language was that of 2,500 years ago. As well as that, it was of a particular type used only in Drama. I didn’t understand that much of it.

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, I notice that you give a synopsis to the play. You do not deal in subtleties of text or argument. Many people from poor backgrounds lack in certain gifts, like proper speech or a knowledge of the theatre.

 

Callidora.       Are you a fascist Goddess then?

 

Aphrodite.      I would not have people killed because they are inferior, lacking in essential qualities. Nevertheless, I have to make note of the differences that exist between rich and poor. Between cultured and uncultured. I would gladly make love to someone as pretty as you but I wouldn’t want to discuss theatre or the arts with you. I would be wasting my time. I hope I don’t offend you by speaking my mind.

 

Helene.          [Interrupting.] You offend her and you offend me. You made me choose between you and Callidora. And I chose Callidora. In this tough world, we both fight to survive and to have a little fun when we can. I love her because she is the most compassionate person I know. Compassion wasn’t even mentioned in your little talk about poverty. Yet, I am not a fool… I do, now, know why you are speaking to us like this. You want us both to dislike you. Why?

 

 

Aphrodite.      You are scarily clever. There can be no physical love between mortal and immortal. I wanted to chase you away from me and further into the arms of Callidora. Her very well sculpted arms. However, I am not a very clever persuader, am I?

 

Helene.          You are kind and I will always worship you. I would ask you to, from now on, talk openly to us both. When Callidora has calmed down from her quite understandable rage, I am sure we can have a lovely talk about our trip to Molyvos in Lesbos. It was nice. The beach was lovely though a bit pebbly. The village was sweet. Come to think of it, we spent most of our time in bed. That first night there, our first night together, was the first time that I made love to anyone. Callidora has the most amazing tongue. [Callidora puts her hands over her face in embarrassment.]

 

Aphrodite.      [Talking to Callidora.] You have magnificent legs and a skilled tongue. I am quite jealous of my friend, Helene. Let me kiss you once on the lips to say sorry. [Turning to Helene.] It’s OK. Just a kiss. No tongues, honest. [Kisses her for two seconds while Helene looks on a bit worried.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 5

 

 

 

Scene 6. Callidora and Helene on the couch.

 

Helene.          I want you to move in with me. Live as my partner. We trust each other. The sex is fantastic. Let’s be quite open about things.

 

Callidora.       I need my space. This is your house. You would go mad if I played my Savina Yannatou CD’s too loud.

 

Helene. Just think about it then. There is something else though. When I got the money from the estate, I got lots of begging letters. I burned them all. All bar one.

 

Callidora.       Burn it too. Let’s get on with our lifes. What kind of letter is it?

 

Helene.          It’s almost a blackmail letter. It asks for money to be given to this woman so she can give her child a good start in life.

 

Callidora.       And how does that concern you?

 

Helene.          The woman is an alcoholic. She has only a few months left to live. Her liver is finished. Her child is a lovely one year old girl. Healthy, but most of the time staying with distant relatives or with Social Work. She wants the child adopted but also wants her to have some money in a Bank Account for her for when she gets older.

 

Callidora.       It is blackmail. Get the Police involved.

 

Helene.          The woman doesn’t want anything for herself. She knows things about me. Things you don’t even know. Things I was too ashamed to tell you. No one else knows about them. She worked as a prostitute and as an Artist’s model. She wrote saying my Father got her pregnant two years ago. Apparently, he used to confess to her about the things he did to me. He felt some kind of guilt. She wrote that she wanted to tell the Police but was too scared of him. And yet, she still loved him.

 

Callidora.       This is awful. Perhaps there are other children out there that are born to your father.

 

Helene.          My father’s picture was in the News so often that anyone with a grudge against him or a child born to him would have contacted me by now. Do I give this woman money? She might ask for more.

 

Callidora.       Or she might go to the Press with her story about what Markos did to you. Did she threaten to do that? There have been some horrible stories in the Newspapers already. All lies and misinformation. Disgusting journalists.

 

Helene.          Surprisingly, no. She has no proof of anything. If I reject her claim then she might go to the Newspapers to get some money, possibly. I could sue them and sue her.

 

Callidora.       Yet, the child, it seems, is another half-sister. If we were a couple then we could adopt the child and say nothing of her past. At least, not until she was grown up. Our lifes would have to be devoted to the care of this child. This would be a very different life from the one we were planning together.

 

Hellene.         My father still seems to be trying to affect my life. Yet, if the child is our half-sister, maybe it deserves good parents.

 

Callidora.       Us, good parents? I don’t even know if we would be allowed to adopt the child. Unlikely. Impossible.

 

Helene.          Then we either let two good people adopt the child, or I take in the child as my half-sister.

 

Callidora.       So, you would admit to everyone your kinship to this child, but not your kinship to me?

 

Helene.          Yes, for you are my lover. It can’t be known that you are my half-sister as well. We are not lying, just trying to find the best way out of an incredibly complicated situation that my father has left us in.

 

Callidora.       If you take the child in, can you trust the authorities and the mother not to pass on this highly secret information?

 

Helene.          I have money and my Mother’s family has a good lawyer. Can I talk to the woman and to the lawyer?

 

Callidora.       Yes. Talk to the lawyer and then the mother. Tell me, what’s the name of the child?

 

Helene.          The mother likes the same music as you do. The child is called Savina.

 

Callidora.       Nice name. I suppose that this child can pull us apart, or hold us together. We will see how fate treats us.

 

ENDS SCENE 6

 

 

 

 

Scene 7. All three on Helene’s couch.

 

Aphrodite.      Thanks for asking me back. Sorry I was so rude last time.

 

Callidora.       I am trying to accept that you are who Helene says you are. And yes, you were rude. Apology accepted though. I am puzzled at these paintings. Why did Markos paint all these pictures of you being born from the sea foam? How many did he paint, I wonder?

 

Aphrodite.      I am drawn to art or literature that speaks to me or of me. I see and I listen. There are only two such paintings. One is of Helene and the other is of your own mother, Callidora. He painted many models but they usually did not give him enough inspiration. Although he had little money of his own, he destroyed any paintings he thought imperfect. To him, you were just another Artist’s model, Helene.

 

Callidora.       I believe from what I have heard about the immortal ones, that Markos must have been trying to please you, Aphrodite. Is that so? Did he try to speak to you? Did he worship you?

 

Aphrodite.      After burning incense to contact me, he then approached me with a deal. His part of the deal was that he would worship me and that he would trick you Helene into also worshiping me.

 

Helene.          I don’t understand. He was the one that banned me from reading about you. Forbid me from even mentioning your name.

 

Aphrodite.      He knew you were a rebel and would try to oppose his will in whatever way you could. He tried to stop you worshiping me. Yet, he didn’t try very hard.

 

Helene.          And what did he want of you?

 

Aphrodite.      Things asked of a Goddess are not to be mentioned to anyone else. You ask too much of our friendship.

 

Helene.          You must tell me. You have to tell me.

 

Aphrodite.      Be quiet. You have never seen me angry. I am also the Goddess of broken hearts and of revenge. I am not allowed to speak of things told in confidence. I cannot speak to you about this.

 

Callidora. [Hugging Aphrodite’s knees.] As a supplicant, I beg you to help Helene. I have just begun to open my heart to you. I will worship you as well. Please, you did not accept his request or speak back to him. So, nothing of confidence was promised.

 

Aphrodite.      It is not that easy. I should not speak of this. I will accept the terms you offer me though, Callidora. Markos thought that Helene here was almost perfect in body. When she was ten, he fell in love with her. As she grew into a woman, he hated her for growing fat and ugly. He thought the breasts and hips of a woman were fat and ugly.

He asked for a lot from me.

 

Helene.          Did he want sex with me? But he already had that. Did he want sex with you? Excuse me, but I have to know.

 

Aphrodite.      Markos had the greatest technique of any artist of this present time. He felt though that mortal females were not good enough to be models for Aphrodite. He wanted me to be a model for myself.

 

Helene.          Why didn’t you let him? You said he was a skilled artist. And I know you would have liked another painting of you for mortals to be enraptured with.

 

Aphrodite.      I never answered his requests. However, I would not have been the perfect model for his idea of feminine beauty. I have the body of a beautiful woman. Markos wanted to paint a ten year old child’s body. I would have been too fat for him

 

Callidora.       What a monster he was.

 

Aphrodite. [Matter of factly.] Callidora, rose incense will be nice when you worship me. My friend here Helene, deliciously fat Helene, will show you how to prostrate yourself properly.

 

[Aphrodite laughs then they all laugh.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 7

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 8 Aphrodite and Callidora on the couch

 

Callidora.       I do promise to worship you and make the appropriate offerings. I have read bits about you in Mythology books. Can you tell me which of these things are true?

 

Aphrodite.      It is nice to speak just to you. I need to get to know you better too. Sit closer. That’s nice. You do not offend me by being next to me.  I love Helene but I do have these somewhat prejudiced views about people from impoverished backgrounds. I do see that you are intelligent, trying to learn about culture, and you are full of compassion. I see that. Thank you for the rose scented perfume. It is just as exquisite as are your feet.

 

Callidora.       It is my favourite perfume too. But about you?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, me. You want to know about me. I, you now know, like to chat to mortals that I trust. Usually I have one who manages my worldly affairs. I have bank accounts, jewellery, and land. Someone has to, on my behalf, sign the signatures down here. You or Helene could do that. I like Coffee. And that’s about that.

 

Callidora.       I know you can’t tell me everything but can you tell me about your power? Where does it come from?

 

Aphrodite.      I am fundamentally different to you and Helene. I am an energy, of a kind strange to you. It is hard for me to say whether we, the immortal ones, could survive without humans. Although I love Helene, I unfortunately could never make love to her. I mean even before she was totally enamoured of you. When I make love to someone, as a Goddess, they can never again make love without seeing my eyes and smelling my perfume. Mostly, on earth, I make love to humans in the guise of a mortal. It is safer for them. Only one human could burn herself in the fire of my immortal lust and scorch me too. That was Helene of Troy. She was a special woman.

 

Callidora.       Did you have to give her some of your powers to enable her to love you as you loved her?

 

Aphrodite.      A Goddess is not allowed to do that. I have learnt that you are moving in with Helene and that you are going to take the child into your home. A wise choice. She will learn how to be loved. She will be as happy as fate allows.

 

Callidora.       Can you foretell whether she will be happy or not?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, I can. However, I will not talk of these things. I can be a kindly Aunt who will visit the child once in a while. What do you think?

 

Callidora.       That would be nice. One last question, if I may be allowed it? Are you really the “immortal” Aphrodite?

 

 

 

Aphrodite.      I have lived for many thousands of years. Who can say what “immortal” means? And so, a question in turn for you. Helene told me you learnt Aikido because you were bullied at School. Did you get bullied because of your sexuality?

 

Callidora.       I just knew that I didn’t like boys. At least, at first it was that. Then I felt things towards one of my best friends. I didn’t know what was going on inside my body or in my mind. As a big secret I told her all this. She called me names and told everyone in my Class. I got bullied by all of my friends after that. It took years to get over it. I met one of them three years ago in a bar. She tried to start a fight. Such a nice feeling, when I had her hopping up and down in a particularly nasty Aikido hold. Helene will probably take all her life to recover from what happened to her

 

Aphrodite.      One life time isn’t enough time to recover from what happened to her. She will never be as she could have been. She will never be cured of her hurts. She will never stop having an occasional night were she cries herself to sleep or stammers uncontrollably. And yet, she gets a little better day by day. You and I will both help her. I think that she will have a happy and fulfilled life. She is a beautiful person. And she is a survivor.

 

Callidora.       The two paintings: the one of Helene and the one of my mother, are they good paintings?

 

Aphrodite.      The technique used was superb. Certain aspects of composition are marvellous. Yet, one has the terrified face and the immature body of a child. The other, your mother’s picture, shows that she had suffered greatly too. She was another one of his many victims.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 8

 

 

 

 

Scene 9 All three on Helene’s couch

 

Helene. Immortal one, can you tell me how you came to meet the more famous Helene, Helene of Troy?

 

Aphrodite.      The stories are wrong. I remember every day that I spent with her, and every night. To begin, one afternoon, I heard tales about a village girl claiming to be as beautiful as me. I found her and was ready to teach her not to make such outrageous claims when she turned and apologised. She said that saying such things was the only sure way she knew of getting to meet me. I was angry and annoyed and curious.  She shook her hair loose and it fell over her lovely shoulders. She said that as she was the most beautiful creature on earth and I was the most beautiful creature in the sky, we should be lovers.

Don’t be jealous, my friends. When she smiled at me, I was overcome with desire. There was no one else about and she slowly undressed in front of me .When she was naked, she said, “I have heard that to make love to an immortal, you need a little of that immortal’s power.” I felt that she already had some sacred power from somewhere but I gave her more. A lot more. It was very wrong of me to do that. Especially for someone like her. Her body tingled with energy and her golden skin glowed without any help from the imminent setting of the sun.

I shook like a nervous virgin as she seduced me. Took my fingers and kissed them. She undressed me and covered me in kisses. Eventually the fires of lust ignited within me, burning fiercer than ever before. I made love to every part of her beautiful body. One moment, she was on top of me then I was on top of her. The scent of her rose perfume intoxicated me and excited me.

Our strange cries and sobs must have frightened the tiny creatures of the wood. After some hours, we lay down to rest beside a waterfall. The silver light from the moon was our only covering. Sweat ran down our bodies as we lay exhausted.

We were a couple, Goddess and mortal. I stayed that night in her arms, holding her tenderly, like a child holds its mother.

She was as perfect in features as a human could be. Though she had not the kind nature that you have, Helene. Each time I stayed the night with her, I would shake with desire. It was her that would want us to part in the morning. She wanted to be a Princess or a Queen. She wanted armies to fight for her, Gods to love her. Helene was poor and uncultured but was ambitious beyond even my understanding. She had no empathy for other beings. No love for anyone apart from herself, and for a time, me.

Her face, legs, body, all were perfect. And she had this intense sexy look that pierced right through you and broke your heart. When I discovered I was acting like a fool with her, begging to see her again, I made a promise to myself never to ask to see her again. I kept my promise. I do not love either of you in the way I loved Helene. Yet, I do love both of you deeply and my love has strong roots. I feel it will grow as I get to know both of you better. After only a few thousand years, I think I am nearly over my first love, Helene of Troy.

 

Helene.          And what did she look like? Her features.

 

Aphrodite.      She had your name, Helene. But Callidora, you are Helene of Troy reborn. I have to catch my breath each time I look at you. As close as a human can get to perfection, just so are your features.

 

Helene.          [Smiling.] You think my Callidora that beautiful?

 

Aphrodite.      Callidora, a poet should be here, to write verses about the fullness of your moist slightly open lips. An artist, to depict the sparkling lights that move within and about your hair. A sculptor, to admire the noble high cheekbones that you possess. And a lover, to kiss your eyelids and to hold your body close when it trembles in ecstasy. If you lay upon my alter, what gifts could I refuse you?

 

Helene.          Lovely words. You are a poet, Aphrodite.

 

Aphrodite.      I am a lover who is so perfect in her craft that she is called, Goddess.

 

Callidora.       Then, you don’t mind me coming from the poor part of Athens?

 

Aphrodite.      You have three qualities that are golden: your hair, your voice, and your warm skin.

 

Callidora.       I dreamt of you last night and in my dream your eyes were hazel. They were hazel the last time we met. Now…

 

Aphrodite.      I choose them to be green for tonight. Does that colour displease you?

 

Callidora.       No, my Goddess.

 

Aphrodite.      If the fancy takes me, then I can change my features easily. There are many dresses in my wardrobe. Many faces. Figures that are slim or curvaceous. A hundred colours and shades of hair.

 

Helene.          Do you prefer men or women, for lovers?

 

Aphrodite.      Occasionally I like men for their single minded directness. Mostly, I prefer the subtleties involved in knowing a woman. Sometimes I will spend an hour having perfumed oils rubbed all over my body. Before we have even kissed. There is more to lovemaking than exists in the fantasies of men. My favourite combination is to spend the night with two beautiful women. Coincidently, we are all going Clubbing together at the weekend. Let us see what happens.

 

ENDS SCENE 9

 

 

 

 

Scene 10. All three in Helene’s lounge. All in short party skirts.

 

Aphrodite.      That was a fantastic night we had, Clubbing in Athens. I had some champagne from… From…

 

Callidora.       From Champagne.

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, champagne from Champagne. Greek wine from, well Greece. I am drunk. So drunk. And scotch whisky from … From Scotch land.

 

Callidora.       Nearly right. You had some Rum as well.

 

Aphrodite.      Presumably from Rumland?

 

Callidora.       Correct.

 

Aphrodite.      What a good night it was. When I am sober, I will tell you both all about that lovely Princess Iphigenia. It is such a sad story and best kept for another time.

 

Helene.          Here, I meant to give you this earlier. It’s a present

 

Aphrodite.      Wow. Was it very expensive? Is it sapphires?  I love sapphires. They match my eyes. Well, the eyes I wear tonight.

 

Helene.          It’s a toothbrush. Callidora and I would like you to stay with us at the weekends. We thought you might not have one. Can you stay? We both love you so much. We think and hope that our relationship can blossom with yet another beauty in the house.

 

Aphrodite.      I have been thinking what to say if you asked. To be quite honest, I’m a bit bored with “Up There”. I would like both your permissions to share the house with you as a mortal. Well, a mortal for most of the time. My handmaidens can look after things “Up There”.

 

Helene.          For me that’s perfect.

 

Callidora.       Perfect for me too. I can get you a job working beside me in the prison. [Laughing.]

 

Aphrodite.      I am going to be a rich pampered mortal, not a very hard working one. And yet, I can help with babysitting when the tiny beautiful one arrives. We won’t get much privacy when Savina arrives.

 

Helene.          We need a triple bed rather than a double bed.

 

Callidora.       We would never get any sleep with a triple bed.

 

Aphrodite.      I hear that the two of you give each other a lot of sleepless nights. Luckily, I won’t be up early for work the next day.

 

Callidora.       What about having a rota to decide who sleeps in the double bed?

 

Aphrodite.      The Goddess of Love does not take her turn in a rota. No matter how democratic it is.

 

Callidora.       Aphrodite, if we are all going to stay together, than can we have a tiny part of your powers? We don’t want to be scorched. We do understand it’s not something you’re meant to do. We both want to show you how much we love you.

 

Aphrodite.      Before I do this, Helene are you happy yet?

 

Helene.          You two are teaching me how to be happy.

 

Aphrodite.      Right, both kneel in front of me and quack like a duck. [Helene and Callidora look at each other quizzically.] Just joking. Hold my hands and feel the most beautiful tingling sensation. [Both do as she asks.]

 

Helene.          Wow! Ooohhhhhh.

 

Callidora.       Yes…   Ahhhhhh…

 

 

ENDS SCENE 10

END OF PLAY

Fox

(Running out of short stories, I have decided to let you have a read at some short plays and single scenes from my Play writing. Fox was given a rehearsed reading at Glad Café in Glasgow. And was featured in a Live Theatre Newcastle new plays forum.)

Characters:           Susan, a young woman in her twenties.

Fox: a fox played by a young man.

[At the entrance to a wood, a fox (played by a young man) and a young woman have a chat.]

Susan.  You are the most amusing fox I have ever met. Quite delightful. Strangely enough, I have never been scared of you. At the most, I have been curious as to how your unusual gift of speech came about.

We always seem to meet when the moon is full. What a wonderful moon it is tonight. It’s soft silver glow makes the bats dance and sing all around it. You know, it’s like a twilight party. Don’t you think so? And we two are lucky enough to have invitations. Can you appreciate nature the way I can?

Fox.     Nature? Nature is a concept that a fox finds difficult to observe from the outside. But my thoughts are… Darling Susan, excuse me for staring, but I cannot take my eyes of you. My mind is not under my control, for every motion that you make is entrancing to me. A long, long month has passed since we last spoke, but you are every bit as sensual as I remember. Your movements are just as mystical. It’s a shame that you weren’t born a fox. And yet, perhaps this subtle difference in body form may prove to be, useful.

Susan.  How so?

Fox.     As you must know by now, I have deep feelings for you. And love that crosses the species barrier must surely be the most special kind of love. Do you love me? Do you care for me at all?

Susan.  I am still unsure of who you are, of how you can speak to me. Are you a God? Are you under the curse of some sorcerer?

Fox. I am a fox. No more, no less. I have never lied to you. What I am should be enough. And I do not want you to have to indulge in some strange fantasy of cross species lust. I told you, I want you to get to know me. Let me walk with you through the woods at midnight. Together, let us listen to the myriad sounds of the night. Then, perhaps, you will feel for me the way that I feel for you. But of course, greater knowledge may instead bring forth feelings of distrust or even dislike: from either of us. Who knows?

Susan.  You know, my friend Audrey doesn’t mind the occasional cross species fantasy. She has this large dog called Frisky. When her parents leave the house for a while, Frisky manages to take away Audrey’s loneliness. Audrey is not that pretty, and she’s fat, so that’s all the loving she gets. Or deserves. But it keeps her happy. Tired, sweaty, and happy. However, I don’t have any trouble getting men friends and Audrey’s weird fantasies are not my fantasies.

Fox. I want us to get to know each other. Slowly but completely. You seem different from all the other humans. I am sure that you are filled with compassion.

Susan. Really? I must admit, I had thought that animals were all too stupid to think anything at all. I know that only humans have a brain big enough to imagine complex ideas. To create wonders like, Reality Television. Yet, you almost seem intelligent. If only your scent glands weren’t quite as powerful as they are. Ohhh!

Do you want some of my sandwich? It’s chicken.

Fox.     I envy humans the good fortune they have in being able to eat what they want. I have to kill to survive. I leave the young rabbits without a father. Every day I look into eyes filled with terror, filled with the fear of death. My dreams are filled with the sounds of whimpering: sounds that came from the creatures that I killed. Such sounds torment me. Killing is the greatest evil I know of. You have a great gift, but do not even realise it. Perhaps you are too innocent to understand what death means?

Susan. So, no chicken then. I like my food. Someone else does the killing, so it’s not my fault. Better that a few stupid creatures die to give me some enjoyment, than that they die in vain, surely? You are very “philosophical” for a fox. Or is “rude” a better description? You know, if you are trying to flatter me, then you are not doing very well. Men know how to try and win my favour. It would be better if you talked to me about my eyes. Men fall in love with my eyes. More than a dozen attractive men have fallen for me and for my beautiful eyes. Do you, my dear troubled fox, find my eyes desirable?

Fox. During my life, I have loved only one vixen. Last year, she was killed by some hunters. She was the most beautiful vixen I ever knew. I still miss her. Still despise those who laughed as she was torn apart by their hounds. I got there too late and failed to save her. All I could do was hide and curse the hounds. I should have rushed them and at least bit a few before they killed me too. Yet all foxes fear death. And now, I am glad that I am alive. If I was dead, I could never have met you. Never have smelt the fragrance of your skin. Never heard the softness of your voice. Never seen the wondrous colours that move about within your hair. But your eyes. Your eyes are, what makes me speak. What I mean is, when I first saw you walking in the park, I noticed your sparkling eyes. I trembled to see such beauty in a human. I prayed to the moon that I might be able to speak to you. I did not pray to have you love me. That would be cruel and unfair. I prayed that I could be allowed to try, as well as I could, to persuade you to love me.

Susan.  Men love my eyes. Most men are stupid and weak, but a few cultivated men have good taste. As you can see, my eyes are the most beautiful seductive shade of grey. Slate grey to be exact. Captivating, I have been told. Bewitching, is another accurate description. For a fox, you are quite charming. If you do truly love me, then you will show others that you can talk. I can make a fortune out of your ability. You can help me to become rich. All you have to do is to tell others how much you love me. Do it in front of some television cameras. It will be a great proof of your love. And I will be so pleased with you. I might even kiss your scarred head. You could live in a magnificent cage and have the best of meat. I would visit you whenever I had some free time. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

Fox. I am not convinced that…

Susan.  You would be famous. I must be honest and admit that fur – on its original owner – is not attractive to me. But you might find another woman that has lower standards than me. Trust me. You do want to please me don’t you? This would please me very much. Do you really love me, or are you just playing games with me? Prove your love.

Fox.     I would have no freedom. You would be with others. With men.

Susan.  Most people think that foxes are vermin. You do know that you smell a bit. However, you could be useful to me. You would be the most famous fox ever. And I would be your owner. You would be best protected if you signed a contract giving me total rights over you. The world of humans is a brutal world and you need to have someone you can trust. You surely trust me, don’t you? Look into the depths of my eyes. I am an intelligent cultured human who knows what is best for you in this situation. You don’t have the necessary intelligence to choose for yourself.

Fox.     I think I have made a big mistake.

Susan.  At one time in your life, the highest love you could imagine was the one you felt for a stinking vixen. You have one chance in your life to leave her and that nightmarish world behind. This is a superb opportunity. Look, if you don’t agree, I will have no choice, I will have you trapped and then you will do what I tell you to do. Now, do we have a deal?

Fox.     [After thinking for a few seconds, looks up at the moon.] Oh my silver Guardian, once more, and for the last time, hear my prayers. Take the power of human speech away from me. Give me back my own rough uncultured voice. Let me never speak that odious human tongue again. And forgive me the hatred I now feel for another living creature. [Quickly glances at Susan.]

[Falls to ground moaning. After a while, on all fours, walks away yapping as a fox.]

Susan. If I ever see you again, I’ll have you shot. You know, shot and skinned. Aaaargggh! You hear me. Have you shot. You stinking repulsive ignorant creature. [Susan leaves via the opposite side of the stage to fox.]

[A few seconds later Fox comes back on stage and talks to the audience.]

Fox. I think I am learning to lie with some skill. Susan was an expert teacher. Many times I have seen Susan’s friend Audrey shouting after that big stupid dog of hers, Frisky. Audrey has such a lovely smile and will surely want to find a lover who can do more than just salivate over her. At long last, true love awaits me.