“David Rudkin is an odd man out amongst modern British dramatists. His plays . . . are a unique blend of ritual and realism, of Artaudian imagery and bloodshot language.”—The Guardian
Red Sun And Merlin Unchainedby David Rudkin
Red Sun and Merlin Unchained are the most recent original stage works by one of the most accomplished yet neglected dramatists of our time. Red Sun is a two-hander, tightly tethered within the classical unities of theme and space and the span of a single day. Merlin Unchained is an explosive, multitudinous epic, crossing/i>/i>/i>/i>
Red Sun and Merlin Unchained are the most recent original stage works by one of the most accomplished yet neglected dramatists of our time. Red Sun is a two-hander, tightly tethered within the classical unities of theme and space and the span of a single day. Merlin Unchained is an explosive, multitudinous epic, crossing continents and centuries and passing between worlds. Yet though technically so different, both works speak with the same distinctive voice, offering an exhilaratingand sometimes disturbing challenge to the cultural and political perceptions of the contemporary audience, and exploring alien worlds that, alarmingly, begin to become recognizable as our own.
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Red Sun and Merlin Unchained
By David Rudkin, David Ian Rabey
Intellect LtdCopyright © 2015 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
a play for two actors on the space
WANA-APU spirit-magician to a people oppressed his creation
Aux Dames des Mille Roses, Villequier
Night, dawn near. A stricken tree. Pieces of metal or shell hang tinkling, faded rags sway silently. A few poor possessions. A figure enters in rage. He wears garb of a tribal sorcerer or magician-priest. WANA-APU.
WANA-APU: No! No ... This is one horror too far our masters do. My rage spills over! Gods of our people, where are you now?
Silent. Nowhere in this night.
I dare it, then. Priest of my people, I take it on myself. I dare it ...
He comes before a large form lying covered on the ground:
You here ... Time to be born.
He centres himself upon some fearsome deed.
Gather my rage. Gather my people's need. Gather my power ...
His spirit, come.
His Spirit, hear me. Wake.
His Spirit, draw near. Take on your coat of clay.
From deep within himself comes a VOICE, dark, struggling to speak:
VOICE: No ... No ...
WANA-APU pauses. He hesitates. Then:
WANA-APU: You are here.
VOICE: Do – not – do – this ...
WANA-APU: I do it.
VOICE: Leave – me – sleeping ...
WANA-APU kneels, lifts his hand toward the clay thing's breast ...
WANA-APU: Thing of clay, I burn into your breast the breath of life ...
He presses upon the clay creature's breast, his breath seething.
WANA-APU: Breathe ... Wake ...
VOICE: [bleak, childlike] Not – want – this ...!
WANA-APU: [murmurs raucously into the clay creature's ear] I breathe into your head of clay ... your name of life. Adàmu ... Adàmu ...
ADÀMU lies breathing, a raucous sound as Wana-Apu's has been. WANA-APU looks Eastward.
WANA-APU: Sun, lift above the earth. Cold gong of fire. Touch this to life. Live!
He claps his hands, to summon.
The clay creature lies silent and still.
One touch of the light and you are gone again? I do wrong.
Desolate, he moves away. The clay form begins to raise a heavy hand ...
WANA-APU: Adàmu ...?
ADÀMU rises. The covering falls away. He looks at his hand; then at his arm. He discovers his body.
WANA-APU watches in joy. ADÀMU sways, all but falls. With almost a cry, WANA-APU would reach out to stay him; but must hold back ...
With more assurance, ADÀMU stands, breathes as Wana-Apu did in bringing him life. He claps his hands. He is reciprocating sounds and actions that gave him life and he still carries in him.
Suddenly, as though only now registering Wana-Apu's aborted movement of a moment ago, ADÀMU is aware of another presence. He looks about him. He sees WANA-APU. Their gazes meet; and hold ...
WANA-APU: [carefully] Adàmu ...
Slowly not to alarm him, WANA-APU reaches a hand. ADÀMU backs away, wary as a horse. Slowly WANA-APU reaches to caress ADÀMU's head. With the merest turn, ADÀMU shies. WANA-APU ventures a careful step toward him; ADÀMU steps back.
WANA-APU: [touching and pointing] Adàmu. Wana-Apu. Adàmu. [Touches ADÀMU's lips] 'I live'.
ADÀMU: [touches his own lips, and blankly repeats, brutish and dark] I live.
WANA-APU: [gently touches him] Adàmu. [He points Eastward] The Sun.
ADÀMU looks yonder; then at WANA-APU, searching his face for something to understand.
WANA-APU: [points about them] The world.
ADÀMU as before. Then:
ADÀMU: [touching his own lips, repeats the sounds] I live.
WANA-APU: That, you do. That, you do. I'll give you some food. You have come a long journey.
He reaches to bring him welcomingly with him, but ADÀMU is stone-still suddenly, listening keen as a beast to something very far away. Cocking his head this way then that, he utters what he hears there: soft chirrup of a forest bird; then another ... Then a sound somewhere else of a bird lifting from water. He makes these sounds not to mimic, but to reciprocate.
WANA-APU: You hear further than I can.
He looks out, among his possessions, something to eat.
ADÀMU watches his movements, alert as a dog. Into a crock or bowl WANA-APU pours water from a plastic can. Suddenly ADÀMU is hearing something else afar:
ADÀMU: Vroom ...!
WANA-APU: What? Adàmu ...?
ADÀMU: [again, not imitating, but reciprocating what he hears] Vroom ... Vroom ... [He begins to shake with fear ...]
Impulsively WANA-APU goes to hold him to assure him.
WANA-APU: Sh sh ... Easy ... What do you hear, Adàmu?
He listens. Soon a distant sound of the revving of a truck as though climbing a rough steep track.
Yes. The transports. You do right to be afraid. [He sits away, starts preparing the food.] Food.
ADÀMU sniffs at the food; then at the water, starts scoffing from it like a dog. When the crock is empty, he tips it this way then that: no water: why, he doesn't understand. WANA-APU pours him more.
WANA-APU: Wa – ter.
ADÀMU laps noisily.
WANA-APU: [considers him] What have I done? Such joy I feel. Terror too ... – Adàmu ...?
ADÀMU has paused. He listens, tense ... Soon sounds of more trucks, grinding up that track afar. ADÀMU is trembling again ...
WANA-APU: Yes. Every sunrise you'll hear that sound. Our people herded to their place of slavery.
ADÀMU is cowering, whimpering ...
WANA-APU: You feel their misery? [Aside] So much the better.
Grim within, he puts his hand about ADÀMU's shoulder to ease him. But ADÀMU, inconsequential-seeming as an animal or child, bows his head to the crock again, laps it empty.
ADÀMU: [gestures to the crock] Wa – ter.
WANA-APU: You remember well.
A touch disquieted at him, WANA-APU fills the crock again. ADÀMU laps from it, hungry. He pauses. He says again what he knows; but this time he'll venture more:
ADÀMU: I live.
ADÀMU: I live yes. Adàmu.
WANA-APU: Adàmu yes!
ADÀMU bows to drink again, but pauses ...
ADÀMU: [brutish and dark, blankly repeating] Thing – of – clay ...
WANA-APU: Words I spoke as you were born ...
ADÀMU: Name – of – life ...
WANA-APU: Yes, Adàmu! Name of life.
Suddenly ADÀMU points away upward.
WANA-APU: Yes. The Sun. It climbs above the mountain now.
He sees ADÀMU looking, troubled, to where the Sun had been before, and lower there.
WANA-APU: Yes. Up. [Tracing the movement] The Sun goes up.
But ADÀMU is now noticing other things high around him, nearer.
WANA-APU: Trees. Tree.
Then ADÀMU notices, even nearer, the hanging chimes. He comes, studies them, tentatively touches one: it clashes with another, and they tinkle.
ADÀMU: Aaaaa ...! Tick tick. [He pokes at them: they make a rush of sound. He laughs.] ... Aaahh ... [He pokes at a 'prayer-flag'] Tick tick ... [Its silence saddens him. He pokes at it again. He observes it, swaying silent at his touch. He blows at it, sounding the rise and fall of Wana-Apu's summoning breath, unconsciously remembered. The prayer-flag sways.] Aahh ... Tick-tick! [He growls at it, blows more strongly]
WANA-APU: Careful, or you blow our prayers away. [He comes, demonstrates] This. Tink tink. This. Not tink tink.
ADÀMU: [searches WANA-APU's face for something to understand. Says something he knows] Name of life.
WANA-APU: Yes! Words that gave you birth. Name of life, Adàmu, yes!
He sets to work on the food again. ADÀMU makes to lap more water, but suddenly he is crying in terror, his hands to his crutch. It is a moment before WANA-APU understands what is happening.
WANA-APU: Not here. In the trees! ... That went through you quick ...
Swiftly he ushers ADÀMU away, ADÀMU stumbling, pressing his hands to his crutch in terror to try to prevent his body from opening there.
WANA-APU: [off] Here. Good Adàmu. Good ...
WANA-APU comes back on, harassed a little, wiping his hands on his pants.
A lot to teach him. Everything.
ADÀMU comes stumbling back on, slapping at his crutch:
ADÀMU: [woeful] Wa-ter ...
WANA-APU: [anxious to ease him] Bad water. [Slaps at ADÀMU's crutch] Bad water. [Touches ADÀMU's heart] Good Adàmu.
ADÀMU: [slaps at his crutch] Bad water. Yes.
WANA-APU: Oh very bad. Badbad. [Gestures to the crock] Good water. Goodgood. Drink. [Makes lapping sounds.]
ADÀMU: Good water yes. Drink ... [He drinks. Stands, nourished, proud] Name of life Adàmu. Thing of clay.
WANA-APU: Yes. Good. – Food. Make.
He puts on a hat against the sun. It would be a hat he wears all the time, against rain and sun: one type would be a coolie-style hat plaited of rushes or reeds. He chops or pounds at the food. Under his breath, he sings happily, high, rapidly, almost tunelessly:
Dekere ... so ara luya ...
The mountain yonder is my soul ...
Jo amo joa sondo ...
The boulder rolling on its shoulder is my head ...
Fascinated, ADÀMU crawls close to WANA-APU, peering up into his face. He points to WANA-APU's mouth, and grunts tonelessl y.
WANA-APU: Make food. [With gesture and mime] To eat.
ADÀMU: [gesturing to WANA-APU's mouth, and grunting again] De ke re ...
WANA-APU: No. Food.
ADÀMU: [grunting, pitchless] De ke re ... So a-ra lu-
WANA-APU: [pitching the notes more distinctly] So a-ra lu-ya –
ADÀMU: [toneless and pitchless] So a-ra lu –
WANA-APU: No no, Adàmu. [Over-pitching] Up. Down.
ADÀMU: [on same bleak toneless note] Up. Down.
WANA-APU: [pitching high then low] Sing – ing. Sing – ing.
ADÀMU: [ever bleak and toneless] Sing ging. Sing ging.
WANA-APU: [starts to try again] So a-ra – [Gives up.] You sing, Adàmu. You sing.
ADÀMU: [bleak pitchless droning] So a-ra lu. Up down. Sing – ging. So a-ra lu –
WANA-APU: [to silence him] Food! For – you.
He takes up his own food, starts eating. ADÀMU watches him a while; then, his curiosity the better of him, he takes up his food, and does as WANA-APU does. He scoops it up in his fingers and into his mouth. He seems to have trouble swallowing. Then a choking spasm alll but kills him; struggling t breathe, desperate and in terror, he spits out the food, roars with fury at WANA-APU.
WANA-APU: Drink, drink!
[Hastily pours water for him.]
ADÀMU: Water. Water!
ADÀMU slurps the water, gestures for more. WANA-APU pours, already ADÀMU starts lapping ...
WANA-APU: You can only drink ...? Your food is water ...? Like clay itself.
ADÀMU suddenly begins to flinch, duck, writhe, as though now trying to avoid and fend off blows descending upon him. He barks in agony.
WANA-APU: What's happening ...?
ADÀMU points away offstage ...
WANA-APU: From there? The pain our people suffer there, you feel? In your own clay? [He points there too] Poor slaves. Poor slaves, yes ...
ADÀMU's paroxysm changes to a trembling of elemental rage. His barkings of agony become a stunted impotent roaring, as though to vomit his rage.
WANA-APU: And you are angry ... Yes ... Angry! ...
ADÀMU raises his arm high then swings it down in felling stroke. His rage wells up in him again; roaring, he repeats the stroke.
WANA-APU: You would do that? Do that, to your tormentor? [Quiet] Good. One day you shall. For that, I gave you life. Good Adàmu.
WANA-APU lifts his hat a little, to mop his brow. Only now does ADÀMU notice the hat; he reaches to touch it.
ADÀMU makes to try to lift the hat from WANA-APU's head ...
WANA-APU: No, that is my hat Adàmu, you can't have that.
He holds it on, but ADÀMU is still trying to lift it off ...
WANA-APU: My hat. You want a hat too ...
From some rag or the like among his possessions, he improvises a hat. ADÀMU follows him like an animal hungry to be fed.
WANA-APU offers him the rag hat, but ADÀMU thrusts it aside, makes again to lift the hat from WANA-APU's head.
WANA-APU: No! This Adàmu hat!
ADÀMU: [stamps his foot] Hat! [Utters a tigerish growl.]
WANA-APU: No! My hat! [Gestures] Mine! [Beats at the hat on his own head] Wana-Apu hat.
WANA-APU: Just this once.
Staying ADÀMU's hand from snatching it, he lifts the hat from his head, and in a demonstrative grudging rests it upon ADÀMU's head.
ADÀMU: [pleased] Hat. Good.
WANA-APU: [points to each] Wana-Apu hat. Adàmu hat.
Demonstrating displeasure, he crams the rag hat on his own head, resumes preparing food for himself. ADÀMU, making pleased noises, lifts up Wana-Apu's hat and sets it on again, lifts it off again, sets it on again.
ADÀMU: Hat. Good, yes ...
But now he sees, on WANA-APU's head, the rag hat. He reaches out to take that too.
WANA-APU: No. No Adàmu. You have a hat.
ADÀMU: Hat! [He thumps the ground.]
WANA-APU: You prefer this hat after all? [He takes off the rag hat. Exchanges it for his own.]
WANA-APU: [satisfied] Good hat yes.
Now he sees on WANA-APU's head the first hat again. He reaches to take it.
WANA-APU: No. No ...
WANA-APU considers him. He tries reaching to exchange the hats again –
ADÀMU: [thumps the ground] No! [Thrusts WANA-APU's hand aside.]
WANA-APU: You want whatever hat I have?
ADÀMU does his tiger-growl. WANA-APU considers what to do. Uneasy, he takes off his own hat again; lets ADÀMU cram it on top of the rag hat already on his head.
ADÀMU: Hat good.
WANA-APU: You have two hats now. Hatssss. Hat hat. One. Two. What do I wear on my head Adàmu? Against that Sun.
WANA-APU retreats grumpily into shade, resumes preparing his own food. ADÀMU watches him.
ADÀMU: Sing ging.
ADÀMU: [thumps the ground] Sing ging! [Thrusts out a couple of toneless grunting notes] Uh, uh.
WANA-APU: You rob me of my hat, and you want me to sing?
ADÀMU: Do sing ging now.
WANA-APU: Singing. [Wryly, he begins his song of before:]
De ke re ... so a ra lu ya ... The mountain yonder is my soul ... etc.
Happy and smiling, ADÀMU joins in with his dismal intoning:
ADÀMU: Uh uh sing – ging ... Uh uh sing – ging ...
Suddenly he's crying out, backing in terror from something that's attacking him from the ground.
WANA-APU: What is it Adàmu? A snake ...?
ADÀMU whips off both hats as one, and with cries of terror lashes out with them at whatever it is that has him by the feet.
ADÀMU: No no! No no! [He stamps on it, tries with one foot to tug the other free of its grasp; he tries to run away from it; throws both the hats as one at it; tries to jump over it ...]
WANA-APU: It's your shadow, Adàmu! Don't be frightened!
ADÀMU: [blank] Fri – tund ...
WANA-APU: Adàmu not be frightened. See! I have a shadow too. Wana-Apu shadow. See. With Wana-Apu, see. [Half-crouches, strokes his own shadow] Sha – dow. Good. [Then he strokes ADÀMU's shadow] Adàmu shadow. Good.
ADÀMU, distrustful and afraid, tentatively pokes at his shadow as though it will bite him. Then he laughs. WANA-APU, to encourage him, shapes shadows onto the ground with his arms and hands:
ADÀMU starts doing the same. He laughs in joy. Then he makes a connection. He looks up ...
WANA-APU: Yes Adàmu. From the Sun. [Gestures beckoning the shadow toward himself] Shadow ... from the Sun.
ADÀMU does the same. Then he brushes his shadow with his hand, strokes it.
ADÀMU: Sha. Do. Good.
He has another thought. He looks up to where the Sun is now; then down, away to where it was when it rose; then up again ...
WANA-APU: Yes. The Sun is more up now. Sun up up above the mountain now. [He points variously] Mountain. Sun. World. Shadow.
ADÀMU is looking at Wana-Apu's shadow. He leaps and springs like a cat, trying to seize it.
WANA-APU: You want my shadow too? [Laughs] Have that if you can ...! A shadow is more than a hat, Adàmu! Laughing, they play trying to catch Wana-Apu's shadow, WANA-APU feinting, teasing him. Suddenly WANA-APU retreats into shade.
WANA-APU: A-a ...! Shadow gone.
ADÀMU: [bereft] Sha – do gone. [Bewildered, looks for it] Gone gone! Make! Make sha – do. Make!
WANA-APU emerges into the Sunlight. Looking from him to the Sun, ADÀMU makes the connection.
ADÀMU: Sha – do yes! Wana-Apu sha-do. Adàmu sha-do.
WANA-APU: Good man. You grow with the light of the Sun. So ... [making to take up the hats ...] Your hat, Adàmu –
ADÀMU tenses suddenly, through him another paroxysm coursing ... He looks up away offstage toward the 'poor slaves' again. A tense silence. WANA-APU comes beside him, miserably looks up there too.
WANA-APU: What do you see there? See? [He makes a gesture of drawing sightlines from his own eyes toward whatever is away up there ...]
Suddenly, brief, obscure, from far away there, sound of a child's agonized terror, then the bestial roar of someone doing violence. ADÀMU leaps around howling, one hand nursing the other arm as though the hand there has been sliced off.
WANA-APU: Yes. Hand. They chop off the hand of any who brings short measure. Man, woman or child. And you feel that filthy pain ... Oh they are bad. Those strangers who have come. Who make us slaves on our own earth. Bad. [Postures like the guard] Guard. Badman. 'Work!' Bad. Guard. Badman.
ADÀMU nurses his severed wrist, dances about, shaking it in its agony.
ADÀMU: [bending and straightening in agony] Badman. Badman.
WANA-APU: [raises ADÀMU's agonized fist] Badman. Break him. [Convulsing himself in rage, he mimes lifting someone in two trembling arms ...] Break him! [Makes a gesture of snapping him like a stick, and barking with the effort and his rage. He eases, seething ...] Poor slaves. Their need ... My need ... [Stamps] Break badman! Do it!
ADÀMU: [dull and brutish] Do. It.
WANA-APU: To this I wake you.
Excerpted from Red Sun and Merlin Unchained by David Rudkin, David Ian Rabey. Copyright © 2015 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
David Rudkin is a playwright, screenwriter, and translator who has worked for nearly fifty years in theater, cinema, radio, and television.
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