l have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
William Shakespeare Hamlet
Friends of the Libraries Competition 2017
The theme of The Friends of the Kapiti Coast District Libraries Literary Festival 2017 was The Play’s the Thing.
Participants in the competition had to write a short, dramatic monologue or dialogue in no more than 500 words.
Here is the winning entry from Carol Markwell.
An old woman remembers her encounters with Van Gogh, the painter, in Arles in the South of France
Old Rachel: An aged and stooped woman dressed in black. She walks with difficulty using a stick.
Young Rachel: Her younger self.
OLD RACHEL ENTERS
Old Rachel: (LOOKS OUT AT THE AUDIENCE)
Time is hard on old women. (PAUSE)
I used to be young once. Cypress straight. And I wasn’t pockmarked, like some. I worked for Madame Virginie, Maison de Tolerance, number one.
YOUNG RACHEL ENTERS FROM THE SHADOWS. SHE PICKS UP THE MONOLOGUE, SPEAKING ALONG BEFORE OLD RACHEL’S VOICE DROPS AWAY AND YOUNG RACHEL TAKES OVER.
Young Rachel: Odd nights, when the devil mistral blew, he’d come in, stinking of sweat, cheap wine, and pain (PAUSE) and I’d give him his ease of me. Not that I had to, mind. Arles was a soldier town. There’d be fifty men waiting in that white-washed room.
(SHE MUSES) Was it because he talked to me? Was it how he said my name – Rachel? He was thin. Skin stretched over face bones. Was it because I listened?
(CONTINUES HER STORY) Well, that night he come round the door asking for me. And his head was wrapped up in cloths and his eyes white as an Arles moon. He give me a parcel rolled up in newspaper and he says to me ‘Guard it carefully’ like it was something special.
And I screamed and screamed until all of the house was screaming, and old Roulin the postman come and dragged him away.
Some people say he was touched by the sun – him out there all day in the orchards and fields. Or, was he thinking of the bullfight, where the matador gets the bull’s ear.
(CONFIDENTIALLY) But I say it was the green fairy. When he lived in Paris she clutched him tight and she never lets go.
(REFLECTS) He come round to the house in a month then, to say he was sorry, and I said s’all right, doesn’t matter, lots of funny things happen around here, but I never seen him again. Seems like the people in this town didn’t want him. Seems like they took him away.
Then all these men start coming, looking for his pictures. Ha! And the people climbed into their haylofts or pulled the paintings out from where they’ve been propping up chicken coops. Fancy, they said when they handed them over. Twenty-five francs from that madman!
(BITTERLY) Or they’d laugh, point me out in the market, hiss that’s the one, see, there she is, the prostitute, over there.
HER VOICE FADES AS SHE RETREATS TO THE SHADOWS. OLD RACHEL PICKS UP THE STORY.
Old Rachel: The winters are cold in Provence. They wrench a woman sideways. They hunch her, like a crow…
THEN, ANGRILY, TO THE AUDIENCE – Why didn’t he paint my picture!
I want to be remembered for more than what was in that bloody parcel.
SPOTLIGHT DIMS AND GOES OUT