dying on stage
Death wanders on to the stage dressed in a kind of dusty black romper suit with a not-very-good skeleton painted on the front of it, and begins to explain diffidently how this show differs from the one he’s used to.
The set, for instance, he says, is much reduced. There would normally be a row of potted plants here. A little band, just a four-piece combo, at the back in this corner here.
As he busies himself about the stage, he seems to get a bit more energy. He’s shy, but he is, after all, death. He prides himself that he has a bit of an edge–in the normal run of things, when he makes his entrance, down the spiral staircase (which, of course, you can’t see, but it comes down about here), he can depend upon a reaction. Some people don’t like the dark, for instance. They say, you know, things like, “Oh no. The dark.”
It’s a show with, well, he doesn’t know how to put it, except to say it has a bit of an edge. But this performance is reduced, & there are parts of it, he doesn’t mind admitting, that he doesn’t really like.
Meanwhile, his latest client is doing her dying behind him, roaring & groaning, gagging & clicking & humming, writhing & kicking, picking herself up and dragging herself about. Are those her entrails in her hands ? She’s looking down at something, with some horror & disbelief but more rage than either. She’s quiescent for long periods. You can tell that’s what death prefers. He gives her good feedback for that. “I like what you’re doing there,” he tells her motionless, exhausted body. “I like those subtle things you’re doing there.” But the client hasn’t finished. Because dying is hard. It’s long drawn out. It isn’t just giving up, whatever death would prefer. & if he’s a little embarrassed by all this & doesn’t get it, if he’s a bit blokey around all this naked affect, well that’s just too fucking bad.
“Normally,” death says, giving up on her for a moment, “at this point in the show, a little spotlight would come out, from the side of the stage, just, well, I can’t say really, I’m not an expert, but I think, from about here, and–how can I describe it ? —run about across the stage.” He runs about in little zigzag sallies, the little sallies of the soul, here and there on the stage. “It’s almost jaunty.” Normally, of course, at this point in the show, there would be dancers. & music from the combo.
Robin Arthur & Claire Marshall in Forced Entertainment’s two-hander, Spectacular.